2019-2024 Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Grant. (Co-Applicants: Lynn Hughes and Bart Simon). “Sustaining Liveness in Participatory Experience.”

In Sustaining Liveness in Participatory Experiences Hughes and Bart Simon, founding researchers at the TAG research centre at Concordia, and their students will come together with ZU-UK theatre from London and the Larp specialists at Tampere University. TAG will provide expertise on games, and digital-physical games in particular. ZU-UK contributes expertise on participatory theatre and Tampere on live-action role playing games. Together we will develop ideas about the intersections of liveness, game structures and rules, and the digital. We will propose ways to develop new audiences and promote sustainable production models through the use of digital and rule-based participation, as well as ways to provoke and maintain communities through the combination of liveness and participation.

Simon, Bart. “Instructions, Rules and The Other Market as Gameworld.” Presentation for the Do As You’re Told symposium, Greenwich University, London, UK. November 14, 2023.

This paper looks at the differences between rules and instructions as a way of exploring the tensions between productions like The Other Market, on the one hand, that looks to games for scaffolding, and ZU’s current theatre work which they describe as instruction led.

Allen, J., Hughes, L., Bart Simon, Jorge Lopez Ramos, Courtney Blamey, Scott DeJong. Atmospheric Occasions: Parties, Markets and Games. TAUgamelab Spring Seminar, University of Tampere, Finland. May 4, 2023.

Our focus is on one specific research-creation project called The Other Market. Initiated in 2021 and significantly bottlenecked by COVID, The Other Market is a participatory experience created by the Liveness Research Group at the Technoculture, Art and Games research centre at Concordia University in Montreal. Months of discussion, paper and board game prototyping, technical development, and playtesting culminated in the first public “performance” of the experience on April 22, 2023.

This paper comes in two parts. The first part is an extended abstract, which provides a loose conceptual background of the work that informed our design almost after the fact. That is, the design process we describe prompted our thinking about social occasions and affective atmospheres, not the other way around. The second part is a presentation in Tampere that takes advantage of insights gleaned from the performance of The Other Market on April 22.

Lopes-Ramos, Jorge, Joseph Dunne-Howrie, Persis Jadé Maravala, and Bart Simon. “The Post-Immersive Manifesto.” International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media 16, no. 2 (2020): 196-212.

Over the past decade, ‘immersive’ has arguably been one of the most overused terms to describe theatre productions that aim to involve audiences in unconventional ways. With the mainstream success of specific ‘immersive’ productions, this trend goes beyond the theatre and arts industry. From games distributors to Westfield shopping centres, just about every organisation seems to be discussing how ‘immersive’ events can give their product an edgier public profile or increase sales. The need for a post-immersive manifesto comes from an assumption that the use of the term immersive is not helpful. And, in many ways, the use of the word ‘immersive’ to describe theatre productions can often be detrimental to the contract of expectations set up with audience members, guests, players, participants. This experimental manifesto is the result of five years of partnership between Technoculture, Arts & Games (Concordia University, Montréal) and ZU-UK (G.A.S. Station and MA in Contemporary Performance at University of Greenwich, London).

Simon, Bart, Lynn Hughes, Jaakko Stenros, Jorge Lopes Ramos, JoDee Allen, and Persis Jade Maravala. “Understanding Liveness in Theatre, LARP and Games.” In Proceedings of DiGRA 2020.

Our collaborative study considers a wide range of playable modes, from those that emphasize emergent role-play to those with tightly designed
instructions for participants. We are interested in both co-located and remote experiences of liveness. The question that then follows is this: How do we design for shared liveness? How do we structure an experience so that it can hold, is likely to produce or promote, liveness? One of the overarching conditions is that the most live-ly experiences are situated between the poles of overly shaped or directed experiences and radically loose or emergent ones: Between an experience that is too controlled and one that is barely, or not at all, controlled (Wiseman et al. 2017). Between traditional art or theatre and (at the very far end) real life. We are looking for a zone of improvisation that vibrates, a zone that activates some real uncertainty.