On Saturday, Dec. 1, from 5-7 p.m., room 6011 in Donald Bren Hall will be transformed into an interactive exhibit featuring new and experimental games. Free of charge and open to the public, this Games at Play Arcade event will give attendees an opportunity to explore a variety of games — video, tabletop and paper-based — created by game designers from around the world.
“Arcades are a popular mode of showcasing independent game design and interactive artwork,” says informatics Ph.D. student Kat Brewster, one of the event organizers. “I’ve been to arcades in London, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles — so why not here at UCI?”
Brewster and fellow informatics Ph.D. student Amanda Cullen, both researchers at UCI’s Critical Approaches to Technology and the Social (CATS) lab, organized the event in part to show UCI’s computer game science (CGS) undergraduate students the breadth of game design in the contemporary independent scene. Brewster notes that they also wanted to “show a different side of game design for those who may not know that there is a whole, vibrant community of game designers making works that aren’t ‘Call of Duty’ or ‘Fortnite.’ ”
Cullen explains that they hope to “celebrate some of the interesting work being done by individuals and small teams, especially since this is often how students work together on their own games.” In particular, the arcade will highlight games with novel concepts, aesthetics and mechanics.
Also, with several of the showcased games coming from designers here in Southern California, the event will feature a Designer Talkback session. The local designers “will be coming to meet with people at the arcade and talk about their work, which is a great opportunity for our ICS undergraduates,” says Cullen, adding that it should be a fun night for anyone at UCI and in the local community interested in games.
Informatics Professors Aaron Trammell and Bonnie Ruberg, who run the CATS lab, are both looking forward to the event. “I think it’s really exciting that we’ve got graduate students in informatics who are organizing and hosting events with global reach,” says Trammell. Ruberg agrees, noting that Brewster and Cullen are “helping push the boundaries of what video games look like here on campus. It’s not all about esports; it’s also about playful art and seeing what new places games can take us.”
— Shani Murray