About Joue le Jeu / Play Along

Joue le Jeu / Play Along presents games as the broad, rich cultural phenomenon they now are. Forget the outdated idea that contemporary games are only blockbuster products with violent content and limited visual or narrative variety. This is a golden age of creative game design! With powerful and accessible new tools and technologies, and the immense potential of networked distribution, a thriving community of game designers is producing innovative new games that speak to both longstanding and emerging themes and styles. The Gaîté’s introduction to this lively, varied world is brought to us by curators Lynn Hughes, Heather Kelley and Cindy Poremba. All three women design games themselves and have been recognized for their creative work– testimony itself to the way games are changing.

Games make broad use of new interactive technologies because the interaction is, fundamentally, PLAY. This new burst of digital games might use networked devices, touchscreens, detection systems like cameras and RFID, sensors of all shapes and sizes, or even dedicated interfaces like the Nintendo Wii, Playstation Move or Xbox Kinect. Such games often involve dramatic, collaborative, social and very physical activity. They play with bodies, space, and architecture, and knit the digital and the physical worlds together in dynamic, accessible ways. Joue le jeu / Play Along explores these relationships through sub-themes like games and physical space and games and architecture.

The architecture of the Gaîté Lyrique, with its striking juxtaposition of original 19th-century elements and modern high-tech spaces, is tailor-made for Joue le jeu / Play Along. Games that include references to traditional folk and physical games are a popular element in emerging game culture, boldly reinterpreted so that they surprise and delight in new ways. This re-imagining goes hand and hand with the way many games now focus on reintegrating the body, the material and the social.

The mission and philosophy of the Gaîté are, likewise, closely allied to the spirit of Joue le jeu / Play Along. The Gaîté defines digital culture generously because it now touches almost every aspect of our lives and crosses many traditional media boundaries. Even the divide between the visual arts and the performing arts is blurring as interactive technologies turn images and objects into situations that call for participation and performance. Perhaps even more radically, the divisions between high art and popular culture are being challenged. The digital, at its most powerful, has the potential to stitch back together things that have drifted apart.

Joue le jeu / Play Along sees the world through these same lenses. The field of contemporary play is creatively inclusive and culturally central. The game form is now being recognized as a broad way of structuring interactive experiences so that they are meaningful. Games can, therefore, have many shapes depending on the kind of experience and meaning the artists want to convey. Visitors to this exhibition will be able to play both highly polished, full-featured games, and five-minute, experimental games that were specifically designed to be played in very social situations. There will be games with traditional (sometimes hacked or repurposed) game controllers and others where the players’ own bodies are the controllers. Last but not least, “giant games” will bring the Gaîté to life and allow the public to interact directly with the spaces of the building itself.