Using games in public places

Marcus Toftedahl  is a games researcher, developer and lecturer at the University of Skövde, Sweden. His main competences lies within game design and narrative design, both from a development and research perspective. His main research interests are within serious games, gamification and the processes found behind game development - all from an inclusive game development perspective. Marcus has worked at the University of Skövde since 2009 and has since he started co-developed the world's first full concentration game writing education at University level as well as teaching game design and game production in general. Marcus have led multiple game development projects as a part of the University's digital game research, focusing mostly on using games in public spaces. Since summer of 2016 Marcus is focusing on his PhD project in Socio-technical systems researching the mechanisms behind being a local game developer in a global industry.Recently , a special lecture - 'Using Digital Games in Museums and on Cultural Heritage Sites' was given  by Marcus  at  the Indian Museum, Kolkata.

In the United States video game are starting to become more acceptable as a form of art, while in Asia they are often revered. What is the cultural perception of games in Sweden?

Regarding the cultural acceptance of games in Sweden, I would say it is very accepted - and even sought after. Sweden have had a long tradition of making successful games in the entertainment sector, with games such as Minecraft, Battlefield and Candy Crush Saga being from Sweden and this reflects on other parts of the gaming industry as well. At my university, University of Skovde, we have a constant stream of project proposals from external partners, such as museums, cultural heritage site which I talked about in my session at the Indian Museum, but also from other societal functions such as rescue services and the military.

In the last decades digital games have been used in other areas of knowledge instead of entertainment. Why have these applications been so well received?

I believe that since games are more or less everywhere nowadays, with people playing digital games on their mobile devices such as smartphones, digital games have been more accepted. This knowledge of games, that digital games exists, spills over on other uses as well. In Skovde, we started our university level game development programs in 2002 and at the same time we started doing research projects on digital games and this is also important for the wider use of games.

As a researcher I don't have any commercial interests in the games I make, which also adds to that we can make games that might not be commercially "right" but instead expands the use of games and further the gaming medium.

How can digital games transform museum experience?

With participation and interaction. We like to play, we like to learn and if these two things are combined in the right way it can enhance the experience of learning new, or old, things at the museum. It is important to state that games should not be intrusive at a museum, it should still be a museum - not a gaming den! It needs to be well integrated in the museum experience.

To what extent do you think that integrating games into the classroom promotes new types of learning that can be achieved no other way?

A little bit the same as games at the museum. Games should and could be a compliment to other forms of teaching. It should not replace books or teachers, but be used to enhance the learning for example by collaborating over a given scenario, building a historic site in Minecraft and then discuss it thereafter. But there are challenges of course, there are not many games well suited for school use yet and it demands work from the educators to adopt games into the curriculum. But, I believe we will see more of it in the future.

What’s your expectation over the near future? In five years, what will the industry be like?

Bigger, better and hopefully more inclusive. Today there are for instance about 90% men working with game development. This needs to change - because there are 50% female players. The industry needs to broaden its views, to actively work for more inclusive. Not only in gender, but also cultural background and more people from all walks of life. This is the greatest challenge the games industry faces today from my point of view.

What advice would you give to any artists or developers who are thinking about  going the independent route with their game concepts?

Be in contact with other developers and with your players! Talk about your games, show them to others and find your own voice. You can imitate at first, to train your skill level as a craftsman but later on you need to find your own voice to stand out. It is a competitive market, so you really need to find your target audience and your own niche.

Photo courtesy - Indian Museum, Kolkata

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