In 34 days, Michigan State University is hosting the biannual conference, Meaningful Play, a three day extravaganza of presentations, panels, workshops, discussions, and game exhibitions from frontrunners in academia and the game industry centered around meaningful play, or meaningful interactions, or playful interactions.
Dr. Casey O’Donnell, Meaningful Play chair, is excited for the event, stating that the limitless potential of games makes them an important field of study. “What makes games beautiful is that they play well,” he says. “Life doesn’t play very well.” He continues, “what makes games really scary is that they feel good. It feels good to be able to win, because you don’t all that often. It’s this quality that makes games so strong a force.” O’Donnell worries about the ethical implications behind creating games, creating compelling, perhaps even addictive experiences. Part of this conference is exploring more about how we make sense of the systems we create.
“Why am I worried about slot machines? Because it’s the collapse of meaning. Games plug in to something that we need as a species. And the slot machine thrives on that need. At the same moment, we have this very powerful, meaningful, cultural form, and then we have the power, perhaps the temptation, to collapse meaningfulness back to addiction. Setting up the person who loses all their money to the slot machine. But the conversation is important—games are part of how we make sense of the world around us. And maybe some people do find sense in the slot machine.”
O’Donnell will be discussing these thoughts from his paper, Crafting Meaningful Play: Care and Meaning Making in/as/of/through Games, Thursday, October 16 during the conference, just one of many exciting and interesting talks, including 6 invited keynotes by researchers and game designers, 45 peer-reviewed papers, presentations on the latest game research, 13 exciting panel and roundtable discussions, 5 hands-on workshops, a poster session featuring 20 late-breaking advances and work-in-progress reports , and an exhibition of 41 innovative games.
Still curious? Check out what others are saying about Meaningful Play below, and join the conversation with #MPmeans.