The Experimental Game Lab is home to a research and design community focusing on games and play as cultural practices, artifacts and technologies. As part of Digital Media Graduate program in the School of Literature, Communication and Culture, the EGL supports innovative research at the intersection of humanities, design and technology. Our goal is to study and expand the expressive affordances of videogames through the following activities:
- Analysis—Exploring new approaches to game literacy and analysis of games as both cultural artifacts and social practices
- Gameplay—Inventing new forms of games and gameplay, including new genres, platforms and interface strategies
- Content—Generating new forms of expression and narrative
- Context—Investigating social and cultural uses, contexts and applications of games and game technology
- Technique—Developing new methods for the design and production of games
The EGL facility includes a variety of current and legacy gaming platforms, current game production tools, and an extensive library of both digital and analog games, and serves as a resource to students and faculty of both the Digital Media Graduate Program and the Computational Media Program, as well as anyone across the campus doing game-related work. The EGL is currently home to the Emergent Game Group, which focuses on emergence in multiplayer games, both studying and developing design strategies that address emergence in multiplayer games and virtual worlds.
Because we are in a humanities program, we take a cultural and historical view of games. No artifact better epitomizes this than dice. Dice have been a pervasive part of games since time immemorial, and have served as random number generators, a key element in games in virtually every culture throughout human history up through modern computing. Like video games, dice have historically been targeted by moralists with critiques and anxieties that parallel many of the controversies surrounding video games: They have been considered “time wasters,” and been associated with gambling, crime and violence. Dice were on the list of games that the Buddha refused to play, but they have also been the subject of cultural research. In the 13th Century, the great intellectual Castilian King Alfonse X commissioned the “Libro de Jueogos,” a massive book of game rules, which included elaborately detailed illustrations of the dice-making process. During the golden age of Victorian board gaming, a variety of “alternative” random number generators, such as the teetotum and spinners, were patented in order to counter the perception of dice as “sinful.” Dice have also been associated with divination and fortune telling, an apt metaphor for researchers and designers who look to and imagine the future.
Dice featured on our web page include (clockwise from bottom left): European ivory dice from the Victorian era, Jewish dreidel, ancient Egyptian polyhedral die, bone dice from Ancient Rome; ivory Mah Jongg dice from France; a die from the Chinese Game Luibo; Indian passa dice; a Victorian-era ivory teetotum, probably American. The EGL logo consists of classic polygonal dice used in tabletop roleplaying, from which are derived conventions for a number of digital game genres, forming a bridge between the history and culture of analog and video games.
Web Site Credits
Concept, Celia Pearce
Web Site Design, Erica Penk
Dice Photo, Andrew Ho with a Special Thanks to Hera Kan
Logo Art, Rachel Keslensky