Seminars + Events

Critical Play Seminar - Parable of the Polygons

  • Posted on: 25 February 2016
  • By: dcollins

Presented by: Gary Larsen, MA (Theory, Culture, and Politics, Trent University), MA student (Political Science, York University)
February 25th, 7pm

Billed not as a game, but as a “playable post,” Parable of the Polygons challenges players to fuss about with yellow triangles and blue squares. Depending on their surroundings, the polygons represent their respective happiness, disquiet or “meh” indifference to the world through blinks, bops, wobbling or static immobility. Produced by Vi Hart & Nicki Case, Parable of the Polygons is a delightfully preachy and interactive post that promotes the merits and celebration of recognizing difference in contemporary society. As it states from the onset, “This is the story of how harmless choices can make a harmful world.” The polygons are programmed to be “slightly shapist.” The player is told upfront that “I want to move if less than 1/3 of my neighbours are like me.” Through a series of minimally differentiated game boards, players learn the value of embracing difference, as well as the complexity attendant to contesting structural and cultural forms of discrimination.

Parable of the Polygons is regularly used as a pedagogical device facilitating students’ recognition of how discrimination materializes. But, what is most fascinating about this playable post is that as a mathematical model of institutionalized bias, it dynamically oscillates between figurations of human freedom. On the one hand, there is a vicious restricting, reducing, flattening or compressing of freedom and human potential to simplistic choices regarding real estate (e.g. where a polygon should move in order to conform to the standards of their shapist biases). On the other hand, by utilizing the very mathematical modelling with which the player is engaged, this post gestures towards its own structuring principles as malleable and subject to revision. Indeed, the responsibility for the mutability of these parameters is placed in the hands of the player at various points during play. And at the close, the player is invited to manipulate all parameters of the game board and polygon biases via an accessible programming toolkit. Such features gesture towards a contestation of the stability of the gamers’ own ontological conditions.

By foregrounding the mathematical modelling as a force of deterministic predilection that implicit biases contain, Parable of the Polygons affords the player an opportunity to engage in radical democratic utopian thought. It invites the player to imagine a world more dynamic and rich in its unrelenting negotiation of the political conditions of difference than most games can and is well worth a look (

The Legend of Zelda - 30th Anniversary Critical Play Seminar

  • Posted on: 21 January 2016
  • By: dcollins

January 21st 2016, 7pm


Join the Centre for Pixel Culture as we journey through 30 years of Hyrule! We'll have a brief introductory talk followed by an open play session spanning the many console iterations of everyone's favourite Hyrulian. It's dangerous to go alone, so bring a friend along!

pixelated panic: notes on male nudity in Robert Yang's Rinse and Repeat - A Critical Play Seminar

  • Posted on: 3 December 2015
  • By: dcollins

Presented by: Dwayne Collins, MISt., Co-Director of the Centre for Pixel Culture
December 3rd, 2015, 7pm
Sadleir House, 751 George Street North, Peterborough, ON

Robert Yang's Rinse and Repeat is a shower simulator where you assist a fellow bather in ywashing his body. It is an overt exercise in male-on-male eroticism that skirts the border between being sexual but not pornographic. In its use of the male body as an object of desire, Rinse and Repeat varies from the typical realm of the male nude in video games: that of the funny/deranged nude, and the nude form waiting to be embodied as an extension of the player (the desire to have that body as your own). Yang's game has been banned from livestreaming sites, despite body washing being the only overt sexual activity to occur and having all genitals pixelated. Yang's choice of a person of colour as his protagonist with a non-athletic body gives us a commentary on the cis-gendered, white masculinity of queer male culture, however, Rinse and Repeat also shows us how male nude bodies become dangerous when they begin to occupy the realms of the passive or desirable and derivate from traditional roles assigned to the hetero-masculine body and become objectified beings.

Game List: Rinse and Repeat ( -- Probably NSFW depending on where you work.

Enter the Dark: Sci-Fi, Conspiracies, and Feminism in Rare's Perfect Dark Series - A Critical Play Seminar

  • Posted on: 12 November 2015
  • By: dcollins

Presented by: Alex Karas
Trent University (Psychology, BSc.)
November 12th 2015, 7pm

Sadleir House 751 George Street North


The followup to their worldwide smash hit GoldenEye 007, the N64 title Perfect Dark was Rare's attempt at a shooter with an original storyline, set in its own fictional universe. Although met with respectable sales and universal critical acclaim upon its release (some indeed dubbed it "perfect") the series then lapsed into obscurity until its revival in 2010 by Microsoft. This presentation will aim to show that Perfect Dark, as well as being an excellent video game in its own right, is much more than that: it is a carefully crafted love letter to science fiction cinema, a repository of 20th-century conspiracy lore and a (pun intended) rare example of a feminist sci-fi game in an era when female protagonists were almost unheard of.

Featured Games: Perfect Dark (Nintendo 64), GoldenEye 007 (Nintendo 64), Perfect Dark Zero (if available; Xbox 360).

Blocking: The Enjoyment of Tetris

  • Posted on: 22 October 2015
  • By: dcollins

"Blocking: The Enjoyment of Tetris"
James Kerr

October 22nd, 2015, 7pm

While strange shapes fall from the sky, here we recite the tale of the interesting Cold-War vendetta between scientists called "Tetris", before a line completes and it all disappears. Think you're good at packing your car? A stressful tournament with a Russian soundtrack follows.

Featured Games: Tetris (Atari), Tetris (NES), Tetris (Gameboy), Tetris & Dr. Mario (SNES)

Save/Reload: Videogames and the Ethics of the Eternal Return

  • Posted on: 23 February 2015
  • By: dcollins
Save/Reload: Videogames and the Ethics of the Eternal Return
Liam Mitchell, Assistant Professor, Trent University
Date: 5 March 2015, 7:00pm
Sadleir House, 751 George St. N., Peterborough, ON

Videogames tend to be power fantasies: they give the player the chance to learn and master an algorithm, exerting more and more perfect control. As power fantasies, videogames symptomatize a societal inclination towards control, calculability, and digitality, and a fear of their constitutive opposites. Many videogames, then, index a problematically limited ethical and political disposition towards others. Acclaimed indie game Bastion initially seems to fit this mould: for the majority of the game, the player learns its systems and masters its controls, travelling Caelondia and collecting items that are supposed to set the post-apocalyptic world aright. At the end, too, the player seems to have the power of choice: they may “Restore” or “Evacuate,” returning to a pre-apocalyptic moment or accepting the end of the world and moving on. Through a gentle but ineluctable feature of the game’s design, however, Bastion imposes Evacuation on the player. It thereby advances an argument about the nature of life in control-obsessed society and a claim about the ethical and political disposition that might be equal to this technological epoch, and it does so through the ludic medium of the game: Bastion invites the player to experience a choice on Nietzsche’s eternal return. While the decision to will that any moment happen again and again would seem at first to be the decision to Restore, the game’s very structure argues that the save/reload mechanic at the heart of videogames exemplifies the failure to meet the challenge of the eternal return. Repeating the same means avoiding the movement of time. Evacuation, on the other hand, embraces an uncertain and finite future.

Featured Game:

Mario Kart - Character Branding Continued

  • Posted on: 29 January 2015
  • By: dcollins

Mario Kart - Character Branding Continued

Date: February 5th, 2015

Last month we played Super Smash Brothers in an attempt to look at the intersection of game & character branding. The trend continues this month as we bring you a night of Mario Kart! What is the appeal of putting your favourite Nintendo branded characters behind the wheel? Is it just another racing game, or something more? Do we bring Mario & Bowser's baggage along for the ride? Let's throw some red shells at the idea and see what we discover as we race around the track.

Featured Games:
Super Mario Kart (SNES), Mario Kart 64 (N64), Mario Kart Wii (Wii)

"Super Smash Bros.: Or, What Are We Fighting For?"

  • Posted on: 8 January 2015
  • By: dcollins

"Super Smash Bros.: Or, What Are We Fighting For?"

Date: 15 January 2015:

James "Mario, I Guess" Kerr & Pat "Falco Forever" Reddick

ABSTRACT: Dateline, 1999 - Nintendo is releasing games for the Nintendo 64 without care or concern, without marketing or warning, trying to compete as fast as they can with Sony's releases for the Playstation. From this haste and potentially accidental brilliance is born "Super Smash Brothers" - a fighting game (or is it?) of Nintendo brand characters, where you can spend hours learning the intricacies of hit boxes and your 10-year-old sister beats you up with Pikachu just by pressing B repeatedly. Is it bland? Is it brilliant? Find out for yourself. Tournament follows talk.

Game List: Featured Games: Super Smash Bros. (N64), Super Smash Bros. Melee (Gamecube), Super Smash Bros Brawl (Wii), Super Smash Bros. 3DS (3DS)

Pixel In a Half-Shell: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and early Cross-Platform Media in Video Games

  • Posted on: 4 December 2014
  • By: dcollins

11 December 2014:

Pixel In a Half-Shell: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and early Cross-Platform Media in Video Games

James Kerr, Co-Director, Sadleir House Centre for Pixel Culture & Arcade Champ

ABSTRACT: The quality of the video game didn't matter - if it was based on a toy, comic book or cartoon show then it would sell. However, in some cases, despite the odds, the game was great. Explore the relationship video games have with other media, the back-and-forth of video games and cartoon programmes, and the relationship video games have with greater media both yesterday and today. As a centre to the argument this analysis will mostly concern the bizarre success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle franchise in video game history, with a full range of Ninja Turtles games available for play. Cowabunga!

Featured Games: TMNT (Arcade), TMNT (NES), TMNT: The Arcade Game (NES), TMNT: Turtles in Time (SNES), TMNT: Tournament Fighters (SNES), TMNT: Fall of the Foot Clan (Gameboy), and mention of some non-turtles titles such as Batman Returns (Sega Genesis), E. T. / , The Extra-Terrestrial (Atari), and The Lego Series (Multiple Platforms)

Beercade! Happy Birthday Nintendo + Info Session

  • Posted on: 27 September 2014
  • By: dcollins

Join us 2 October 2014, 8pm, at Sadleir House for our first event of the 2014-15 academic year as we celebrate the 125th birthday of Nintendo!

We'll have our Nintendo systems out and ready to play all night long. We'll also be able to answer any questions you may have about the Centre for Pixel Culture, our Critical Play Seminars, our Research Collections & more!

Further info: