Meaningful Play 2014:  Get ready for radical transformation!

by Carrie Heeter

If you’re looking for answers to the challenges of racism, sexism, and video games: social justice campaigns and the struggle for gamer identity, you’ll find those answers embodied in the presenters and attendees of Meaningful Play 2014.  Lisa Nakamura begins the dialog with her preconference Quello Lecture and discussion Wednesday evening, October 15.

Meaningful Play MonsterIf you’re thinking Nakamura’s lecture is the only time such issues will be addressed at the conference, think again.  Opening keynote Mia Consalvo will discuss challenges such as marginalization of our work in game studies and an increasingly loud pushback against greater diversity. She’ll talk about moving forward and making play increasingly meaningful to all of us.

Megan Gaiser, one of the first female CEO’s in the game industry, will share her vision for contagious creativity and leadership.

Drew Davidson, head of the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon will celebrate the creative chaos that emerges with a wide diversity of content experts.

Attendees will be treated to panels, papers, and roundtable discussions about affection games, empathy games, other people simulators, representing culture, community and identity, gender, inclusive game design, & gaming culture.  Don’t miss sessions on diversity, games for the blind, crowdsourcing games, online game fraud, and race/ethnicity/diaspora. And of course, games for learning, games for K-12, University games, and games for older adults. And much more. Continue reading

Professor Lisa Nakamura to deliver pre-conference Quello Lecture

Professor Lisa NamakuraMeaningful Play is pleased to announce that Professor Lisa Nakamura will deliver the pre-conference Quello Lecture on Wednesday evening, 7pm, October 15, 2014.

Professor Nakamura is an acclaimed cultural critic of visual representations and mechanics of race, gender, and sexuality in gaming culture, digital media, and transmedia. She is the Gwendolyn Calvert Baker Collegiate Professor in the American Cultures Department and Screen Arts Department at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

The author of four books, numerous academic journal and popular press pieces, her work includes game-related titles such as:

  • Pregnant Sims: Avatars and the Visual Culture of Motherhood on the Web
  • Flag as Inappropriate: Neglected Discourses of Racism, Sexism, and Homophobia in Online Games
  • Queer Female of Color: The Highest Difficulty Setting There Is? Gaming Rhetoric as Gender Capital.
  • Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game: The Racialization of Labor in World of Warcraft
  • Griefing Culture and Incivility on the Internet
  • All the Work without the Worker: Racial Microaggression and the New Orientalism in World of Warcraft
  • Digital Gaming, Racial and Ethnic Identity, and Social Justice

Her insightful analyses help make the invisible visible.

We hope you will join us for a lively discussion. Her talk is open to conference attendees and the general public.

Media and Information Graduate Students Delve Into Emerging VR Tech


With Facebook’s recent acquisition of Oculus VR, the company behind the Oculus Rift, a 360 degree virtual reality(VR) headset, the tech-sphere is abuzz with discussions over the future of virtual reality technology and the seemingly infinite amount of possibilities within. Virtual reality, however, has been around for decades, creating ever growing fascination across the globe and in researchers everywhere. Here at the department of Media and Information, two graduate students, Tom Day and me, Lissy Torres, are exploring ways that virtual reality may entice people to live healthier lives.

Having been awarded the Strosacker fellowship by the Communication Arts and Sciences department, Mr. Day is taking a closer look at the exergame potential of the Oculus Rift and the Virtuix Omni, a 360 degree treadmill. But first, our team of two is examining how these two types of technologies affect immersion and presence, and whether those characteristics impact the level of exertion.

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NASA explores Mars using the Oculus Rift headset and the Virtuix Omni treadmill.

Guided by faculty members Dr. Wei Peng, Dr. Casey O’Donnell, and Dr. Carrie Heeter, as well as a certificate in serious games under our belts, we have planned experiments to study the intrinsic motivations of our participants, who will be experiencing Skyrim and Team Fortress in all 360 degrees of VR glory. The research is separated into two experiments with one investigating exertion in cooperative, single-player, and competitive conditions, and the other focusing on immersion and presence with low immersion, or no virtual reality, moderate immersion, with the Oculus Rift, and full immersion, in which the Oculus Rift and the Virtuix Omni are used.

Why do we care? Well, because it’s awesome! But with companies like Facebook entering the fold, the rise of consumer tools for virtual reality could very well be the wave of the future, holding many uncertainties and a goldmine of information and potentials. Can VR inspire gamers to use commercial games for both entertainment and exercise? Will it become a new method of exercise that is fun, and possibly social? There are many questions surrounding the VR field, and we hope to contribute to our own future as gamers and the futures of others.


Meaningful Play Call for Submissions (Deadline [EXTENDED] July 14, 2014)

Meaningful Play 2014
October 16 – 18, 2014
East Lansing, MI, USA

Casey at Meaningful PlayWhether designed to entertain or to achieve more “serious” purposes, games have the potential to impact players’ beliefs, knowledge, attitudes, emotions, cognitive abilities, physical and mental health, and behavior. Central to all of these goals is the idea of Meaningful Play: a player’s sense that actions matter and the context of play matters.

Meaningful Play 2014 is a conference about theory, research, and game design innovations, principles and practices. Meaningful Play brings scholars and industry professionals together to understand and improve upon games to entertain, inform, educate, and persuade in meaningful ways. The conference includes thought-provoking keynotes from leaders in academia and industry, peer-reviewed paper presentations, panel sessions (including academic and industry discussions), innovative workshops, roundtable discussions, and exhibitions of games and prototypes.

Valeta at Meaningful PlayMeaningful Play 2014 and the journal Games and Culture (G&C) have partnered to bring a special issue of G&C containing top papers from the Meaningful Play 2014 conference. Top paper authors will be invited to revise their Meaningful Play paper for publication consideration in the special issue. G&C is a peer-reviewed, international journal devoted to the theoretical and empirical understanding of games and play.

Keynotes this year include:

Greg Lastowka – A Professor of Law at Rutgers School of Law-Camden and a co-director of the Rutgers Institute for Information Policy & Law. He is the author of Virtual Justice (Yale University Press 2010). He teaches and conducts research on the laws of intellectual property and emerging technologies. Will be giving the Quello Lecture, which occurs the night prior to the start of Meaningful Play.

Jesse Schell is the CEO of Schell Games, a leader in creating transformational games. Jesse currently serves as Distinguished Professor of Entertainment Technology at Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC), where he teaches game design. He authored the critically acclaimed book, The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, which captured Game Developer magazine’s coveted “Front Line Award” for 2008.

Mia Consalvo is Professor and Canada Research Chair in Game Studies and Design at Concordia University in Montreal. She is the co-editor of Sports Videogames and author of Cheating: Gaining Advantage of Videogames. Mia runs the mLab, a space dedicated to innovating methods for studying games and game players, at Concordia.

Erin Hoffman is an author and video game designer. Erin Hoffman was born in San Diego and now lives in northern California, where she works as Game Design Lead at the Institute of Play’s GlassLab, a Bill and Melinda Gates and Macarthur Foundation supported three-year initiative to establish integrated formative assessment educational games.

Jan Sircus is Past-President of the Themed Attraction Association, Canada, and Principal of Studio Sircus, a creative consultancy for innovative media projects and story place making. Prior to Studio Sircus, Jan was co-founder and Managing Director Creative of Maple Leaf Studios (MLS), Vancouver.

Colleen Macklin is the Director of PETLab (Prototyping Education and Technology Lab) and Associate Professor at Parsons The New School for Design. Colleen develops games for experimental learning and social engagement. PETLab projects include a curriculum in game design for the Boys and Girls Club, a set of statistical games for the Red Cross Climate Centre, and big games such as Re:Activism and the “fiscal” sport Budgetball. She is a member of the game design collectives Local No. 12, known for their card game the Metagame and The Leisure Collective.

Deirdra Kiai is a game designer, writer, programmer, musician, and visual artist. Deidra was nominated for four awards at this year’s Independent Games Association awards. Their game, Dominique Pamplemousse in “It’s All Over Once The Fat Lady Sings!” is a stop motion musical detective adventure game. Their #1ReasonToBe a game designer talk, “Making games is easy. Belonging is hard.” received a standing ovation at the Game Developers’ Conference.

Come join us: Paper, Panel, Poster, Roundtable, Workshop, and Game submissions are sought from both researchers and practitioners in academia and industry. Graduate and advanced undergraduate students are encouraged to submit either jointly with an academic/member of industry or alone.

Details on the conference, including the call for submissions, is available at:

Megan Gaiser’s Vision For Contagious Creativity to be Presented at Meaningful Play

Megan Gaiser

Meaningful Play 2014 is excited to announce as a speaker Megan Gaiser, one of the first female CEO’s in the gaming industry. She will talk about the most important lessons learned as CEO and will explore the critical role of creativity and the need to establish more humanistic values in leadership.

As one of the first non-traditional CEO’s, Megan’s unique vantage point enabled her to identify and sidestep the outdated habits of the game industry. Forging her own path enabled Megan and her team to co-create and capture the markets that had been left behind. Megan is a creative and inclusive leader who gained a reputation for engaging unproven markets, inspiring collaboration and a commitment to the highest artistic and aesthetic qualities. She was responsible for breathing new life into an unprofitable company by bucking the status quo and creating “unpink” games for girls and women. Dubbed by the NYT as the ‘UnBarbie’ game maker, Gaiser grew the company to $8.5M in revenues with sales of over nine million units with the award-winning Nancy Drew game franchise. Prior to that, she spent eleven years as a documentary and educational film Producer and Editor.

She recently formed Contagious Creativity to foster more diversity in both the content and leadership of the entertainment gaming industry. Her reputation led to her being named among “Game Industry’s 100 Most Influential Women” by Next Generation;  “Top 10 Most Influential Women of the Decade” by Gaming Angels;”  “2011 Indie Cade Trailblazer Award for Lifetime Achievement”; 15 Cine Golden Eagle awards, three New York festival awards, and the International Documentary Milano Award.

Meaningful Play 2014 takes place October 16-18. The call for submission of research, presentations, and games ends July 1. Join us!