Instant Replay: Winter 2020


The Winter 2020 term was both a rewarding and tumultuous term for our community. March marked the start of the global pandemic becoming a reality here in Canada; anxiety and anticipation from abroad finally becoming a reality. At the time whispers and rumours of how long lockdown would last were circulating and no one could anticipate how long the "temporary" lockdown would last--especially when stay-at-home orders were extended for the remainder of the term.

Despite this, our members showed both creativity and resiliency; with many helping each other pre-lockdown by sharing equipment, tips and tricks, and keeping the place lively in its final day. In particular, many international students or students who do not have family in Southern Ontario joined each other online to found support in community. Jenn Rickert's Discord Wizard and Community Curation role finally blossomed into fruition with the beta-launch of the GI's Discord being pushed to all our members.

Many University partners and colleagues began reaching out to our members for expertise on how to navigate these new virtual spaces successfully during a time of heightened anxiety and digital learning curves and drew from the knowledge of all faculties on campus. Although April may have seemed like a write-off for many, we believe it proved the hard work of our community to not only navigate this uncharted territory, but also to show compassion for our fellow human being by supporting and uplifting one another. 

For GI staff, the shift to online meant rapidly adapting all our membership services to a digital landscape or provide hybrid options such as the continued rental usage of our equipment. However, while working towards adjusting to work-at-home and the services we provide, the GI and its staff heavily pushed our online communications and community building efforts to support each other and help build resiliency in these difficult times. This meant looking into virtual office hours and “watercooler” opportunities, adjusting to meetings on TEAMS, and creating contingency plans should lockdown continue in Spring 2020 term.


Launch of the Games and Narrative Reading Group

The interdisciplinary Games and Narrative reading group is a newly launched initiative, imagined by Dr. Ken Hirschkop, Professor of English Language and Literature. With Dr. Hirschkop's guidance, graduate students who join the reading group will explore how the fields of Narrative Theory and Game Studies intersect and inform one another.

They will be engaging with a survey of readings, spanning foundational texts to contemporary research and games. In the future, the GNRG will also be looking into launching a conference to invite scholars from all over the world to join them in exploring how narrative intersects with topics like game timelines, AAA games, and player agency.

Adjusting Research and the Launch of the CanHaptics Network

The closure of lab spaces meant that researchers had to discover new and innovative ways to conduct research; especially for researchers who deal with touch-interfaces, such as Dr. Oliver Schneider who studies Haptic Technology. Although still in its early stages, the network committed to uniting Hapticians across Canada and creating a research hub similar to the IMMERSe network. Although in it’s early state at the beginning of the term, working towards website creation and networking, the arrival of the pandemic prompted Dr. Schneider and his colleagues to consider how they research and test haptics while working remotely. In other words, how do you study touch and sensations virtually?

All News

Research Spotlights Blog

Enriched narratives reduce cybersickness in virtual reality depending on video game experience

Reflections from an interdisciplinary collision conversation: Think piece by Grace Van Dam

New findings show differences between rational vs. reasonable decision making in economic games

The GI Jam inspires new research directions for Prof Oliver Schneider


Research Events

Lockdown at the University of Waterloo began March 17th, but between the beginning of the term and mid-March, the GI hosted a series of events that showcased the trans-disciplinary nature of the GI and the research conducted here, with an overarching trend about humanities-based research in tech spaces.

  1. Guest lecture by new GI faculty member, Dr. Craig Hardiman on Classical Studies and Video Games
  2. Brown Bag Talk by GI member Jennifer Rickert on Cheating and Modding
  3. Brown Bag Talk on Creative Research Design for the Resistance with GI Member Bri Wiens and GI faculty member Dr. Shana MacDonald
  4. Captain’s Gambit Kickstarter Launch Party: Talk and Tournament

Knowledge Translation Workshop

February 19th, Marisa Benjamin, our Research Communications Officer, and Eric Blondeel, Co-Founder of ExVivo Labs, teamed up to design and deliver a Knowledge Translation Workshop for Concept by Velocity's Graduate Student Stream. Due to the trans-disciplinary nature of the GI and our commitment to unique or uncommon collaborations, we have become local experts on what it means to break down academic jargon and translate it into more accessible language. Presenting research through conversations that reflect how people talk in regular settings is our speciality. This workshop was part of our overarching goal to engage UW partners in our efforts to break down barriers in the ways that research is shared with the public.  

Dr. Lili Liu, Dean of Applied Health Sciences, and Colleagues Visit the GI

The Games Institute was thrilled to welcome Dr. Lili Liu, Dean of Applied Health Sciences, and her research colleagues, Drs. Adriana Rios Rincon and Antonio Miguel Cruz, from the University of Alberta for a visit and tour of our facility. Dr. Rincon delivered a presentation about the research team's (Drs. Liu, Rincon, Cruz, and Eleni Stroulia) ongoing work  involving games that support the health and wellness of older adults. Our members were very excited to connect with researchers outside of their direct networks and to find that the ideas they brought sparked promising opportunities for new research directions. 

The GI Welcomed 10 New Members this Term!

Licheng Zhang (he/him) is from the department of Computer Science, pursuing a Master’s of Mathematics. For now his focus is coursework, but afterwards he’ll be looking at VR/Game-related studies. When Licheng was little, he wanted to be an Anime director. His favourite game is Dota2, favourite book is A Song of Ice and Fire, and favourite movie is Castle in the Sky. If you’d like to get Licheng a coffee, he drinks a Double Double!

May Nemat-Allah (she/her) is qcollaborative's Research Assistant, pursing a BA of Arts and Business with a specialization in Theatre and Performance from the Communication Arts department. May supports qcollaborative's exploration of academic research's positive social impacts. When she was young she wanted to be an optometrist. “My favourite game is Persona 5, my favourite book is Stage Managing the Arts in Canada by Winston Morgan, and my favourite movie is How to Train Your Dragon”. May takes her coffee “cold and very sweet. I only ever drink ice caps”.

Lai-Tze Fan (she/her) is an Assistant Professor (tenure-stream), teaching media studies and digital storytelling in the Deptartment of English. Her research involves media history and theory, examining storytelling or politics/ethics. When she was young, she wanted to be a Visual artist or writer. Lai-Tze’s favourite game is A Fake Artist goes to New York; favourite book is Villette (Charlotte Brontë) or White Noise (Don DeLillo); favourite movie is Titanic or Devdas (Bollywood movie). She takes her coffee with one cream, one sugar!

Ally Suarez (she/her), is an Undergraduate Research Assistant in a co-op term under the supervision of Lennart Nacke, currently working with Rina Wehbe on her study. She is in her second-year of Health Studies from the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, School of Public Health and Health Systems. The research project she’s working on involves, “Creating a positive community with less stigma on mental health”. When she was young, she wanted to be a doctor! I don't have a favourite video game - I generally just like adventure-based RPGs with good storylines. My favourite board game is Clue. My favourite book would either be Paper Towns by John Green or The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. My favourite movie is Big Hero 6.” Ally doesn’t really drink coffee, but on the rare occasion she does, she would take it with a lot of milk and a lot of sugar.

Kaylena Martens (she/her), is an Assistant Prof of Cognitive Neuroscience/Neurodegeneration from the Department of Kinesiology in AHS. “I study how movement informs us about brain functioning”. When she was little, she wanted to be a grade 2 teacher. Her favourite game is Clue, and favourite book is The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Kaylena takes her coffee with cream.

Max Altmeyer (he/him) is a researcher at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence and a PhD student of Computer Science at Saarland University. He is a visiting student with the HCI Games Group. “I teach courses related to HCI and games user research as well as web development at Saarland University and assist my supervisor in HCI-related core lectures (such as Human Computer Interaction or Ubiquitous Media Technologies)”. Max is interested in using gameful design for behavior change. What did he want to be when he grew up? “My grandfather was a police officer, my dad is a police officer, guess what I wanted to be? ;)” Max takes his coffee with a little milk and without sugar. Favourite game, book, and movie? “I like all sorts of action RPG's such as Fallout but also enjoyed playing MMORPGs such as Guild Wars very much (when I was a bit younger). My favourite book is "Hector and the Search for Happiness" (but this changes from time to time). I think I don't really have a favourite movie, there are many movies that I like. Usually, the presence of Denzel Washington, Keanu Reeves or Samuel L. Jackson is a good predictor for movies that I might want to watch :)”.

Myracle Wang (she/her), is a Coop Research Assistant under Mark Hancock studying digital ethnography and machine learning. She is from the Faculty of mathematics, Mathematical Finance & Statistics. Her research involves developing an AI video analysis tool that classifies videos' contents. When she was little, she wanted to be, “a writer/singer, but I realized shortly after that I don't have such talents in either role...” Her favourite game is Snake, favourite book is Harry Porter, and favourite movie is Flipped. Myracle takes her coffee with lots of milk & sugar.

Suji Sathiyamurthy (she/her) is a Research student, pursuing a Master’s in Management Sciences, in the Faculty of Engineering. Her research involves creating an instrument to measure haptics experience. I asked her what she wanted to grow up to be when she was little: “For some reason I was brave enough to think I can handle being a gynecologist!” Her favourite game is Pokemon GO and favourite book is If Tomorrow comes by Sydney Sheldon. How does she take her coffee? “Depends on my mood. But all variations of coffee is bae!”

Ken Hirschkop (he/him) is a Professor of English Language and Literature, teaching mostly 20th century literature, narrative theory, and philosophy of language. His research involves the social and political philosophy of language. When he was young, he wanted to be an astronomer. Favourite game: “To play?  I hardly ever play them, but I’ve enjoyed chess, D-Day (Avalon Hill version), and the first ever video game, Space Wars (MIT, mid-1960s) To watch? baseball”. His favourite movie is The Thin Red Line. And his favourite book? “You can’t ask a literature professor for a favourite book”. Ken takes his coffee with cream/milk (no sugar)!

Arden Song (they/them) is pursuing a Bachelor's in Management Engineering, Department of Management Sciences. They are an Undergraduate research assistant on co-op. Their research is making games easier to play in small spaces using technology. Favourite game? “D&D if it counts as a game, then D&D. If not... uh... well... Wait! D&D is a game. D&D”. Favorite book? “Let's go with the books in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. All 41 of them. I mean, if you really twisted my arm, it's a tie between Hogfather and Monstrous Regiment. But I'm not picking between those two. That'd be like asking a parent to choose their favorite child.” Favorite movie? “Girltrash: All Night Long (please let there be someone in the GI who's heard of this movie)” Last but not least, how does Arden take their coffee? “I don't. TEAM TEA ALL THE WAY WOOOOOO”.

Warm congratulations to graduate researchers Marina Wada and AC Atienza on the successful completion of their programs this term!