Film audiences understand a movie like Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk to be a serious work by a serious artist. We don’t find it strange that it is distributed alongside pure entertainment popcorn flicks. We know films can be art, entertainment, education, or activism — sometimes all at once. So why is this not the the case with video games, whom many consider to be the preeminent storytelling medium of this new century? Why do games either have to be blockbusters of pornographic excess like Grand Theft Auto or sober civic lessons showcased at festivals like Games For Change? Where are the Dunkirk’s of video games, the Twilight Zone’s of video games? Where are the socially conscious works of art that should be part of a normal commercial landscape?

This talk is an exploration of how Matthew Weise and Clara Fernandez have attempted to articulate such a space. First with their work at MIT (in experimental narrative games like The Snowfield and Symon) through the founding of their company Empathy Box and its first major project, The Myth Machine. It will discuss the challenges, both design-wise and commercial, that face game creators who wish to say things about the real world yet also make a living in an industry still largely synonymous with wasting time. How do you talk about colonialism, fascism, and xenophobia when your main competition is Candy Crush?

Matthew Weise is a game designer and educator whose work spans industry and academia. He is the CEO of Empathy Box, a company that specializes in narrative design for games and across media. He was the Narrative Designer at Harmonix Music Systems on Fantasia: Music Evolved, the Game Design Director of the GAMBIT Game Lab at MIT, and a consultant for Warner Bros., Microsoft, PBS, The National Ballet of Spain, and others on storytelling and game design. His work, both creatively and critically, focuses on transmedia adaptation with an emphasis on the challenges of adapting cinema into video games. Matt has given lectures and workshops on film-to-game adaptation all over the world, and has published work on how franchises like Alien, James Bond, and horror cinema in general are adapted into games. Links to his writing and game design work, including his IGF nominated The Snowfield, can be found at


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