U of T Mississauga launches game studies program
The University of Toronto Mississauga is launching a game studies program that will introduce students to the world of games from cultural, artistic and technological perspectives – and prepare them for graduate studies and careers in the burgeoning gaming industry.
From narrative, design and business to the methodologies of testing, role-playing and the use of video game engines, the new game studies minor cuts across a wide range of disciplines.
The program is being offered by the department of English and drama in collaboration with the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information, and Technology
"Play and games are as old as recorded history," says Christopher Young, head of collections and digital scholarship at the U of T Mississauga Library. "Some of the oldest artifacts and objects [are] dice or cuneiform tablets with rules on them. That speaks to how universal play is and formalizing it into a game that's based on the cultural and political history of the people at that time."
The launch of the game studies minor is the latest example of U of T Mississauga’s growing presence and influence in game studies scholarship and research. In 2020, the university acquired the Syd Bolton Collection, a comprehensive academic collection of video games comprising over 14,000 titles. Earlier this week, U of T Mississauga also acquired access to the archives of Electric Playground, a long-running Canadian video game show.
The two collections, cataloguing of which is almost complete, serve as a research tool.
An important theme that runs through the learning is that play, which is often seen as an activity for children, actually and appropriately intersects with life in all its ages and stages. "To my mind, play is not preparation for what you do later on in life," says Lawrence Switzky, an associate professor in the department of English and drama.
“Play transforms us and it transforms the spaces we move in,” adds Young, who is also the chief archivist of the Syd Bolton and Electric Playgrounds collections.
The Student Centre at U of T Mississauga will see such a transformation this Thursday, Nov. 9, converting into a giant play zone as part of a Day of Play that marks the launch of the game studies program.
From giant Jenga blocks and an inflatable obstacle course to a huge hopscotch court, a storytelling hub and of course, video games, the Day of Play will offer a range of interactive and playful activities for students, faculty and members of the public. The event will be followed by a symposium on the role of games in our society.
Switzky says the goal is to "establish and promote UTM as a place where game studies, teaching and research and experiential education [happen] by making the campus come alive with games."
For Young, infusing play and playfulness into campus life will offer a respite from the usual.
"If this can make people not think about what's happening for five minutes and bring a playful experience that makes their day better, I'm all for that," says Young. "Hopefully, that is the experience people will get from engaging in some of these different spaces."
The Game Studies launch and symposium takes place in the U of T Mississauga Library and online on Nov. 9, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Students, faculty and members of the public can register for the free event here.
For a full list of Day of Play activities, please visit the info page.