Gaming and Play

The size, significance, and future growth of the games industry is by now well-attested. Both game development and ‘game-adjacent’ industries look set for rapid transformation as VR and other XR technologies grow mainstream, while the vast majority of employers indicate major skills gaps in the workforce (Storyfutures 2020).

But change is not just market-driven: the culture of games has been transformed by the growth of independent game studios, as well as a flourishing third stream of micro’ indies. and Discord have become key spaces for making and sharing prototypes, hacks, artworks, fanworks, zines, generators, polemics, recipes, rituals, templates, tools, engines, fragments, playable theory, and uncategorizable experiments, questioning and transforming established notions of games, and reimagining playable culture and its relationship to learning and research, and its relationship to social and political transformation. Commercial motives mix with punk, hacker, open source, critical play, critical design and speculative design sensibilities, which also chime with the history of the University of Sussex in its support of radical practice-led critique, and queer avant-garde and demotic cultural forms.  

At the same time, game studies has diversified beyond its early structuralist preoccupation with the relationship between narrative and play. Game studies has become a key site for critical thinking about identity and performativity, intersecting with critical race theory, critical disability studies, queer studies, and ecocriticsm, among other fields. Game studies also shares themes with critical data studies, including the proliferation of algorithmicity and playable experience across a wide variety of contexts: from the gamification of social relations through social media to transformations in the nature of surveillance and governmentality. At the University of Sussex we seek to better understand the critical potential of playable cultures, and to be able to construe the evolving technologies of playable cultures from an informed and critical perspective. 

If you are interested in this area and would like to contribute please contact Sam Ladkin



Sussex Humanities Lab, SILVERSTONE SB211, Arts Road, Falmer, East Sussex, BN1 9RG