Category Archives: Uncategorized

PLAY FOR JUSTICE: Call for Presentations

Playthink is asking for presentations, talks, demos, panels, etc. around the theme of PLAY FOR JUSTICE! Works in progress for which you want feedback are especially welcome. We also invite projects that can be demoed and will organize exhibition space if we have enough submissions of that nature.

The session will take place Tuesday, January 23rd, from 6-9PM in SCI 201, USC School of Cinematic Arts, 3470 McClintock Ave Los Angeles, CA 90089. Refreshments will be served!

Examples of submissions could be:

A demo of a game with justice themes you’re working on.

Your research on how play subverts power structures.

A history or review of ways play has challenged oppression.

A panel discussion on protest games.

An investigation into trolling behaviors on social media as a form of harmful play.

These are just examples! If you have a question about whether something you’re working on is a fit, just ask!

Submission Guidelines:

The deadline to submit is December 15th. Email your submission to Jane Pinckard [].

Please submit an abstract or an explanation of what you will present. This should be between 250 and 1000 words long. Make sure you explain how your content fits the theme. If you already have slides or a paper, you may submit them along with the abstract.

The format is flexible! Please specify what format your presentation is in. You can aim for 10-20 minutes, or a microtalk/Pecha Kucha style of 5 minutes.

Please include a brief Bio of yourself (and any co-presenters, if you are presenting as a group). (Bios do not count towards the word count.)

All are welcome to submit!

Any questions? Please contact Jane Pinckard: pinckard@ Thank you!

November 2017 Playthink — Childhood

Please join us at 6:00pm on Tuesday, November 7th in SCI 201 at the USC School of Cinematic Arts for a discussion about games and play as art and culture. The theme for this Playthink salon is “Childhood.”

Featured speakers include:

Yuting Su is a passionate inventor with background in digital/physical game design, medical device design, and bioinformatics. She is the product creator and entrepreneur behind Thinker-Tinker, the company behind OCTOBO, a smart toy learning platform with a built in game controller and programmable content that enables real-time emotions and gameplay. Yuting has great interest in creating games and toys that combine physical and digital gameplay. Her works have been selected for the Experimental Gameplay Workshop in Game Developers Conference, alt.ctrl.GDC, IndieCade@E3, IndieCade, IndiePrize, and more. She is also one of the awardees of the Forbes 30 Under 30 in Games, 2017.

Margaret Moser is an educator and independent game designer in Los Angeles. Her work has been shown at Come Out & Play, Games4Change, and the Babycastles guerrilla game gallery in Brooklyn. She has spoken at GDC, AlterConf, and IndieCade East and served as a curator for IndieCade. She holds an MFA in Design and Technology from Parsons.

Jake de Grazia is a software product manager, research project manager, editor, and writer. Part of him wants to be more of a writer and less of those other things. Past and present clients include the Norman Lear Center, the Annenberg Innovation Lab, the National Football League, and RUST LTD. His proudest creative works include Life Advice Radio, Future Hit Musical Sweatpants Wedding, and Mrs. Claus. He’s also a parent, which is his biggest and most important job.

The following IMGD MFA students will be also presenting work in progress:

Stephanie J. Henderson is an MFA student at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts where she experiments with interactive narratives focusing on psychology, comedy, and trope subversion. She received an Interdisciplinary Bachelor of Arts in media production, psychology, and art history from the University of Arizona, and has spent a good decade in the Hollywood trenches where she has been a producer for nationally broadcast documentary television and film. Her current thesis project is centered around creating a transmedia world which can support a productive form of collaborative play with its audience. 


April 2016 Playthink – Bringing Games to Life

Playthink 4.25.16 posterPlease join us 6:00pm on Monday, April 25th in SCI 201 at the USC School of Cinematic Arts for a discussion about games and play as art and culture. The theme for this Playthink salon is “Bringing Games to Life.”

Featured speakers include:

Alenda Chang is an Assistant Professor in Film and Media Studies at UC Santa Barbara. She specializes in the environmentally informed analysis of contemporary media. Her writing has recently appeared in electronic book review, Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, and the new collection Sustainable Media, and her current book project develops ecological frameworks for understanding and designing digital games. She also maintains the site Growing Games as a resource for researchers in game studies and the environmental humanities:

Harrison Gish is a doctoral candidate in UCLA’s Cinema and Media Studies department, an adjunct professor of film history at Chapman University’s Dodge College of Media Arts, and an editor at Sony Pictures. He is also a co-chair of the SCMS Video Game Studies Scholarly Interest Group. His work has appeared in CineAction, eLudamos, Mediascape, The Video Game Encyclopedia, and the UCLA Game Lab blog.

Ingmar Riedel-Kruse is an Assistant Professor of Bioengineering at Stanford University. His lab focuses on Multi-cell Biophysics and Interactive Biotechnology. The advancements of “interactive and playful” electronics provide a major inspiration for the lab as current biotechnology has many parallels with electronics 5 decades ago, suggesting novel means for putting microbiology into the hands of experts and lay people alike. Ingmar received his Diploma in Theoretical Physics at the Technical University Dresden, did his PhD in experimental biophysics at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, followed by a postdoc at Caltech.

The following IMGD MFA students will be also presenting work in progress:

Kylie Moses is an Interactive Media and Game Design MFA candidate at USC. She also graduated from Reed College in 2014. When she isn’t making games, she’s making fancy cakes. Grab a slice.

Bethany Martin is a New York native with an undergraduate in Fine Art from SUNY Albany. After graduating she spent two years working as a game artist in casino and social games. She is now pursuing her MFA in Interactive Media and Game Design at USC.

Armoire screenshot April 2016

March 2016 Playthink – Dress Rehearsal


Playthink march final webPlease join us 6:00pm on Monday, March 7th in SCI 201 at the USC School of Cinematic Arts for a discussion about games and play as art and culture. The theme for this Playthink salon is “Dress Rehearsal.”

Featured guests include:

Katie Salen is an active game designer, one of the founders of the Institute of Play, and a pioneer in applying game design principles to challenges outside the field of commercial game development. Katie is a Professor in the School of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul University. She lectures widely and writes extensively on game design, design education and gamer culture. She has co-authored or edited several books, including Rules of Play, a textbook on game design, The Game Design Reader and The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning.

Miguel Sicart is a play and games scholar based at the IT University in Copenhagen. He has conducted research on the ethical role of videogames in culture, publishing two books on the topic: The Ethics of Computer Games (The MIT Press, 2009) and Beyond Choices: The Design of Ethical Gameplay (The MIT Press, 2013). His most recent work situates play at the core of contemporary aesthetics and design practices, a program he presented in Play Matters (The MIT Press, 2014), a manifesto for studying play beyond games.

Margaret Moser is an experienced technical director and game designer with a background in mobile as well as experimental designs, including projects with the New York based development studios Playmatics and Leisure Collective.

Jane Pinckard: Formerly Associate Director at the UC Santa Cruz Center for Games and Playable Media, Jane Pinckard has a long history in the games industry, including Business Development Analyst at Foundation 9 Entertainment and Founder of GameGirlAdvance.

Bonnie Ruberg is a postdoctoral scholar in the Interactive Media and Games Division at USC, where her research and teaching address gender, sexuality, and identity in video games. She is the co-editor of the forthcoming volume Queer Game Studies, the lead organizer of the annual Queerness and Games Conference, the author of a number of publications on gender and sexuality in digital media, and a former technology journalist. Bonnie received her PhD from the University of California at Berkeley.

January 2016 Playthink – Something New

Playthink january

Please join us 6:00pm on Monday, January 25th in SCI 201 at the USC School of Cinematic Arts for a discussion about games and play as art and culture. Inspired by the start of the new year, the theme for this Playthink salon is “Something New.” Speakers will be presenting new ideas and new work.

Featured guests include:

Joshua Tanenbaum is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Informatics at UC Irvine. He is a member of the UCI Institute for Virtual Environments and Computer Games, the Laboratory for Ubiquitous Computing and Interaction, the EVOKE Lab, and a founding member of the Transformative Play Lab. His research includes studies of agency and identity transformation in games and digital narratives, maker and DIY subcultures, design fictions and future oriented human computer interaction, and tangible, wearable, and ubiquitous computing. In his (theoretical) spare time he creates steampunk artwork and costumes, makes games and occasionally writes music.

Karen Tanenbaum is a Project Scientist at UC-Irvine in the Department of Informatics and is co-founder of the Transformative Play Lab  and director of the Evoke Lab.  Her research explores tangible and ubiquitous computing paradigms and the application of artificial intelligence techniques to interactive storytelling and game design. She also studies Maker/DIY and Steampunk cultures, with a particular emphasis on their role in STEM education and the way they function as design fictions for possible alternative relationships to technology.

Braxton Soderman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Film & Media Studies at UC Irvine. He researches digital media, video games, generative and algorithmic art, the history of technology, and critical theory. Among other places he has published articles in The Journal of Visual Culture, differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, Dichtung-Digital: A Journal of Art and Culture in Digital Media, and Transformative Works and Cultures. He is currently working on a manuscript that approaches video games from a variety of critical perspectives.

Brian Upton is a 20-year-veteran of the game industry.  He currently is a senior game designer at Sony’s Santa Monica Studio where he has collaborated with third-party teams on titles such as Fat Princess, Warhawk, Sorcery, and Everybody Has Gone to the Rapture.  Prior to joining Sony, he was the creative director at Red Storm Entertainment where he pioneered the tactical shooter genre as the lead designer of Rainbow Six andGhost Recon.  He is a member of the advisory boards of the NYU Game Center and the UC Santa Cruz Games and Playable Media program.  He is also the author of The Aesthetic of Play, a book about the epistemology and semiotics of play (MIT Press 2015).  He’ll be talking about how interactivity can interfere with play, and the dangers of interactive essentialism.

Presented by the School of Cinematic Arts’ Game Innovation Lab, Playthink has become a lively nexus of community for USC Games. Under the banner of “games and play as art and culture,” we meet a few times a semester to host wide-ranging, audience-participatory discussions of the history, present and futures of games and interactive media.

November Playthink #1 — Identity

Please join us 6:00pm on Monday, November 9th, in SCI 201 at the USC School of Cinematic Arts for a discussion about games and play as art and culture. In this meeting we will explore the complex ways games can construct and inform us about identity.

Features speakers include:

Aaron Trammell is a PhD Candidate at the Rutgers University School of Communication and Information. He is also a blogger, board game designer, and musician. He is the multimedia editor of the Sound Studies blog Sounding Out! For his dissertation he is investigating the ways that fan subcultures in the 1960s created the game Dungeons and Dragons. In particular, the importance of affective bonds to their work, and the influence of Cold War motifs on their writing.

Bonnie Ruberg is a postdoctoral scholar in the Interactive Media and Games Division at the University of Southern California. She received her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in New Media and Gender & Women’s Studies. Bonnie researches, teaches, and organizes community events around issues of gender and sexuality in video games. She is the co-founder and lead organizer of the annual Queerness and Games Conference, a one-of-a-kind event where industry members and academics meet to explore the intersection of LGBTQ issues and games. Along with Adrienne Shaw, she is also the co-editor of the forthcoming book Queer Game Studies: Gender, Sexuality, and a Queer Approach to Game Studies. From 2005 – 2010, Bonnie worked as a games journalist for publications like The Village Voice, Forbes, The Economist, Wired, Gamasutra, and Joystiq.

Steve Cha, MFA candidate in USC’s Interactive Media and Games Division, aspires to create compelling interactive narrative experiences. His interests include vignette games, political narratives, and revisionist works. His thesis work centers on a semi-autobiographical series of vignettes, which explore aspects of life regarding coming out, immigration, family, and the pursuit of happiness.

N.B. There will be one last Playthink on Monday, November 30th!

February 2015 Playthink – ‘Virtual Reality’

February 2015

Please join us at 6:00pm this Tuesday, February 17th, at the USC School of Cinematic Arts for a discussion about games and play as art and culture. This installment of the Playthink discussion salon will explore virtual reality and how it’s changing our relationship to interactive media.

Featured guests include:

  • Nonny de la Peña (Immersive journalist and creator of Use of Force and Hungry in Los Angeles)
  • Sam Bass (Design Director at Three One Zero and a designer of Adr1ft)
  • More!

When: Tuesday, February 17th, from 6:00pm to 9:00pm
Where: SCI 201 on the second floor of the School of Cinematic Arts SCI building (3470 McClintock Ave, Los Angeles CA 90089)

Presented by the School of Cinematic Arts’ Game Innovation Lab, Playthink has become a lively nexus of community for USC Games. With the banner line of “games and play as art and culture”, we meet a few times a semester to host wide-ranging, audience-participatory discussions of the history, present and futures of games and interactive media.

Special thanks to Lucas Peterson for the awesome poster design!