Research through video game design
Pippin Barr, co-director of TAG, at the small DIY 3D printer workshop.

Concordia’s Technoculture, Art and Games research lab brings new ideas to digital life

It is as if you were doing work is a video game that starts on a retro, Windows-like desktop computer interface. It asks you to write a bunch of seemingly productive emails and accomplish easy tasks. As you complete them, you earn points and eventually get promoted. Inspirational work-related stock photographs pop up every few minutes. It can go on forever or until you, the player, die.

This video game is a work of speculative design, a field of academia where researchers design hypothetical futures, explained Pippin Barr, the game’s creator. Barr is also the co-director of the Technoculture, Art and Games (TAG) research lab at Concordia, a place for researchers, professors and eligible graduate students from diverse faculties to research video games and design them collaboratively.

According to Barr, in an automated future, computers would replace workers, and humans would be free to do whatever they please. He was left wondering: What would we be doing if we didn’t have to work anymore? Maybe we’d always be “Netflix and chilling” or spending our time creating art?

What Barr speculated, however, was that we might feel the need to play a video game where we accomplish work to feel productive again. Instead of writing an essay about the idea, he designed and programmed a game around it.

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