Soft Chaos: Structures of Care

Squinky and Dr. Jess Rowan Marcotte, from Montreal-based co-operative game studio Soft Chaos Cooperative, discussed how structures of care surrounding game-making and research can improve working environments for researchers and creative professionals. Soft Chaos is now a thriving game design business. They owe their success thus far to the structures of care and the prioritization of workers’ interests and needs that are the guiding principles at Soft Chaos 

In this workshop, they led a thought-provoking series of thought experiments and guided activities so that audience members have the resources to reshape their structures of care in their own communities.

Watch the highlights:

Remote video URL

Key Terms:

Worker Co-operative: A style of business where the workers are the main owners, decisions are made with input from workers, and there are no investors to profit from the labour of others. The co-operative model gives every member of the team a stake and voice in the direction of the organisation.
Positionally: How one's position and power in society effect identity and access to care. People with privilege and power often have access to or control of their own care, safety, and financial well-being, and tend to neglect or overlook how to ensure the same for marginalised people.
Structures of Care: Organizational structures that emphasize what one needs to be successful and thrive e.g., time, health, bylaws, and processes.


Both presenters shared how their positionality as queer and racialized people and lived experiences working in academia and industry influenced how they want to work in an ideal world. After striving to change the way the system worked, they decided to leave academia, finding a unique way of building games through a worker's co-operative. 

At Soft Chaos, they have developed their own ‘structures of care’ to create an inclusive work environment that emphasizes care. “Degrowth” is a vital lens for thinking about these structures as it centres sustainability in multiple senses e.g., labour, project management, revenue, and even personal health. They defined four key structures of care to have a healthy and sustainable work culture

Structures of Care:

Starting a new cooperative from scratch allowed them to structure their business in ways that emphasize care. They defined four key aspects of care to have a healthy and sustainable work culture:

1) Time - Ensuring that the workplace structure emphasis flexibility of time, from work hours to allowed time off.

2) Health - Balancing physical and mental health through accommodations for neurodivergence and respect for physical health risks (like wearing masks).

3) Bylaws - Structuring the economic side of the workplace through principles around 'degrowth' and ensuring work meets income needs.

4) Process - Establishing clear expectations in projects, organizing tasks to both recognize strengths and create learning oppurtunities.

Soft Chaos

Analyzing Your Own Structures of Care and Accessibility:

In the second half of the workshop, Jess and Squinky led participants through various activities and questions to analyse their school and/or workplace structure from a lens care.   

To analyse your own school/workplace structure, watch this 5 min video and complete the reflection questions below. Through this, you will be better equipped to identify the needs for care in your school/ workplace as well as identifying possible ways to improve your structures of care.  

Part A: Identifying your Positionality  

To be able to analyze what structures leads to better care for oneself, start by identifying your own positionally (see Key Terms for definition). What are your personal and ascribed identities? Take a couple minuets to list your various identities, such as race, gender, nationality sexuality, class, disabilities etc. After creating this list, reflect generally on how these identities affect how you are treated and what your expectations to be treated in the workplace / school structure.   

Part B: Identifying Needs Within Existing Structures on what accessibility and care needs are required. 

Based upon your positionality, expectations, and experience of treatment in workplace / school structure, reflect on what your accessibility and care needs are. Create a short list of these needs and relate them to the “4 structures of care” (time, health, bylaws, and processes) discussed in the video. Choose two of the needs from your list and reflect on the following questions.   Are there resources and or processes to ensure that each need are met? What are the barriers to using these resources? What responsibilities for care not being met? 

Part C: Micro and Macro View of Accessibility Need 

Using one of the needs you identified in Part B, brainstorm what changes to the organizational structure would help to meet this need.   Is there currently someone responsible for this need? Who else could help advocate for this change? What influence can participants bring to bear in this effort? 

Part D: Mapping Power and Access 

For the final activity, you will visualize the structures of care that already exist or could potentially exist in their organisation. Draw drawing a rough floor plan of the work environment and sketching out the kinds of connections and power dynamics between the people who work there.   What are the patterns that emerged includes defining allies, the nature and limits of their allyship, and your own fit within the structure? Who has power over who? Does social power influence the structure?

About the Speakers:

Dr. Jess Rowan Marcotte

Dr. Jess Rowan Marcotte, They/Them, PhD

Dr. Squinkifer

D. Squinkifer, They/He, BSc in Computer Science MFA in Digital Arts and New Media