Dr. Leino is a scholar of computer games and playable art. His research focuses on questions of experience, interpretation, authorship, and medium-specificity. He is interested in the expressive form of computer games, and how people experience them. “Computer games can be like worlds to their players, in a very real and concrete non-fictional sense. This distinguishes them from most of the previous forms of art,” he says.
Leino has conducted extensive GRF funded research on games. His first project, “Existential Hermeneutics for Playable Media,” investigated what kind of affordance make it possible tof experience and interpret computer games as worlds, and began long-running collaboration with Dr. Sebastian Möring from University of Potsdam. His second project “Ideas and Realities of Gamification”, undertaken with Dr. Möring and Prof. Espen Aarseth from IT University of Copenhagen, investigated how the boundaries of work and play are shifting — games are becoming work-like profitable activities for players, and work, purportedly, can include playful elements. His current GRF project, “From Game Arcades to eSports Arenas: Understanding the cultures of competitive computer gaming in Hong Kong,” investigates, in collaboration with Dr. Möring and Dr. Yong Ming Kow the phenomenon of eSports and its relation to earlier forms of public and spectated play, like game arcades. “Game arcades in Hong Kong are perceived as dangerous places at the fringes of society, but e-sports is becoming increasingly family-friendly and the e-athlete a legitimate aspirational role model,” Leino says. Leino and Möring discuss these themes in an article on the neoliberalist underpinnings of computer games, published in the Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds.
Leino’s work situates computer games in relationship to interactive art more broadly to explore their intersections and commonalities. Leino has written extensively on the relationship between computer games and art and curated the “New Playable Art” exhibition for IFVA’14 at Hong Kong Arts Centre. His forthcoming essay “The Tragedy of the Art Game” explores the uneasy relationship between a game’s designer and the player which was also a theme at his recent keynote address at the 13th International Conference on the Philosophy of Computer Games: Aesthetics of Computer Games in St. Petersburg. A forthcoming book chapter, investigates computer game play as a species of performance rather than as competition and sport. Leino plays a leading role in the ACIM sponsored Play/Work Research Group, where, together with Dr. Kow and Mr. Yim Chun Pang, he has carried out contracted research on public policy and eSports for the Hong Kong government.