‘Playable Theatre’: on Gaming and Aesthetic Control

Transmedia Arts Seminar

Theorizing the enhancements and constraints that gaming brings to theatre.
Picture of ‘Playable Theatre’: on Gaming and Aesthetic Control


Discussions of the remediation of video games in theatre often adopt a language of enhanced agency: greater choice, participation, openness, recasting the spectator as a player. But the procedural orientation of gaming also imposes significant constraints, both in terms of explicit rule sets and occluded controls. This talk will combine interviews with artists and case studies to examine the conflicting ideological and dramaturgical functions of digital games within theatre, and to propose that the “minimal gameplay” movement is a more accurate model for the marriage of gaming and theatre than “open-world games” or “environmental storytelling.”

Lawrence Switzky is an Associate Professor of English and Drama at the University of Toronto. Since July he has been the editor of Modern Drama, the most prominent journal in English to focus on dramatic literature. His most recent publication is Shakespeare’s Things (Routledge, 2019), a collection of essays on the non-human actors in Shakespeare’s plays. He has taught and written about video games among other media and is a participant in an SSHRC-funded research project on the intersection of theatre and gaming, “Scaling Liveness."

metaLAB is partnering with the Mahindra Humanities Center to sponsor the Transmedia Arts Seminar, chaired by Magda Romanska and Hana Worthen.