From Porn to Love: Games’ Growing Up!

Since Space Invaders Videogames have been the “porn” of the media industry. They are traditionally focused on physical concepts and systems. Physical concepts are easy to model, because you can observe them and know exactly what they are about. That also means, though, they are tragically devoid of aha!-moments that reveal something about the human condition. Over the last 15 years, games have been growing up. They have fought against their “porn” image, aiming to extend their emotional range of frustration and triumph. This talk investigates design methods and strategies on how games can be about something, tackle the abstract aspects of the human experience and provide insights into ourselves in meaningful and thought-provoking ways. It draws on a decade of metaphorical game design research & practice as well as an explorative study conducted with the non-profit organization iThrive, focused on games for teen thriving.

About Doris C. Rusch:
Doris C. Rusch is a game designer, researcher, play aficionado and holds a position as assistant professor at DePaul University where she founded the “Play 4 Change” lab. Before that she did post doctoral work at GAMBIT Game Lab, MIT, and Vienna University of Technology (Austria).

Rusch’s work is focused on the theory and practice of game design, particularly in regard to games that model the “human experience”, create empathy and can be used for mental health activism. She was the lead designer and vision holder of award winning and featured projects such as “Zombie Yoga” for Kinect, “Elude”, a metaphorical game on depression, “For the Records” , an interactive documentary that deals with young adults and mental disorders such as OCD, ADD, eating disorder and bipolar disorder and “Soteria – Dreams as Currency”, a game to teach strategies to overcome anxiety disorders.

Her games have won numerous International Serious Play awards and have been showcased at eclectic festivals such as IndieCade and Tokyo Game Show. She has been a keynote speaker and presenter at venues including Clash of Realities, Game Developers Conference, Meaningful Play, Nordic Game Conference, FDG and TEDx.

Having completed studies in Literature, Philosophy, Comparative Media Studies and English at Vienna University, she received her Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics and Interactive Systems.