What is the purpose of the group?

To bring together Harvard students and professors with members of academic and development communities beyond to explore the form and impact of interactive media, video games in particular.

Why does the group (and why should I) care about video games?

Video games as a medium posses unique potential. Borrowing the strengths of other media–their visuals and soundtracks from the aesthetic arts, their narrative dynamics from literature and theater–and adding to the mix participation and social connection (through both online and local play), video games open the door for whole new forms of entertainment and experience.

The result of this potential, video games have quickly become a major part of the modern world. Larger than the box office, the games industry today brings in some $30 billion annually. In the U.S., it’s estimated that fifty percent of the population plays video games (a figure that in fact pales in comparison to countries like South Korea). As much as any other, Mario and Sonic are now cultural icons.

We care about games, and think others should to, because already they have significant impact on the world and because in the future, they should–and almost certainly will–have even greater impact.

Many of the group’s activities seem somewhat… academic. Who canceled fun?

Certainly, the mission of the group is largely academic in nature. The group is also though very much about having fun. Through the Gaming Initiative we’re running tournaments, ladders, guilds, game-sharing groups and anything else that members are interested in. We’re holding ‘introduction to gaming’ nights for new players and are working on pre-release demonstrations from a wide variety of developers. We’ve also created a common gaming space in Leverett House, furnished with all three of the next-generation consoles.

Who’s involved in the group?

The group’s president is Ben Decker ’08.  It’s vice presidents are Sam Abbott ’09 and John Selig ‘09.  Our advisory committee currently includes Antoine Picon, professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Charles Nesson, co-founder of the Berkman Center at the Harvard Law School, Edward Castronova, professor at the Telecommunications School at Indiana University, Jonathon Epstein, CEO of DoubleFusion and Harvard alumnus, Dan Scherlis, CEO of Etherplay and Harvard alumnus, and Susan Gold, Chairman of the IGDA Education SIG. There are a number of organizations, including both other student organizations and major companies, with whom we’re currently in partnership talks.

Currently, we have about 150 core members, with many more who attend our events and participate in our programs. Gradually, we’re establishing a community of students, academics, and professionals interested in interactive media that extends throughout Harvard and throughout the Boston-area as well as, to some extent, nationally and internationally.

Where is the group going?

While certainly our projects are valuable in and of themselves, we view them also as a means of establishing momentum, as facts on the ground, in our longer-term bid for an official interactive media program here at Harvard. Schools around the country—MIT, Carnegie Mellon, USC, Indiana, Madison, and others—are moving aggressively into the interactive media space. Harvard is being left behind.

In the past, be it with digital computing or Psychology, Harvard has been a leader in the exploration of burgeoning academic fields. We believe that Harvard should reprise this role, and ensure that its leadership carries over from the physical world into the virtual one as well. For now, we’re networking with various departments around the University. In the next five to ten years, we hope that the HIMG will be a launching point through which Harvard, as an institution, can leap into the field.

How can I get in touch with the Harvard interactive Media Group?

All our information can be found on the Contact Us page, located here.