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Cassandra Allenby

Master of Fine Arts

Video Games - more than just fun for master's student Allenby

When most people think of video games they think of a toy, a game, a way to waste a few hours having fun. When master's student Cassandra Allenby (BFA '15) thinks about video games she sees the potential for so much more.

“I love video games, playing them and creating them. That’s what brought me to the University of Lethbridge New Media program,” says Allenby. “But I realized the field is saturated so I started thinking about other things I could do with these same interests.”

U of L new media faculty helped direct her interest into new areas; specifically, immersive technology.

“Dr. David Clearwater, Dana Cooley and, my graduate studies supervisor, James Graham all work in this area,” explains Allenby. “For example, James uses technology to interact with cultural objects. It enables play in immersive environments and a potential for knowledge acquisition and engineering experiences.”

Although Graham’s theory classes may be credited for piquing her interest, her current area of study and focus of her MFA research was inspired by art professor Dr. Anne Dymond.

Dymond put a call out for students to help research an idea. She observed how her young children were able to learn and memorize while playing video games and wanted to figure out how to inspire this same level of knowledge acquisition in the classroom. Allenby worked with Dymond as part of the internship element of the BFA - New Media program and was inspired to take on more in-depth research around how technology can affect humans.

These one-on-one relationships and opportunities to work with faculty members drew Allenby to continue her studies in the U of L's MFA program.“

I know I can approach faculty members and other students for help,” says Allenby. “It’s a very open community with lots of knowledge sharing: like having open-source information available. Not to mention the University of Lethbridge is in the top three universities in the country for research.”

As an MFA student, Allenby’s goal is to explore the potentiality of technology by creating new systems and legitimizing game mechanics and technologies in the art world and for the general public.

“People view play, particularly video games, as frivolous. I’m trying to put ‘play’ in a different context,” says Allenby. “The framework is there to do amazing things but it isn’t being used to its full potential. I want to legitimize how it can be used and make it accessible to the general public for social activism, political activism and even in the workplace.”

Allenby looks forward to sharing these ideas during her presentation “The Art of Play” on Saturday, January 16, 2015 as one of 17 graduate students presenting in the second annual Fine Arts Graduate Student Colloquium. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.

During her presentation Allenby promises to introduce play theory and make it easy for everyone to understand.

She says, “It’s a privilege to talk about this in an academic environment, but I want to expand the ideas to the general public by talking about what already exists, taking technologies and systems, and using them in different ways.”

Studying in the Master of Fine Arts New Media program, Cassandra Allenby sees great potential in using video game technology in other realms.

PHOTO by Sally Leung.

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