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Understanding and Creating Meaningful Games

Speaker Name: 
Mike Treanor
Speaker Title: 
Assistant Professor
Speaker Organization: 
American University
Start Time: 
Thursday, April 5, 2018 - 11:30am
End Time: 
Thursday, April 5, 2018 - 12:30pm
Angus Forbes


Without a doubt, videogames are an important form of media in our culture. However, designers and players are still learning about how the interactive systems of games can be understood, and generally meaningful. Currently, many commercial games recreate understood gameplay genres (e.g. games about combat and spatial exploration), and many serious games simply layer their content domain as a non-playable theme on top of unrelated gameplay (e.g. through text on top of a simple branching narrative). In both cases, a vast number of domains and aspects of human experience are left unexpressed through the playable models of games. The potential for games as a medium for entertainment, education, artistic practice, and other areas, has yet to be fully realized.

In this talk, I will describe my research to further understand the medium through a multi-disciplinary practice involving artificial intelligence, deep reading, semiotics, social simulation, procedural content generation, and design. The two main assumptions of my work are: games can signify through channels that are not conventionally considered by designers and players, and new expressive and interpretive affordances can be invented through developing computational models, and expressing those models in completed media artifacts. Overall, this talk aims to demonstrate that there are ample opportunities to create new types of games, and impact how games are created and understood.


Mike Treanor, PhD, MFA, is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science and a founding member of the American University Game Lab in Washington DC. His research is broadly aimed at finding new approaches for interpretation and expression within videogames and computational media.

He's had work nominated for Technical Excellence at the Independent Games Festival and IndieCade and his scholarship is primarily about videogame interpretation, tools for game creation, social simulation and procedural content generation. He holds a MFA in Digital Art and New Media (2008) and a PhD in Computer Science (2013) from the University of California at Santa Cruz.