Northwestern to host its second video game conference, Progression Mechanics 2


Source: Lester Greenman

The video game conference this weekend is the second hosted by Northwestern—the first was in 2017.

Ashley Capoot, Reporter

Local gamers may put their controller down and travel behind the screens this weekend at Northwestern’s video game conference.

On Saturday, gamers and coders alike will fill The Garage to attend Progression Mechanics 2. The event, starting at 10 a.m., is the second video game conference hosted by Northwestern and will feature two keynote speeches and four panels of experts. The conference aims to explore the changing video game industry and the ways games are played and designed.

Lester Greenman, a senior specialist at Northwestern Information Technology, helped organize both conferences, and will moderate one of the panels. Greenman also said this year’s conference will include new panels on video game writing and sound design. He hopes Progression Mechanics 2 will inspire students and reinforce their interest in the industry.

“There’s a lot of interest in the video game industry. People don’t usually associate it with academia, but there’s no reason why it can’t be,” Greenman said. “There was a time when movies weren’t considered a proper academic subject, so I think folks who spend a lot of time in the video game industry take it seriously, in terms of criticism and business and artistry, like any art might be considered.”

Medill freshman Yaakov Gottlieb said he plays sports video games like FIFA, as well as role-playing shooter games like Call of Duty. He said the games allow him to spend time with his brother, procrastinate on his homework and just relax.

Even though he plays video games for fun, Gottlieb said he thinks it is important that the industry is discussed in professional settings.

“It’s a whole business, and lots of other industries are discussed like this,” Gottlieb said. “In an academic setting, in terms of the business side and how to market a video game, I think it’s definitely a valid setting for discourse.”

Video games are also being discussed in college classrooms. Patrick LeMieux, a professor at the University of California, Davis, teaches two genres of classes that pertain to video games. He co-teaches a lecture style class where students learn about the ways people play video games and are challenged to employ the different methods themselves. He also leads smaller studio classes to introduce digital game development and analyze the success of existing games.

LeMieux is presenting one of the keynote speeches at Progression Mechanics 2 with his colleague, Stephanie Boluk. The pair will discuss their book, “Metagaming: Playing, Competing, Spectating, Trading, Making, and Breaking Videogames,” and how games can differ depending on how they are played.

Metagaming is a broad category that describes the different ways that people play video games. LeMieux said metagaming examines everything from why people decide to buy games in the first place, to how they can be used in art and political activism. He hopes students come away from the conference with a better understanding of metagaming and its importance within the video game industry

“In a world where drone warfare and ultra-fast algorithmic trading are impacting our daily lives in a way that’s sometimes hard to feel, and sometimes hard to experience ” LeMieux said. “Metagaming is about thinking through the ways in which you can flip that, the ways in which the individual things that you do matter, and that the individual ways we play together can change digital technologies.”

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Twitter: @ashleycapoot