Pleasure Consuming Games

This series discusses the ‘gamblification’ of games, the ‘gamification’ of gambling, and the porous boundary that ostensibly delimits these domains of play. We consider epistemological and methodological challenges in the study of contemporary, digital play, as well as the dynamics of emergent platforms of play (e.g., the ‘free-to-play’ business model). We engage with a variety of games (e.g. Clash of ClansCandy Crush SagaVegas Blackjack) and platforms (e.g., Steam). Our aim is to collectively experience and theorize the pull of these casual games and game platforms and in this way attend to the glorious and mundane pleasures of consuming games.


“Pleasure Consuming Games”–a workshop to explore the pleasures of contemporary, digital games alongside their pleasure-consuming potentialities and propensities.

September 22, 2017

Speakers include:

September 23, 2017

Speakers include:

  • Andrei Zanescu and colleagues–Dota 2: The Most Played Game on Steam
    • The Dota 2 workshop was separated in two parts overall: theory and demonstration. The theory portion consisted of a presentation about the production context, game design and technological affordances of Dota 2. The demonstration consisted of an exhibition match of Dota 2, with commentary and the option to wager. The purpose of the workshop was to foster discussion and critique regarding the manner in which Dota 2 promotes gambling, both as practice and as a conceptual apparatus.


  • Workshop 1: Candy Crush & Clash of Clans–Playing With ‘Free-to-Play’ Games
  • Workshop 2: Video Slots–Playing slots on


Pleasure Consuming Games Pop-Up Event

The second event in the Pleasure Consuming Games series was a pop-up event at North Star Pinball Bar on July 9, 2018. Continuing our exploration of the “gamblification” of games and the “gamification” of gambling, we assembled an exciting panel of speakers who discussed the changing dynamics of contemporary video games and online gambling. Speakers discussed the intersections between gaming and gambling in the context of mobile social games (e.g. Candy Crush), massively-multiplayer online battle arena games (e.g. DOTA 2), Esports, daily fantasy sports, online poker, and so on. A key focal point of the discussion included the incorporation of ‘loot-boxes’ in gaming. A speaker panel (Chanel J. Larche, U of Waterloo; Andrei Zanescu, Concordia University; Dr. Mark R. Johnson, U of Alberta; Dr. Tom Brock, Manchester Metropolitan;) from 1-4pm was followed by an analog gaming “5 à 7” complete with old school pinball games!


Poster designed by April Bailey and Jay Marquis-Manicom

On April 26, 2019, we were thrilled to host Dr. Kishonna Gray (University of Illinois – Chicago) who gave a keynote address on her research on the intersecting oppressions that manifest in games, gaming environments, and on platforms, and also on how Black Gamers and Women Gamers have organized to resist and respond to these situations.

Following this was a panel discussion on the challenges and pleasures of streaming, with streamers Tanya DePass (, Will Wiggins (, and Brian Gray (

This event was streamed LIVE on Twitch for those who were unable to be with us in Montreal:



How have gam(bl)ing experiences been shaped by new and hyper-connected technological environments? How have they been rendered indistinguishable?

This Interactive Symposium, organized by the HERMES research team, provided a space to share knowledge, learn about, and discuss issues around digital gam(bl)ing and the commodification of leisure in the digital age.

The programme included:

  1. interactive sessions with internationally renowned guest speakers;
  2. presentation and exchange sessions with a new generation of students;
  3. workshops that promoted experimentation and exchange.

The closing session was a presentation by Mr. Edward Snowden followed by a Q&A session!

More details available here.



Logo designed by Idun Isdrake

What do you get when you braid together the interests of the Technoculture, Art and Games (TAG) Research Centre, the HERMES Research Team, and the Pleasure Consuming Games Workshop Series? The GameBling Game Jam!

On the 11th and 12th of February 2022, four teams engaged in a game jam designed to deconstruct and prototype slot machine games. Slot machine games have historically been understood as games of pure chance, where skill plays no role in the outcome. They have been dismissed by some scholars as uninteresting (Schüll, 2012). Yet the widespread popularity—to say nothing of market share—of these games, alongside the transformation that has accompanied their development on digital and mobile platforms, calls for a fundamental re-thinking of what slot machine games are and might be.

The GameBling Game Jam sought to learn about what slot machines are, and what they might be, by developing games that enchanted and enticed users not to mindlessly plug coins (or credits) into slots, but rather to think critically about the visual pleasures, haptic feedback, soundscapes, temporalities, and other affordances that have been (and continue to be) associated with this genre of gameplay.

Here are the games that were created during this game jam!


Schüll, Natasha Dow. 2012. Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Further Reading

Fullerton, Tracy. 2014. Game Design Workshop, 4th Edition: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games. AK Peters/CRC Press

Ross, Alexander, and David Nieborg. 2021. “Spinning Is Winning: Social Casino Apps and the Platformization of Gamble-Play,” Journal of Consumer Culture 21(1): 84–101.

More details available here.



May 18th, 2022 from 12 to 3pm

Logo designed by Pauline Hoebanx

What is Ka-Ching x GameBling?

During this event, we will screen the Ka-Ching! Pokie Nation documentary (trailer available here), followed by a moderated panel with guest speakers Dr. Sylvia Kairouz (Concordia University) and Alex Ross (University of Toronto).

Ka-ching! Takes us behind the scenes of slot machines, through interviews with designers, mathematicians, game theorists, anthropologists, but also players themselves. Based in Australia, the documentary illustrates the attractive power of slot machines, as well as the Australian government’s unsuccessful attempts to curb their problematic potential.

Dr. Sylvia Kairouz is an associate professor at Concordia University’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and holds the Research Chair on Gambling, at Concordia University. She is also the head of Concordia University’s Lifestyle and Addiction Research Lab. She has published in sociology, social epidemiology, and public health journals.

Alexander Ross is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information. He was a graduate fellow at the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology from 2018 to 2020. His research interests include the political economy of communication, critical platform studies, and the gamblification of games. His dissertation project focuses on how platformization and app economies are transforming digital gambling and creating new forms of cultural production.

This event is an opportunity to learn more about slot machine gambling games and their contexts, as well as a chance to reflect on the GameBling game jam and its methodological implications for deepening our understanding of such games.

Please register here. All are welcome!



Logo designed by Pauline Hoebanx

The GameBling Game Jam is back! The Technoculture, Art and Games (TAG) Research Centre, the HERMES Research Team, and the JREN team are organizing the second edition on February 11th and 12th. This event will be held virtually.

GameBling Game Jam 2.0 is all about luck! The outcome of some gambling games relies on pure probability (i.e., slot machines, lotteries), while others involve a bit of skill (e.g., poker, mahjong). But for many gamblers, the odds of winning are also up to luck. Gerda Reith (2005) refers to luck as a ‘magical-religious worldview’:

It is in this cognitive outlook that the tension of the gambling situation – the dynamic between uncertainty and order, chance and meaning – is to be found. (p.156)

Luck is the magic that takes gambling from a question of probabilities to the perception of something that can be controlled. Perceived this way, luck can be influenced through ritualistic behaviors (think of superstitions like touching a ‘lucky’ four-leaf clover).

Luck is an intangible force, but also something that is perceived to inhere in people, objects, and practices. Given these qualities, how do game designers play with luck?

The GameBling Game Jam 2.0 proposes to reflect on the ideas of being (un)lucky through game creation. Some ways you can interpret this broad theme include:

  • Superstitions vs. rational techniques (e.g., card counting)
  • Luck vs. control over the outcome
  • Embodied rituals of play (e.g., blowing on the dice)
  • Good fortune vs. Bad fortune
  • Luck in different cultures
  • Inherent vs. fabricated luck


Reith, Gerda (2005). The Age of Chance: Gambling in Western Culture. Taylor & Francis.

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