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Alumni Lecture: “New Horizons for Video Games”

April 22 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

In the last 50 years, video games have become increasingly prominent in our social, cultural, and economic lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this process, with the game industry reporting record profits as players of all ages and backgrounds turned to games for distraction, entertainment, and connection with others. Serendipitously released in March 2020 just as lockdown and social isolation measures began, Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons was a surprise blockbuster, offering a perfect blend of escapist fantasy and cozy comfort for “these unprecedented times.”

Looking closely at Animal Crossing through the critical lens of media studies can tell us a lot about the ever-shifting role of video games and digital media in society. Far from the stereotype of video games as violent, individualistic power fantasies primarily enjoyed by young men, Animal Crossing prioritizes peaceful exploration, social collaboration, and self-expression through play. In doing so, Animal Crossing challenges popular assumptions what video games can be, who plays them, and the value of “screen time” in our lives during the pandemic and beyond. Join us for this unique lecture by Dr. Felan Parker—presented using actual in-game footage—to learn more about a diverse and often misunderstood medium.

Felan Parker is an Assistant Professor of Book & Media Studies at the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto.

Professor Felan Parker is an interdisciplinary scholar of media and culture, specializing in digital media, games, and film. He teaches a variety of undergraduate courses including the First Year Foundations seminar SMC198: How to Study Video Games. His research has been supported by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant and explores the production, distribution, and reception of independent or “indie” digital games with a particular focus on the role of intermediary actors like curators, critics, and community organizers in the cultural ecosystem of the game industry. His dissertation critically examined popular debates about the relationship between games and art, in context of the more general cultural and aesthetic legitimation of games.

Professor Parker’s other interests include Canadian game development, media industries, transmedia franchises and fan conventions, blockbusters and spectacle, authorship, genre, and analog games, and he co-edited Beyond the Sea: Critical Perspectives on Bioshock, an anthology of essays on the influential game series. His work has been published in leading journals and presented at conferences around the world, and previously served as President of the Canadian Game Studies Association.

Prof. Parker previously wrote about Animal Crossing and other “comfort games” for the St. Michael’s blog InsightOut.


To register, please visit the U of T Alumni event page.


April 22
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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Alumni Affairs and Development
(416) 926-7260