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Henry Lowood Talk at UCSC

“Players are Artists, Too”
Henry Lowood, Stanford University

Date: Thursday, February 18th
Time: 2:00pm
Place: Digital Media Theater, UCSC
Hosted By: Noah Wardrip-Fruin

This lecture is free and open to the public, but visitors should purchase a parking pass from the visitor kiosk at the main entrance. There they can also provide a map showing the best parking for the Digital Media Theater.

It is easy to provoke debate by posing a simple question, such as, “Are digital games a form of art?” A less controversial observation would be that it takes a lot of artists to make a digital game. This dichotomy between the theoretical exercise and the practical observation frames my interest in the creative player. As I have written elsewhere, it strikes me that rumination about the status of games as artistic works, while stimulating and useful, often distracts attention from more important aspects of expression through the medium of interactive computer and video games. Let me say before I am misunderstood that critical attention to game design, art and programming, all as parts of defining the authorial or artistic roles of game developers is a core problem for game studies. Players would not be using games to express their talents if game developers had not given them compelling games. Now that I have said that, let me reveal my point-of-view: The creativity of players is as compelling as game design. Player creativity has defined the digital game as a platform for personal or artistic expression. Player creativity, including the multiple forms of performance and spectatorship that it has spawned, deserves more attention from game studies. Players are artists, too.

Henry Lowood is curator for history of science & technology collections and film & media collections at Stanford University. After being trained in the history of science and technology and receiving his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, over a period of more than twenty years he has combined interests in history, technological innovation and the history of digital games and simulations to head several long-term projects at Stanford, including How They Got Game: The History and Culture of Interactive Simulations and Videogames in the Stanford Humanities Lab, the Silicon Valley Archives in the Stanford University Libraries and the Machinima Archives and Archiving Virtual Worlds collections hosted by the Internet Archive. He is leading Stanford’s work on game and virtual world preservation in the Preserving Virtual Worlds project funded by the U.S. Library of Congress. He is also the author of numerous articles and essays on the history of Silicon Valley and the development of digital game technology and culture. With Michael Nitsche, he is currently co-editing The Machinima Reader for MIT Press and just completed guest-editing a volume of IEEE Annals of the History of Computing on the history of computers and games.

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