Art of Failure talk at Comparative Media Studies, MIT, March 14

I am giving a talk on the Art of Failure this Thursday March 14 2013 at 5-7 PM, at Comparative Media Studies, MIT.

Location: 20 Ames St, Cambridge, MA Google Map. Room: E14-633


Presented as part of MIT Comparative Media Studies’ Colloquium series for Spring 2013

We often talk of video games as being “fun,” but this is a mistake. When we play video games, our facial expressions are only occasionally those of of happiness, instead we frown and grimace when fail to achieve our goals. This is the paradox of failure: why do we play video games even though they make us unhappy?

In video games, as in tragic works of art, literature, theater, and cinema, it seems that we want to experience unpleasantness even if we also dislike it. Yet failure in a game is unique in that when we fail in a game, it means that we (not a character) are in some way inadequate, and games then motivate us to play more, in order to escape that inadequacy.

In this talk, based on his new book The Art of FailureJesper Juul will argue that the paradox of failure pervades games on many levels: in game design, in sports coaching, in strategy guides, in taunting, in the prejudices against sore losers. The issue of failure is also central to recurring controversies of what games can, or should be about: what does it mean to cause terrible events to happen in a fictional game world? Games, then are the Art of Failure: the singular art form that sets us up for failure and allows us to experience it and experiment with it.

Art of Failure book launch March 7 in New York City


Art of Failure book launch w/ talks and game-playing:

Join us on Thursday, March 7th at 7PM for a conversation on the pain of playing video games!

We tend to talk of video games as being “fun,” but in his new book The Art of Failure, Jesper Juul claims that this is almost entirely mistaken. When we play video games, we frown, grimace, and shout in frustration. So why do we play video games even though they often make us unhappy?

At this book launch event, Jesper Juul will discuss game failure with Doug Wilson, PhD graduate from the IT University of Copenhagen and indie game designer at Die Guten Fabrik of Johann Sebastian Joust fame, and Frank Lantz, veteran game designer and Director of the NYU Game Center.

During the talk, the panelists will play painfully challenging games, and the audience will be invited to share the pain.

Jesper Juul is an assistant professor at the NYU Game Center. He has been working with video game theory since the early 1990′s. His previous book are Half-Real and A Casual Revolution, also on MIT Press. Jesper is a sore loser.

This event is free and open to the public.  Seats are limited, RSVP here:

Copies of The Art of Failure will be available for purchase following the lecture.

NYU Video Game Theory Seminar XVI: The History of Video Games begins in Europe in the 1980’s

You are hereby invited to the sixteenth installment of the NYU Game Center’s video game theory seminar series.

“The History of Video Games begins in Europe in the 1980’s”. Friday November 16 at 4-6pm.

Location: NYU, 721 Broadway, New York NY 10003, 9th floor conference room.
Please RSVP, see below!

If there is one thing that video game historians can agree on, it is the pivotal importance of the 1983 crash of the video game market. Yet, the crash went largely unnoticed in Europe where consoles were few and the industry only nascent. The history of European video games in 1980’s is better described as a period of unbroken growth and unprecedented experimentation in game design. In this session, our two speakers will discuss the history of early European experimental and independent games, and show how they prefigured much of what is happening in the video games today.

The two speakers of the day are Jaroslav Švelch from Charles University (Prague) and Jesper Juul from the NYU Game Center.


The Talks

Švelch: The Unintended Avant-garde – Two stories from 1980’s European game development

The talk discusses two separate stories from the history of computer games, united by the fact that the games at the center of these stories broke new grounds without much impact or commercial success. First, we will discuss the British game “Deus Ex Machina”, probably the first commercially released art game, designed  in 1984 by Mel Croucher, whose mission to express abstract human experiences in many ways resembles today’s indie and art games. Secondly, we will talk about the text adventure game “The Adventures of Indiana Jones on Wenceslas Square in Prague on January 16, 1989”, which preceded editorial game design of games like Raid Gaza in being a response to contemporary events – in this case, the violently suppressed anti-regime demonstration in Czechoslovakia.


Juul: Indie Games are from Europe

In this talk, I will return to some of the most influential European games of the mid-1980’s and show how they contain both forgotten possibilities that we have yet to bring to fruition, as well as the seeds of many of the current themes in video games, such as the independent developer, games as experiment and personal expression, and the kind of short-turnaround cloning that we find in mobile distribution channels. At the same time, the discussion of video games in the especially the UK gaming press at the time was decidedly un-romantic, avoiding any discussion of games as an art form, vehicle of expression, or indeed as anything more than utility.


Speaker bios

Jaroslav Švelch is a Ph.D. candidate, lecturer and researcher at Charles University, and currently also a research intern at Microsoft Research New England. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Master’s degrees in Media Studies, and Linguistics and Phonetics/Translation Studies, all from Charles University in Prague. His research focuses on social uses of entertainment technology, history of computer games, language management online and the concepts of monstrosity and adversity in virtual spaces.

Jesper Juul has been working with the development of video game theory since the late 1990’s. He is a visiting arts professor at the NYU Game Center, and has previously worked at the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Lab at MIT, the Danish Design School, and at the IT University of Copenhagen. His book Half-Real on video game theory was published by MIT press in 2005. His book A Casual Revolution examines how puzzle games, music games, and the Nintendo Wii brought video games to a new audience. His upcoming book The Art of Failure will be published in spring 2013. He maintains the blog The Ludologist on “game research and other important things”. Jesper Juul co-edits the Playful Thinking book series for MIT Press.

The theory seminars are aimed at researchers, industry professionals and students. Please RSVP so you can get into the building! jesper.juul (at)

Bennett Foddy Speaks at the Game Center

This Friday, 9/28 at 7PM game designer and Professor of Bioethics, Bennett Foddy, will be speaking at the NYU Game Center.  The topic of discussion will be Bennett’s high-level creative procedures for ideation, his iterative design process, and rules of thumb for solid creative process.  Students and practitioners are encouraged to join us for this unique opportunity for learning and close dialogue with the creator of sucessful games like QWOP, GIRP, and Pole Riders.  A selection of Bennett’s games will be available for play at the event.

Please RSVP here.

This event is the first in a series of informal talks and dialogues on varied topics around games that will be happening on the 9th Floor of 721 Broadway throughout the semester.  As with our Lecture Series, these talks are free and open to the public.  Look for more news on 9th Floor talks on game theory, video game art, LARPs, and much more.  We encourage you to bring friends and colleagues with interest in games and to come with questions for the speakers.

PRACTICE Speakers and Schedule Updated

 You’re invited to the premier game design conference, PRACTICE: Game Design in Detail!

On November 9th-11th join us at the New York University Game Center for a weekend of brilliant talks, intense debates, and playful socializing with some of the world’s top game designers and a group of your game design colleagues and peers.

Since we last updated you on PRACTICE, we have added more world-class speakers, the schedule has been opened up to add time for socializing, and we will host the opening reception and a special event at the Museum of the Moving Image.  View the full list of speakers and more information on the conference here.  On the site you’ll also find videos of select lectures from last year, as well examples of PRACTICE in the news.

Highlights from this year’s schedule include a lecture by the lead designer of the new Sim City, Stone Librande on the development of the game, a longer ‘Open Problems’ session, a popular event from last year where attendees bring in their own design problems for feedback form the entire room, and in keeping with PRACTICE’s penchant for expanding the notion of game design, David Ward, from the War Gaming Department at the United States Naval War College, will open the event on Sunday.  PRACTICE is a gathering of the most diverse and forward thinking game designers in the world and we want you to add your voice!

PRACTICE was created to address the community of working game designers, so this year we’re happy to offer a 10% discount to IGDA members!  Simply use the code ‘IGDA’ at the registration page to access the discount.

The heart of PRACTICE is the exchange of ideas among the attendees, and so we invite you to spread the word to friends and colleagues you think would like to be a part of this exchange!

If you have questions or comments about the conference, we’d be happy to hear from you at:

We hope to see you there!

NYU Video Game Seminar XV on Procedural Content Generation in Games May 25th

You are hereby invited to the fifteenth installment of the NYU Game Center’s video game theory seminar series: Friday May 25th at 4-6pm.

Location: NYU, 721 Broadway, New York NY 10003, 9th floor conference room.

What if the game designer takes a step back from creating content, and rather creates algorithms and procedures that, in turn, create game content? What are the limits and opportunities? What kinds of content can be created? In this session, our two speakers will present their work on procedural content generation in games.

The two speakers of the day are Clara Fernández-Vera from the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab and Julian Togelius from the IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

The talks

Clara Fernández-Vera will talk on The Trials of Designing Procedurally Generated Adventure Games.

Julian Togelius will talk on Searching for fun: Procedural Content Generation as Search and as a Necessity.


Speaker bios

Clara Fernández-Vara is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab. Her work concentrates on adventure games and narrative in simulated environments. She teaches courses on videogame theory and game writing at MIT, and has worked on experimental adventure games as part of her research, Rosemary (2009), Symon (2010), and Stranded in Singapore (2011), all well received by game critics and fans alike.

Julian Togelius is an associate professor at the IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He holds a BA from Lund University, a PhD from the University of Essex, and is the current chair of the IEEE CIS Games Technical Committee. His main research interests are within game AI, especially adaptive games, player modelling and procedural content generation. He seriously believes that computer can be taught to design games by themselves, and perhaps even to enjoy them.


The theory seminars are aimed at researchers, industry professionals and graduate students. We are ordering coffee and grapes, so let me know if you are coming!


On Friday May 4th I will be a panelist at ROLFCon in Cambridge, with distinguished co-panelists Jamin Warren, Bennett Foddy and Michael “Kayin” O’Reilly.


Panelists: Bennett Foddy (QWOP / GIRP), Michael “Kayin” O’Reilly (I Wanna Be The Guy), Jesper Juul (NYU Game Center), Jamin Warren (mod – Kill Screen)

We all know what it’s like to be deliciously close to victory, only to have it snatched out of our hands by that %&*#ing obstacle that has stopped you for the 30th time…tonight. So why do we keep playing games that torture us? And who are the %*(@&ers $&@*ed up enough to make these games?

The creators of some of the most brilliant yet frustrating games of all time are joining us for this panel to talk about the love/hate relationship you have with their games and why they chose to make it that way. Please don’t throw your controllers at them.

NYU Game Center Summer Courses

Interested in improving your game development skills over the summer? Then take a look at our exciting summer opportunities for students to get hands on experience creating and thinking about games!

If you have any general questions about summer courses, please check this website or email the Game Center at

OART-UT 1604 Game Development Workshop
Summer Session I: 05/21/2012 – 06/29/2012
When: Mon, Wed 12.30 PM – 3.15PM

This course reflects the various skills and disciplines that are brought together in modern game development: game design, programming, visual art, animation, sound design, and writing. The workshop will situate these disciplines within a larger context of game literacy and a historical and critical understanding of games as cultural objects. Classroom lectures and lab time will all be used to bring these different educational vectors together into a coherent whole; the workshop will be organized around a single, long-term, hands-on, game creation project. Working in small groups under the close supervision of instructors, students will collaborate on the creation of a playable game. As a creative constraint to help inspire them and guide their designs, the students will be given a theme to express in their game projects.

OART-UT 1606 Thinking About Games
Summer Session II: 07/02/2012 – 08/10/2012
When: Tue, Thu 12.30 PM – 3.15PM

This class is an overview of the field of video games that approaches them from several theoretical and critical perspectives. No special theoretical background or prior training is needed to take the course, but to have had a broad practical experience with and basic knowledge of games is a distinct advantage. Also, an interest in theoretical and analytical issues will help. You are expected to actively participate in the lectures, which are dialogic in form, with ample room for discussion.

The course will prepare the student to:
– Understand and discuss games from a theoretical perspective
– Apply new theories and evaluate them critically.
– Assess and discuss game concepts and the use of games in various contexts.
– Analyze games, and understand and apply a range of analytical methods