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Chan Centre launches Games in Action: Interactivity / Activation \ Activism

The Chan Centre for the Performing Arts is organizing the largest event on UBC campus focused on video games with Games in Action: interactivity / activation \ activism happening November 4- 5, 2022. This two-day event will feature discussions among game designers, artists, musicians, scholars, and writers, to explore how games act upon us and through us, and how they compel us to take action for ourselves.

“Video games are big business both globally and specifically here in British Columbia, and yet they are not taken seriously as digital mediums worth exploring both artistically and socially. Like film and literature, video games have a lot to say about how we relate to each other, and how we build our social world. But we usually only see games as violent, simplistic, or useless. However, if we try to understand games, we can explore the ways that they can activate social and political change.”

Chris B. Patterson, faculty lead

Notable speakers for the conference include John Romero, one of the world’s top game designers. He has won over 100 awards and designed over 130 games including icons such as Wolfenstein 3D, DOOM, and Quake, and co-founded game companies such as id Software, Gazillion Entertainment and, most recently, Romero Games. He is a completely self-taught programmer, designer and artist. The revered designer will give a virtual presentation from Ireland.

Melos Han-Tani and Marina Kittaka have most recently garnered overwhelming praise for their latest game, Sephonie. Han-Tani is a games designer and composer of Japanese-Taiwanese-Irish descent. Kittaka is a Japanese-American trans woman and multi-disciplinary artist working primarily as an independent game developer. Sephonie is ostensibly a game about spelunking but it also prompts players to consider existential questions on national identity, privilege, and personal accountability, leading Inverse to award it a perfect score, calling it “a masterpiece.”

On both days of the conference, there will be concerts and a pop-up arcade. The concerts, entitled Games in Music: Halo, WoW, LOTR, will be performed by the UBC Symphony Orchestra and UBC A Cappella led by guest conductor Lucas Waldin. The orchestra will perform beloved classics such as “Korobeiniki Fantasy,” otherwise known as the theme song from Tetris, music from World of Warcraft, Halo, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings. VR immersive artist Julianah Loh will “paint” some of the scores live. The orchestra will also premiere the scores of both Celeste and Glitchhikers: The Spaces Between, with video game footage projected on screen. Tickets for the concert can be purchased as a bundle with the conference or individually.

Co-hosted by Heart Projector and UBC’s Emerging Media Lab, the pop-up arcade will host artists and games that do not merely reflect or represent marginalization, but that use interactive artwork to express marginalized experiences. Ultimately, this landmark event will seek to discover how digital forms of storytelling can have the potential to consider new decolonial actions, activities, and activisms, for our increasingly digitized age. The pop-up arcade is only available to conference attendees or to concert-goers as part of a packaged ticket.


This conference is supported in part by funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Sponsors include the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies, Community Engaged Documentation and Research, Public Humanities Hub, Department of English Language and Literatures, School of Creative Writing, Computer Science, Asian Canadian and Asian Migration Studies, and the Centre for Asian Canadian Research at the University of British Columbia.

Tue Jun 21, 2022