After pressing pause during the pandemic, the bi-annual International Conference on Meaningful Play returns to East Lansing, recognizing innovative work in game design and development. The conference takes place Oct. 12–14, 2022, on Michigan State University’s Campus.
Games that matter
Since the first International Conference on Meaningful Play was held in 2008, Professor Brian Winn has been on a quest to discover what it means to design and study games that matter. Winn is also the director of ComArtSci’s Games for Entertainment and Learning (GEL) Lab, which means he always has a stacked party and a great set of tools in his inventory.
“The conference is a direct tie into the work that we do in the GEL Lab. That is, we design, develop and research games that involve meaningful play,” said Winn. “This is our seventh Meaningful Play spanning 14 years. We at MSU are proud to have founded and hosted the conference since its inception.”
Winn said the conference has had a positive impact on faculty, students and the larger game industry by fostering relationships and shining light on new ideas, games and important research. It brings together industry and academic game researchers, designers and developers; game educators and students; government and nonprofit organizations, for three days of discussing games that matter. The conference centers around themes of exploring meaningful applications of games, issues in designing meaningful play, and the use of games for learning and education.
Although serious games are likely candidates for discussion and recognition, commercial games have just as much potential for meaningful play.
“A game that impacts the player in a positive fashion, matters to me,” Winn said. “It could be a game that teaches someone how to manage their illness, or get in physical or mental shape, or understand a minority community or culture better — or even a game that allows players to collaborate together and enjoy themselves.”
Photo: 2018 attendees preview “Plunder Panic.”
Meaningful Play 2022
This year’s keynote speakers include award-winning ComArtSci alumni, Professor Carrie Heeter, and writer/producer Geoff Johns; Theresa Tanenbaum, associate professor at the University of California Irvine; Heidi Boisvert, founder of futurePerfect lab and co-founder of XTH; Doris C. Rusch, professor of game design at Uppsala University; Andy Phelps, professor at University of Canterbury and American University; and Rachel Kowert, research psychologist and the research director of Take This.
Throughout the conference, attendees can also participate in panel discussions, exhibitions of games and prototypes, workshops, roundtable discussions and peer-reviewed paper presentations — or take a break between sessions in the Meaningful Play Game Room.
It’s a gathering the community has been missing since its last event in 2018.
“What excites me most is the chance to get back together in person with others doing work in this space and reignite the community,” said Winn. “The conference is very personable and welcoming. There are many opportunities to learn and interact from those attending the conference, both formally in sessions and informally at the conference social functions and special events.”
One of those special events is, of course, a game night.
— Jessica Mussell