Games Beyond the Screen: Festivals of Play Across the Western World

Games Beyond the Screen: Festivals of Play Across the Western World

William Zachary Wood (Stanford University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0261-6.ch018
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This chapter introduces a phenomenon that has gone largely unaddressed in research since its emergence in western countries in the last decade: festivals of games and play. The bulk of the chapter is drawn from interviews with people involved in these festivals, including founders, current organizers and game designers, using this data to build on the work of researchers on play and playfulness. Taking an autoethnographic stance, the author speaks from personal experience as a participant and game designer in order to convey these festivals' unique qualities and potential as sites for public play.
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From September 2014 to May 2015, I spoke with twenty-two people involved professionally with games and play. Interview subjects were primarily selected based on their involvement either in long-running festivals such as Come Out & Play that have exerted considerable influence on other festivals, or in particularly unique festivals such as Plaython that reflect the diversity and potential of these events. With the exception of three interviews conducted in person in Germany, Denmark and Finland, the interviews were all conducted through Skype. They generally lasted one to one-and-a-half hours, during the course of which I sought to answer the following questions: What accounts for the sudden appearance and rapid spread of these festivals across the western world in the past ten years? Leading up to and through these festivals, how if at all have attitudes towards games and play changed, both among the general public and among those professionally involved with games and play?

In more concrete terms, I asked about the events and decisions leading up to the founding of each festival and how each festival has evolved since its inception. This also involved discussions of funding and institutional support, which were often closely tied to changes to the location and size of festivals. In cases where I had not personally attended a festival, I sought to understand its setting and the types of games shown there. Even in cases where I had attended, I asked for details about other years the festival had been held in order to better understand its development.

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