From Bateson and Mead’s “Democracies and Dictators” to Tsing and Pollman’s “Global Futures”, anthropologists have taken an interest in designing games to teach and communicate anthropological ideas. In this workshop, we will discuss tabletop, card, roleplaying, and computer games to explore themes in social, behavioral, and cultural theory such as play, cooperation, evolution and change, symbols, and power. The experiential and empathetic qualities of games can be a powerful medium for learning. In this workshop, we will engage gaming from a variety of perspectives, culminating in game design and playtesting. Panelists will discuss and analyze how the narratives and mechanics of games convey meaning and engage players in a worldview. Since many popular games are based on colonial and Eurocentric premises, we will invite participants to reimagine, “hack”, and decolonize games. The workshop includes a creative, hands-on design lab (maker space), facilitated by an experienced game designer Anastasia Salter, where we will learn about the basic elements of game design. Workshop participants will develop games based on anthropological theory and method. We will prototype and playtest the games produced in the workshop, as well as other anthro-inspired games at #AnthropologyCon2017 on Saturday, at The Board Room. Participants will receive a bibliography of anthro-inspired games.
Game designer Eric Zimmerman recently proclaimed the 21st century to be the “Ludic Century.” Jane McGonigal has written that “reality is broken” and games may be the solution for helping people think through social problems. The American Museum of Natural History recently featured “Social Impact Games”, based on social science, to explore concepts of race and issues of sweatshop workers. Anthropologists can and should be more involved in this emerging field, because of our role in studying and imagining different ways of engaging with the world, and our interest in exploring multimodal platforms for the dissemination of anthropological ideas.
We would like to acknowledge support for the workshop from the American Anthropological Association (AAA). A special thank you to Ushma Suvarnakar and Alana Mallory from the AAA for their patience and assistance. Thanks to Stephanie Takaragawa, President of the Society for Visual Anthropology, and the Board for backing #AnthropologyCon in so many ways.