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Q&A: Kate Conlon on "Games and Strategies"

Games and Strategies Course Publication

Can you tell us a little about your course “Games and Strategies”?

Games and Strategies - Detail of work by Bao Lu
Detail of work by Bao Lu.

In Games and Strategies, students consider the artist’s studio as a field of play. 

As a class, we look at examples of games and game structures that appear throughout art history and adopt studio methodologies based on chance, improvisation, simulation, and role play. In short, the course explores the idea that games can be art and that art can be produced in game-like ways. 

During the first third of the course, students assign themselves weekly studio prompts based on readings and lectures. The prompts and resulting artworks are documented in a collaborative publication that students can refer to as a ‘manual for making’ throughout the semester. As the course progresses, students design longer-term projects which take the form of board games, card games, video games, toys, etc. These artist multiples are activated through play and engage the audience as a participant as well as a spectator. 

What has been your favorite part about teaching this course?

Games and Strategies - Detail of work by Tristan Lajarrige
Detail of work by Tristan Lajarrige.

Students set their own parameters in this course, so every class period has an element of surprise. Studio work days are my favorite because I need to quickly design technical demonstrations based on what students want to make. This often involves a lot of collaborative problem solving in real time. The open structure of the class also allows us to take advantage of many of the school’s resources. In a given class period, I might have one student printing playing cards on the risograph, another 3D printing game pieces, another building boxes in the woodshop. It’s always different and always a new challenge. 

Have you used game-play in your personal practice, and if so, how?

Games and Strategies - Detail of work by Avery Davis
Detail of work by Avery Davis

This course grew out of research I conducted with Limited Time Engagement, an independent publishing imprint that I co-direct with fellow SMFA faculty member, Boyang Hou. In the past years, we have released several publications that take the form of playable games or use games structures to tell stories or ask questions. I am interested in the open-ended-ness of games and the kind of communication that they facilitate. 

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