Blog Post

Participatory Play: Digital Games from Spacewar! to Virtual Peace - Discussion Starts 11/19!

Please mark your calendars for our next HASTAC Scholars Discussion Forum which will launch this Wednesday, November 19 here at!


Participatory Play:

Digital Games From Spacewar! to Virtual Peace

Forum starts Wednesday, November 19 at


In recent years, countless pundits have criticized video games for promoting violent tendencies, antisocial behavior, and serious addiction among children and teens. While digital games and educational simulations have been linked repeatedly to active learning benefits, fostering skills that range from individual real-time problem-solving to large-group collaboration, critics continue to associate this interactive medium with primarily harmful consequences. In September 2008, the Pew Internet and American Life Project released the first comprehensive survey about teens and video games, which suggests that 97% of youth between the ages of 12 and 17 play digital games. If an overwhelming majority of teens and an increasing number of adults are participating in everything from traditional games to online synthetic worlds then the catastrophic representations of game play seem more absurd than ever. And figuring out the parameters and potential implications of this medium becomes urgently pressing.

Our upcoming forum, "Participatory Play: Digital Games From Spacewar! to Virtual Peace" explores game innovations that surpass violent first-person shooters and military training simulations. Starting with the early history of games, we focus on recent productions that are pushing the boundaries of digital interactive gameplay. For example, the current MacArthur Foundation sponsored "Virtual Peace: Turning Swords to Ploughshares" project transforms video game technology previously used for army training into a humanitarian assistance training tool. Beginning with notable exemplars of imaginative game designs, such as "Virtual Peace," we will explore the theoretical and pedagogical issues surrounding video games. Among other topics, we'll consider the relationship between game play and game theory, changing trends in gaming culture, scholarly collaborations on
game design, pedagogical uses of video games, and the social, political and cultural implications of online worlds.

This HASTAC Scholars Discussion Forum will be co-hosted by Duke graduate students Lindsey Andrews and Patrick Jagoda who work on the Virtual Peace project.

Lindsey Andrews is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English at Duke University. She received her B.A. from the University of Southern California, where she was one of the co-founders of Palaver, USC's creative publication. Her current work involves investigating the co-evolution of media technologies and evolutionary theory, through a literary lens, in the long 20th century. She is also a researcher on and blogger for the Virtual Peace project.

Patrick Jagoda is an English PhD candidate at Duke University who specializes in post-1945 literature, new media, and critical theory. His dissertation, "Network Aesthetics: American Hauntings in an Age of Terror," explores American literature, film, and new media that stages affective encounters with network architectures. By turning to structures such as threatening terrorist networks, volatile economic markets, and vulnerable computer systems, the project charts the structural terror that accompanies global interconnectivity. In addition to his work in English, Patrick has an interdisciplinary graduate certificate in Information Science and Information Studies. Related to his new media work, he is interested in video game studies, the culture of online synthetic worlds, media theory, speculative literature, electronic fiction, and cyberpunk texts.

Virtual Peace is a digital humanitarian assistance game that
creates a learning environment for young people studying public policy and international relations. The game has been developed by repurposing an existing military simulation into a tool for humanitarian training. Learning within the game focuses on leadership skills, cultural awareness, problem solving, and adaptive thinking--all of which are necessary to coordinate international humanitarian assistance for natural disaster relief. The Virtual Peace Project was one of the winners of the 2007 HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competition.


No comments