About Us

Playful by Design is a community network that includes faculty, staff, students, and members of the University of Illinois and the greater Champaign-Urbana community who study and design games, understood as interactive narratives, new media, art works, platforms, websites, exhibits, virtual worlds and digital learning environments, those who research and develop emerging technologies (AR/VR/AI…), and who study and develop playful/gameful pedagogies.

Sponsored in academic years 2017-2018 and 1018-2019 by the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH), now the Humanities Research Institute (HRI), the Playful by Design: Gaming Pedagogies, Digital Literacies and the Public Humanities Research Cluster facilitated the growth of an interdisciplinary community of practice organized around the emergent capacities of play and the design of playful pedagogical spaces, both virtual and real. Through a series of participatory workshops and events we shared our research, experiences, and skills during monthly gatherings, leading to the first spring Playful by Design Spring Symposium in April 2018.

In the second year of IPRH sponsorship, Playful by Design supported the creation of game studies and design courses, and investigated possibilities for creating game studies degree programs. The Playful by Design Spring Symposium in April 2019 added a third track to its programming and drew a larger slate of presenters and audience members than the first year.

The academic year 2019-2020 began with the exciting news that we had been awarded an Investment for Growth grant from the Provost’s office at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Our initiative, Games @ Illinois: Playful Design for Transformative Education, supports the growing number of projects and programs across campus that work at the intersection of play, immersive technologies and interactive design.

Our planned Spring Symposium for 2020 was cancelled due to the COVID quarantine; however, the event was held virtually in the Fall. That year, interdisciplinary curriculum committees were formed to create Graduate and Undergraduate Game Studies Minor degree programs, to be administered by Informatics.

The 2021 Playful by Design Symposium was held in Siebel Center for Design, in coordination with the CU Community Fablab, and the CU organization, CUDO Plays. During this event it was announced that the Undergraduate Game Studies Minor had been approved by the faculty senate.

The 2022 Playful by Design Symposium, which took place at the new academic home for Game Studies & Design on the fourth floor of the Hub Building on 614 E. Daniel Street, featured keynote presentations by Stuart Moulthrop, author of newly re-released hypertext classic Victory Garden, and Eevin Jennings, an experimental psychologist at the CU game company, Volition.