According to Webster's, a game is “an activity engaged in for amusement.” If only it were that simple. Games as cultural pursuit distinguish us hominids from most other parts of the animal kingdom. Games are also symbolic structures that transform loathsome behavior into socially acceptable skill. Like any good diversion, Games People Play does several things at once: beginning with the broad view, the series fields feature films, such as Games and Westworld, that revolve around amusements slightly more insidious than a round of golf or a turn of Parcheesi. These are games that get people killed, games where the rules lose their hold on behavior. For a more focused view, we track that most preoccupying of present-day recreations, the video game, linking its use of virtuality, drive for engagement, and conceptual hooks to the contemporary art world. Illustrated lectures, game-inflected video art, and an adrenalin-drenched doc about the gamers themselves hone in on the cultural impact of this much disparaged field of play. Let the games begin.
Games People Play is presented in conjunction with UC Berkeley Digital Media Professor Greg Niemeyer's course Zoning and Grinding: The Rhetoric of Games.