Media Studio 2020


About this studio

Exploring the potential of games and playful media for social innovation and change

‘Play is a manifestation of humanity, used for expressing and being in the world.’

Miguel Sicart (2014)

‘Just as artists have long worked to integrate social concerns in their work, game designers have the option to open up, experiment with, unplay, reskin, and rewrite the hidden transcripts so tenaciously rooted in the systems of our world… We can manifest a different future.’

Mary Flanagan (2009)


What is the potential for games and playful media to activate change and social transformation? Can games help make a better world? How can we create media interventions that teach us to play together in critical and reflexive ways?


Miguel Sicart famously identifies ‘playfulness’ as a key characteristic of contemporary culture, a mode of engagement that infiltrates our everyday social interactions and media ecologies. In this studio we examine how play— in the form of games and playful media practices more broadly—can be used as a powerful tool for probing and disrupting personal, cultural and social attitudes. We will visit the work of key play theorists, interventionists and urban game designers such as Jane McGonigal, John Sharp and Colleen Macklin, and consider what it means to play critically.

Games allow people to take risks they can’t take in the real world. They provide playful, safe spaces for collaboration, problem-solving and new forms of storytelling. They can also help us to think through complex and difficult issues— like climate change, inequality and intolerance—in empathic and creative ways. Through playing and creating, this studio will explore the power of games to innovate, to provoke, to create empathy, and to change the way people see the world.

Students will play and analyse existing games, critique a range of playful media apps and platforms, and think about how they both reinforce and challenge norms and conventions. Through a series of critical and collaborative exercises, we will brainstorm and design ‘mods’, and develop paper prototypes and accompanying audio-visual media that invite people to play critically and imagine alternative futures.


Ingrid Richardson is Professor of Digital Media in the School of Media and Communication. She has published widely on the lived experience of games, play and mobile media, innovative research methods, the relation between technology use and wellbeing, and the embodied effects of wearable technologies. She has led over ten projects that deploy creative media interventions, and her recent co- authored books include *Ambient Play* (MIT Press, 2020), *Exploring Minecraft: Ethnographies of Play and Creativity* (Palgrave, 2020), *Understanding Games and Game Cultures* (Sage, 2021, forthcoming). Profile: https:// www.rmit.edu.au/contact/staff-contacts/academic-staff/r/ richardson-professor-ingrid

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