Contemporary Videogames and the Museum: What’s Next?

Sarah Brin, IT University Copenhagensbin@itu.dk
Michael McMaster, RMIT UniversitymichaeLmcmaster@rmit.edu.au

Keywords

Museums, curating, games in museums, art games, hybrid museums

INTRODUCTION

In July of 2017, a consortium of over 20 international delegates gathered in Melbourne toquestion the state of contemporary videogames in a range of museum contexts. Speakers and attendees discussed the varying curatorial premises and formats for games exhibitions, critically interrogated specific game artworks, shared the complexities of designing games as gallery learning tools, and explored the affordances and limits of new game technologies. While the workshop generated many nuanced responses to the question “what’s next for contemporary videogames and museums?” regional, cultural and technological developments over the past year have opened up different and more developed inquiries in the field. This workshop for DiGRA 2018 intends to continue this field of inquiry and establish a regular, sustainable forum for researchers, professionals, and other creatives working with games in museums.

Over the past decade, videogames have emerged as a recurrent fixture in the exhibitions and public programming of major museums. They have been the focus of a number of high-profile exhibitions by multiple art and design museums worldwide, and beyond the gallery space videogames are at the centre of various museum projects: pop-ups and ancillary events (PlaySFMOMA, 2017-present), game-designer-in-residence programs (V&A,   2013-14), gamified interpretive technologies (Tate, 2010), and institutionally-independent exhibitions hosted by museums (Game On! El Arte en Juego, 2009-present), to name a few.

Museum projects like these have highlighted some critical challenges surrounding contextualizing videogames within art contexts. Housing videogames within high-culture institutions has sparked deeper conversations around how to create appropriately critical curatorial, interpretive and pedagogical frames for contemporary playable media. Recent scholarship within game studies has explored this sometimes-messy intersection of cultures (Parker, 2013), and has thoroughly covered the ways in which game development can stand as a legitimate art practice (see Flanagan, 2009; Schrank, 2014; Sharp, 2015) that exists parallel to mainstream commercial videogames.

Important Dates

Submission opens
December, 1st 2017

Final Submission Deadline:
February, 9th 2018

Acceptance Notification:
March, 1st 2018



We apologize for the delay in sending a notification about your DIGRA 2018 submission. Due to the high number of submissions, the review process is taking longer than expected but we plan to send out an official notification by next week. Other important dates such as Early Bird registration will be modified accordingly. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

DiGRA Program Chairs




Early Bird Fee Expiration:
March, 29th 2018

Final submission of revised papers and extended abstracts:
April, 15th 2018

Though concerns regarding videogames and contemporary art are being discussed, logistical and conceptual issues persist (Brin, 2015). This workshop aims to explore nuanced ways of thinking about videogames in museums, and to formalize, record and share the work already being done in this emerging field, while proposing constructive methods for collaborating across these professional worlds. Through talks and group discussion, the workshop will address problems faced by videogame designers, scholars, and museum professionals alike, including (but not limited to):

  • How are museums developing their internal digital infrastructures to support the collection, exhibition and maintenance of games?

  • What best practices can we observe from museums designing games to connect visitors to exhibition content?

  • Do games stand apart as their own curatorial discipline?

  • How do games succeed or fail in helping museums reach new audiences?

  • How can game designers and museum subject-experts share knowledge in order to produce museum games that are both enjoyable for players and relevant to exhibition content?

  • What kinds of support do artists need to continue creating new, experimental videogames? What roles can the traditional art/design museum play?

  • When and how is it appropriate to deploy new videogame-adjacent technologies like AR and VR in the museum?

  • How does the emerging prominence of videogame exhibitions reflect wider trends in contemporary cultures of display?

The primary aim of the workshop is to provide a space for discussion between researchers, museum professionals, and practitioners working within and surrounding the theme of videogames and the museum. Workshop presentations will not be part of the official conference proceedings, but we will post talk abstracts on the conference website.

SUBMISSION

We invite scholars, museum professionals, game designers and artists to submit a talk to the workshop. We welcome submissions of finished work as well as work in progress. Presentations can take the form of case studies, theory-based inquiry, or anything in between.
Talk submissions should take the form of an abstract up to 800 words, together with a brief bio. Send your abstract to michael.mcmaster@rmit.edu.au as a .pdf file, by May 1, 2018. A submission template is not required, and papers should not be anonymized. The workshop organizers will review the submitted presentations and make selections based on relevance to the workshop’s key themes and the overall critical rigor demonstrated by the author.

Alternatively, if you’d like to attend the workshop and join the discussion without presenting a talk, send us an email with a paragraph about why you’re interested in the workshop, along with a brief bio. Do note that attendees must be registered for at least one day of the DiGRA 2018 conference to participate in the workshops. Contact us if you have any questions (michael.mcmaster@rmit.edu.au).

BIOS

Sarah Brin is a art historian and curator currently working as a PhD fellow on GIFT. GIFT is a Horizon 20/20 European Union research grant focused on using playful museum experiences to connect visitors to exhibition content. Prior to joining GIFT, Sarah has produced games-focused programs, publications and exhibitions for institutions including the San Francisco Museum of Modem Art, Babycastles, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the Hammer Museum, the Playable Cities Conference and many others.
She holds an M.A. in Art and Curatorial Practice in the Public Sphere from the University of Southern California, where she focused her research on artist-made game mods. To read more about GIFT, visit gift.itu.dk. To read more about Sarah, visit sarahbrin.com.

Michael McMaster is an independent videogame developer and PhD Candidate at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. His doctoral research builds on a background in fine art practice and research to examine the emerging prominence of videogames within art and design museums, through an ethnographic inquiry into professional museum practice conducted through a Visiting Fellowship at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2018. In 2016 he released the local-multiplayer game Push Me Pull You with his company House House, who are currently developing a second release titled Untitled Goose Game.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Brin, Sarah. “Games for Museums, Museums for Games: A Report on Arts Engagement for SFMOMA.” Commissioned white paper. SFMOMA, 2015.
Flanagan, Mary. 2009. Critical Play: Radical Game Design. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Game On! El arte en juego. “Game On! – El arte en juego.” http://www.gameon2017.com/ (accessed February 17, 2018)
Parker, Felan. 2013. “An Art World for Artgames.” Loading… The Journal of the Canadian Game Studies Association Vol 7(11): 41-60.
San Francisco Museum of Modem Art. “PlaySFMOMA Mixed Reality Pop-Up.”
www.sfinoma.org/event/playsfinoma-mixed-reality-pop-arcade/ (accessed February 17, 2018)
Schrank, Brian. 2014. Avant-garde Videogames: Playing with Technoculture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Sharp, John. 2015. Works of Game: On the Aesthetics of Games and Art. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Tate. “Tate Trumps iPhone app.” TATE.org.uk.
www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/apps/tate-trumps (accessed February 17, 2018)
Victoria & Albert Museum. “Games Designer in Residence: Sophia George.”
www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/g/game-designer-resident-sophia-george/ (accessed February 17, 2018)