Ohio Interviews: Toni Pizza of Different Games

Ohio Interviews


Toni Pizza, Gamer Goddess

Different Games is a conference specifically exploring issues of diversity, representation and inclusiveness in games and highlighting the contributions of women, people of color, and LGBTQ folks. It will be held Friday April 26th and Saturday April 27th at NYU’s Polytechnic Institute in downtown Brooklyn.

1. Toni, tell us about your background in game design and how you got to NYU. What made you so interested in games?

I go to the NYU Game Center at Tisch. Why am I so interested in games? Hmm… I don’t know if there’s an answer to this–games are these great, dynamic systems of interaction and collaboration, what’s not to like?!? Actually, I have a professor (Eric Zimmerman) who talks about game design and pleasure– and I love that metaphor.  Here’s this quote: “Thinking of games as systems of pleasure implies that the game designer is an artisan of desire, shaping the pleasure of the players of a game. The designed system of the game, set in motion by the participation of players, becomes not just an experience of play, but also an experience of sensual, emotional, and psychological pleasure.”  I just love that. That’s why I design games. (From Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals)

2. What do you think the role of games will be in the future? 

Games are a part of culture and they have been for centuries– that’s not going to change any time soon. I mean, I think the future depends on what we do with games now, right?  I think games have the potential to offer radical explorations and interpretations of values, assumptions, and lived-experiences. But to design systems that provide us with those kinds of experiences, we need to be intentional with our design, and I think a lot of designers and companies sidestep that opportunity for exploration. Looking into my crystal ball, I’m going to say keep an eye on the indie game community. Check out the work of anyone in the Different Games line-up, and you’ll get a glimpse into the future of games.

3. What is your highest hope for the Different Games conference? 

Oh my. Can I say that I really hope we end up making t-shirts? I really want to rock a DG t-shirt… But, in addition to a rad t-shirt, I want Different Games to be a catalyst for building community. Ideally, the conference is an important step toward achieving a critical mass of “Different Games” thinkers. I want that community, and I think the pieces exist, we just need a good push or two to get us all together and communicating. I think bringing together critical and creative thinkers can result in radical ideas– and who knows what kinds of games we’ll come up with!!

4. Who should come to the conference and why? 

Anyone. Everyone. If you like games, perfect. If you don’t like games but think they could be better or… DIFFERENT, join us. There’s seriously something for everyone.  We’ve got academic panels, design panels, hands-on workshops, an arcade, and discussion rooms. It’s a place to meet people and share ideas.

5. Is there anything important you want to tell Ohioans about DIfferent Games?

Ohioans. It’s gonna be rad.