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WHO WE ARE

Indie Interfaces is an academic collaboration with game developers, platforms, and support organizations.  We investigate what it means to be “sustainable”, both economically and culturally, in the game industry

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FELAN PARKER

Dr. Felan Parker is Assistant Professor in the Book & Media Studies program at St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto. He is an interdisciplinary scholar of media and culture, specializing in digital media, games, and film. His current research, supported by a Social Science and Humanities Council of Canada Insight Development Grant, explores the production, distribution, and reception of independent or “indie” digital games. Dr. Parker is also President of the Canadian Game Studies Association and a co-founder of Toronto Outdoor Picture Show. Previously, he completed his Ph.D. in Communication and Culture at York University and was a Social Science and Humanities Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at Concordia University’s Technoculture, Art and Games Research Centre.

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Jessie Marchessault

Jessie Marchessault is an MA Media Studies student in the Communications department at Concordia University and also a member of Technoculture, Art and Games (TAG) research lab. She is currently the lead research assistant for the Discoverability Engine Project, which examines indie developer support and discoverability initiatives at GamePlay Space in Montreal. Further, she has been collaborating with researchers and London-based participatory theatre collective, ZU-UK, to develop Urban Game experiences that explore the intersections between theatre and games. Her research interests include independent game development practices, curation and virtual reality, pervasive games and locative media, representation in games, and digital urbanism.

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Pierson browne

Pierson Browne is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Sociology and Legal Studies. He currently serves as a research assistant for both the Indie Interfaces Project and Netlab. Pierson’s research interests include game studies, independent game development, social network analysis, and game theory. His dissertation research focuses on the diffusion of strategic knowledge through networks of play.

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BART SIMON

Dr. Bart Simon is the current director of Milieux and an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. His areas of expertise include game studies, science and technology studies, and cultural sociology. His game studies and design research crosses a variety of genres and platforms looking at the relation of game cultures, socio-materiality, and everyday life. Some of his work is represented in journals such as Games and Culture, Game Studies, and Loading. His current research on the materialities of play, indie game scenes, and player-makers is funded by the Social Science and Humanities Council of Canada.

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Matthew E. Perks

Matthew E. Perks is a PhD student at the University of Waterloo in the department of Sociology & Legal Studies. In addition to Indie Interfaces, he is a research assistant with SSHRC-funded ReFiguring Innovation in Games (ReFiG). His research focuses on the socio-economics of the video game industry and how these inform and alter the design decisions and identities of video game developers. His interests surround community management, queerness, and labour within video game culture and industry. In his doctoral work, he focuses on the increasingly embedded nature of community management and how we might begin to consider them as regulators of these gaming culture more widely.

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Gabrielle Lavenir

Gabrielle Lavenir is a PhD candidate at Concordia University in the department of Sociology and Anthropology. Her research focuses on older videogame players and more generally on older adults’ relationship to digital technology. She examines what happens at the intersection of ageing, technology, and play and leisure, particularly in terms of subjectification and normativity. She is a member of TAG (Technoculture, Arts and Games) and ACT (Ageing + Communication + Technology), as well as a member of the board of the OMNSH (Observatoire des Mondes Numériques en Sciences Humaines).

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JENNIFER R. WHITSON

Dr. Whitson studies the secret life of software at the nexus of digital games and Surveillance Studies. Her research centres on the shifting production model of the global game industry, tracing how social and technological practices shape developers' creative work and the larger cultural role of games and play. She is an Assistant Professor at the University of Waterloo in the Department of Sociology & Legal Studies, teaches at the Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business, is a member of the University of Waterloo’s Games Institute and supports FirstPersonScholar. She's also an associate editor of Surveillance and Society. You can find her work in The Gameful World, and in the journals First Monday, Economy & Society, Games & Culture, New Media and Society, and FibreCulture. 

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Ceyda Yolgormez

Ceyda Yolgormez is a PhD student in Social and Cultural Analysis at Concordia University. Her research looks at the socialization of AI agents through situated interactions in game contexts. She studies the game-playing AIs and focuses on the material-discursive conditions through which specific articulations of their agencies emerge. Alongside this, she thinks about the implications of doing a sociology of AI, both for the discipline of sociology, and for the futures that are cultivated by machinic intelligences. She is interested in new forms of social relations that come into being through imaginaries and practices that sustain interactions with AI systems. She is coordinator of Machine Agencies Research Group, and is member of Speculative Life Research Cluster, and Technolculture, Arts and Games at Milieux Institute.

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WHAT WE DO

 

    The Indie Interfaces project examines the wide range of "cultural intermediaries" that occupy the spaces between indie game production, distribution, and reception. This includes local indie community organizations and professional associations, incubators and accelerators, publishers and platform holders, marketers and promoters, journalists, critics, academics, and curators, as well as indie festivals, showcases, exhibitions, and awards, among others. These cultural actors’ primary function is not to make or consume games; rather, they are (inter)mediators or “interfaces” between different parts of the game industry and gaming culture. In different ways and to varying degrees, these individuals and groups act as cultural and/or economic gatekeepers, defining what counts as indie (and what doesn’t), granting legitimacy and prestige, and in doing so, they exert a structuring influence on the field.

Our research seeks to answer: 

  • What are cultural intermediaries and how do they contribute to economic sustainability and survival for indie game developers?

  • What is the audience for indie games, and what role do cultural intermediaries play in constructing that audience?

  • How can organizations like the Indie MEGABOOTH contribute to increasing diversity and inclusivity in the game industry?

 

PUBLICATIONS

Megabooth: The cultural intermediation of indie games

This article considers the history, practices and impact of the Indie Megabooth and its founders in terms of their role as a ‘cultural intermediary’ in promoting and supporting independent or ‘indie’ game development. 

INDIE, eh?

A Special Issue of Loading brought to you by guest editor, Concordia University Professor of Sociology, Bart Simon.

Autonomy and integration and the work of cultural intermediation in indie games

This article addresses the role of cultural intermediaries in the production, distribution, and reception of independent or “indie” digital games. Festival and showcase curators, local community organizers, co-working space managers, promoters, critics, funders, granting agencies, and other support actors are central to sustaining indie game cultures, but are often overlooked. Our research makes visible the diverse taskscapes of cultural intermediaries, the wide variety of brokering, translating, value-ascribing, connection-making, and care work involved, and the attendant tensions and challenges.

Forthcoming.

Productive Play in the Ludic Century

This article examines the intersections of games and gambling, and how new emphases on “productive play” reshape consumption and regulation in what Eric Zimmerman defines as the Ludic Century. The spread of games is the result of increasingly sophisticated persuasive design with underlying information architectures that allow profit to be extracted from both play and players in myriad new ways.

Currently under review.

INDIE GAME STUDIES YEAR ELEVEN

As independent or “indie” games become more visible and prominent in the digital game industry and in gaming culture, the idea of independence becomes increasingly difficult to pin down. This short paper provides a starting point for scholars interested in studying indie games. 

What can we learn from studio studies ethnographies?

What can we learn from watching game developers at work? This article demonstrates what an ethnography of a development team can look like, showing the advantages of this methodology for developers and academics alike.

The Missing Producer

In the move towards small-scale games making, indies jettisoned producers because producers represented industry modes of work, values and creative constraints. But indies are now struggling to manage production processes without producers. We use developer narratives to highlight how this ‘missing producer’ work is redistributed in the form of cultural entrepreneurship, cultural intermediation and relational labour.

How Does GAMES CRITIQUE Impact Game Design Decisions?

Games critique is argued to influence the form games take, identities of players, and the identities of game developers. This paper emphasizes the role and power of journalistic critique in shaping gaming cultures, and the consumption and production of media more generally.

Currently under review.

Voodoo Software and Boundary Objects in Game Development: How Developers Collaborate and Conflict with Game Engines and Art Tools

This article describes how game developers successfully ‘pull off’ game development, collaborating in the absence of consensus and working with recalcitrant and wilful technologies, shedding light on the games we play and those that make them, but also how we can be forced to work together by the platforms we choose to use. 

The New Spirit of Capitalism in the Game Industry

In the move towards small-scale games making, indies jettisoned producers because producers represented industry modes of work, values and creative constraints. But indies are now struggling to manage production processes without producers. We use developer narratives to highlight how this ‘missing producer’ work is redistributed in the form of cultural entrepreneurship, cultural intermediation and relational labour.

Hosting a Symposium as Qualitative research method

Due to the disparate and often secretive nature of the games industry, finding new ways of conducting qualitative research alongside game developers is a concern for any game studies scholar. In this article, we propose combining elements from ‘Rapid Ethnographic Assessment’ and ‘Swarm Ethnography’ to create a hybrid, multi-researcher approach for the study of ephemeral events. What follows are strategies for manufacturing a working para-site wherein data may be gathered.

Currently under review.

highlighted talks

2018 Parker, Felan and Browne, Pierson. “We Built a Site: Symposium as Method for Studying Cultural Intermediaries,” Society at the Society for Cinema & Media Studies Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

2018 Whitson, Jennifer R., “Salvation or Snake Oil? A closer look at big data practices in the game industry”. Presented May 15 at the University of Tampere. Tampere, Finland.

2018 Parker, Felan. “Cultural Re-Mediaries: Live-Streaming and Indie Game Development,” Presented June 6 at the Canadian Communications Association Annual Conference. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

2018 Whitson, Jennifer R., “How the Sausage is Made: Love, labour and the game industry”. Presented March 2 at the Department of Women’s Studies and Feminist Research Speakers Series. Western University. London, Ontario, Canada.

2018 Perks, Matthew and Whitson, Jennifer R., “Refuse, Remediate, ReFIGure: Making Games Sustainable for Women: Indie Interfaces,” Presented July 26 at the Digital Games Research Association Conference. Turin, Italy.

2017 Whitson, Jennifer R., “Making the Invisible Visible: What we can learn from ‘hanging out’ and studio studies with incubators and indies”. Presented October 2 at Game Work.

2017 Parker, Felan, Whitson, Jennifer R. and Simon, Bart. “Cultural Mediators in the Digital Game Industry.” Presented September 4 at the Cultural Mediators in the Digital Age Symposium, King’s College, London, UK.

2017 Parker, Felan, Whitson, Jennifer R., and Simon, Bart. “Intermediating Indie Games: The Indie Megabooth from collective to curator”. Presented March 24 at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies Annual Conference. Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Other work

indie interfaces announcement

Dr. Felan Parker introduces the Indie Interfaces project and outlines some of the research goals and objectives of the team.

ACADEMIC JOURNAL ARTICLE: MEGABOOTH: THE CULTURAL INTERMEDIATION OF INDIE GAMES

Dr. Felan Parker, Dr. Jennifer Whitson, and Dr. Bart Simon are academic researchers working on a long-term study of the Indie MEGABOOTH and the wider indie game development community.

INDIE INTERFACES SYMPOSIUM 2017

In September 2017, the ReFIG & SSHRC-funded Indie Interfaces project held a three-day long event with industry stakeholders, game developers, and academics for discussions on the “cultural intermediaries” of indie game production. Our core concern was the precarity of games work, and the role that cultural intermediaries play in the games ecosystem.

THE COST/BENEFIT RATIO OF FIELDWORK AT GAME INDUSTRY CONFERENCES

In this blog post about game developer conventions I want to make two points: The first is about the parallels between precarious indie dev and academic work, and the second is about the exorbitant cost but vital need for ethnographic research in indie communities.

New survey looks at the economics of indie game development

A new survey conducted in association with the team behind Indie Megabooth, an annual indie game showcase held at PAX events, EGX and GDC (part of UBM Tech, like Gamasutra), has shed some light on the financial side of indie development - at least for its exhibitors.

INDIE ECONOMICS – PART 2

This is the second in a series of blog posts exploring the initial findings of an ongoing study of the IndieMEGABOOTH conducted by the Indie Interfaces team.

MEASURING INDIE MEGABOOTH’S SUCCESS & IMPACT – PART 1

After each showcase, we send out a post-mortem survey to the teams that were featured. We use the responses to identify our weaknesses, and to help us develop methods to improve upon them. When a team of academics offered to run a study on Indie MEGABOOTH, our events, and our alumni, we jumped at the chance to gain a new perspective on our work to learn if -and how- it is effecting change within the industry at large. 

In this first part of a two-part introduction, we learn which countries teams traveled from for PAX Prime 2015, their goals for the show, and other demographics.

Sponsors

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Collaborators

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