Joining the Peabody Awards as Chief Advisor for Interactive

I am honored to be appointed in a new role: Chief Advisor for Interactive with the Peabody Awards.

Beginning in 2022, Peabody is expanding its award categories to recognize storytelling achievements across interactive, immersive and new media categories, including Gaming, Interactive Journalism, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Social Video, and Interactive Documentary. For an early look, see the Legacy Award winners announced last month.

I am simultaneously joining Peabody’s Interactive Board of Jurors (scroll to bottom).

For me, this is a chance to help close the recognition gap between fields like documentary and journalism and emerging forms with games, AR/VR, and more. I have deep respect for the deliberative process that Peabody Awards brings to their judging, and have really loved the conversations so far with leading creatives and experts. In many ways, this is a bold experiment for Peabody Awards, and I can’t wait to see where we can take it.

Bringing my Playful Cities class to the new KID Museum (storytelling boxes and more)

An example of the fun we’re having…

My class on “Playful Cities” and interactive storytelling traveled this week to a new museum to pitch their projects as potential exhibitions.

Specifically, the students brought their demonstrations to the enormous “KID Museum” that is opening next month in Bethesda on makerspace themes.

Our students created three different “storytelling boxes” and demos with branching stories and educational games, including with RFID and arcade buttons.

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Video released on “Layers of Place” (panel with Open Doc Lab)

I was proud to moderate an excellent discussion, “LAYERS OF PLACE: Bringing Communities Together by Augmenting Places with Stories, Voices, and Technologies,” on June 22nd, 2021 with the MIT Open Doc Lab. Featuring an interdisciplinary group of artists, scholars, and civic leaders including filmmaker Carla Bishop, urban planner Lafayette Cruise, artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and interdisciplinary artist Shey Rivera Ríos will discuss the potentials and challenges of augmenting places within communities and with stories to build bridges and bring people together. What policies, strategies, and environments are needed to make them work? Moderated by civic media scholar Benjamin Stokes.

Watch it here:

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Book talk with Katie Salen @ G4C — June 30

From the event description:

We are excited to announce our next Talk & Play, co-sponsored with MIT Press, for the book launch of “LOCALLY PLAYED: Real-World Games for Stronger Places and Communities.” Join us on Tuesday, June 30th from 6:00 to 7:00pm EDT as we discuss the future of urban play, games of resilience, and how games can strengthen cities and neighborhoods.

Join author Dr. Benjamin Stokes in conversation with Katie Salen Tekinbaş as they explore tools to make your own game for community cohesion, history and empowerment.

The world has changed with COVID-19 — but place matters more than ever. As social distancing enters the next phase, we begin to imagine social interaction in parks and on streets. And we need more than economic strategy — we also need social resilience. Are games an answer?

In 2016, city officials were surprised when Pokémon GO brought millions of players out into the public space, blending digital participation with the physical. Yet for local control and empowerment, a new framework is needed to guide the power of mixed reality and pervasive play.

This new book is the first to show cities how they can be strategic with games in a hybrid world. In Locally PlayedBenjamin Stokes describes the rise of games that can connect strangers across zip codes, support the “buy local” economy, and build cohesion in the fight for equity. With a mix of high- and low-tech games, Stokes shows, cities can tap into the power of play for the good of the group, including healthier neighborhoods and stronger communities.

The discussant is noted game designer and academic, Katie Salen Tekinbaş. Katie’s own pioneering games for cities — including the Big Urban Game for the Twin Cities in the U.S. — established some of the foundation for modern research on games. This event will be introduced by Games for Changes President, Susanna Pollack.

Benjamin Stokes is a media scholar, professor, and civic designer. He teaches in the American University Game Lab and School of Communication. Previously, Stokes worked at the MacArthur Foundation in their portfolio on Digital Media and Learning. Stokes’s designs have been featured in the Smithsonian Institution and the Guggenheim Museum, including re-purposed payphones for storytelling and neighborhood mapping by bicycle. His also directs the Playful City Lab at American University.

“Playful Making with Urban Furniture” (a talk with the Dept. of Ed)

I will be giving a talk for policy makers in education, economic development, and civic games on January 10, 2020. Hosted by the US Department of Education, this convening is part of the larger ED Games Expo at Building Momentum in Alexandria, VA.

RSVP here (Eventbrite).

This talk brings together some of our research in the Playful City Lab on cities using games with urban furniture (like interactive benches, re-purposed payphones, and interactive fountains), and redirecting the momentum of large commercial games like Pokemon GO (e.g., our research on San Jose) to advance local culture and economic development.

Heading to IndieCade 2019

I’m presenting with the amazing Kishonna Gray on Thursday, Oct. 10 for IndieCade (1:30pm, see full schedule). Our session:

Creativity from Activism: From Black Cyberfeminism to Localism and Protest

Description:

New kinds of creativity are possible with activism, even for non-activist designers. This panel takes an unusual approach, and asks how ALL game designers might benefit from a peek into activism around games — including to invent new kinds of games. For this session, we will avoid the usual silos of activist games for their own sake, or pure activism around current games. Instead, we will ask how activism reveals new forms of gameplay, audience engagement, and genre bending. To do this, we will consider how each example game reveals an opportunity for new kinds of creativity.

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Presenting at Connected Learning Summit (UC Irvine, CA)

Our showcase talk will be on: “Neighborhood Circulation of Civic Stories: A Trans-Local Platform(co-authors: Benjamin Stokes, Olivia Williams, and Hazel Arroyo). This is a design talk, scheduled for 2 pm on Oct. 4, 2019, as part a panel on “Locative Media and Community Engagement.”

The Connected Learning Summit alternates between MIT and UC Irvine, and represents a merger between three community events with this shared vision and values: the Digital Media and Learning Conference, the Games+Learning+Society Conference, and Sandbox Summit.

Visual for our talk:

Abstract for our talk:

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Video: Embedding Games for Physical Space (G4C talk)

Earlier this year I gave a talk at Games for Change on “Embedding for maker games.” The idea was to reveal the creativity that comes from looking beyond our obsession with apps and tiny mobile screens. Instead, we should be dreaming with the right infrastructure for play, from bus stops to public screens… and we can democratize design by aligning game creation with the maker movement.

Original description (June 18, 2019):
In cities and neighborhoods, a new kind of game design is emerging. The digital and physical are coming together, from hybrid playgrounds to embedded screens at bus stops. Games were not the original goal. But as millions of youth learn to program Raspberry Pis ($50 each), and escape rooms can be created with DIY (Do-It-Yourself) kits, the movement is growing – and without headsets. In this provocation, you’ll hear how the future of mixed reality does NOT use consumer devices – but rather is embedded in public space and physical objects, strengthening neighborhoods from Mexico City to Los Angeles.

Presenting at DiGRA in Japan

I will be giving two talks in Kyoto for DiGRA 2019 (the Digital Games Research Association):

(1) “Localism with Games: Horizontal Channels and Models” (9am, Aug. 8)

Should all cultures play the same games? Should all cities? This paper establishes a distinct conceptual basis for games in cities by aligning with localism as a social movement rather than location-based technology. For details, see my upcoming book: Locally Played: Real-world Games for Stronger Places and Communities (MIT Press, January 2020).

(2) “Cities appropriate Pokémon GO: remix models for local needs.” (2:20pm, Aug. 8)

A new role for local government is emerging to appropriate and remix games for city streets. This study investigates how several major cities in the United States created entirely new activities for players to embed the game in city-specific events, beginning in 2017. This study identifies early trade-offs in city tactics, especially in terms of sharing power to negotiate the content layer with the game company and with local residents, borrowing from models of the appropriation of technology. For details, see our public report, “Cities Remix a Playful Platform: Prominent Experiments to Embed Pokémon GO, from Open Streets to Neighborhood Libraries” (Stokes, Dols, and Hill, 2018).

Game Design and the Constitution (at the National Archives)

I will be moderating a conversation at the National Archives on “Game Design and the Constitution” this Thursday, September 6th, at 7pm.

The event will feature game designer Luke Peterschmidt and historian Denver Brunsman, as we explore how the science of game design might be applied to analyze the Constitution and our political system. Welcoming remarks will come from The Honorable David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States.

A live stream is available for those beyond DC.

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