Statement about our partners

Partnerships with industry, government, non-profit organizations, and other academic institutions are a vital part of how the Games Institute functions; so much so that we struggle to imagine our ecosystem without them. Our students are able to define and launch their careers thanks to experiences with partners. In return, we generate research that accelerates and expands what our partners can do, spilling out into the realm of commercial games and interactive technologies as others notice the power of the untraditional outcomes from these collaborations.

We had to break the standard mold for acknowledging and describing our partnerships in order to articulate how deeply entangled our partners are with our ecosystem, so what you see here is the product of many months of contemplation and information gathering.

How are partnerships integral to the Games Institute member experience

We lean on our partners to expand the typical academic pipeline, empowering our student members to imagine and work towards a career defined by nothing else except their own interests and potential. Except, it’s not just our students who see this benefit; postdoctoral fellows and faculty supervisors are able to take advantage of these transformational opportunities, too.

Here’s a high-level breakdown of how our members benefit:

  • These projects enable GI members and partners to produce real games, books, and white papers that can make a real and immediate impact in the world in a way that regular academic work typically doesn’t.
  • Research partnerships allow young scholars to go out into the world with working experience behind them, making them more hirable for both academic and industry jobs.
  • Partnerships connect members to additional resources that accelerate research
  • Partnerships shake up the way our members approach their own research plans, which often leads to long-lasting, improved perspectives and real-life applications.
  • The funding that often comes with these partnerships is vital in the support of our research programmes.

How are our collaborations mutually beneficial?

Behind the scenes, GI faculty and staff put a lot of thought into finding the right researcher for the project to ensure an alignment of timing and purpose. Critically, this selection isn’t based on the researcher’s disciplinary perspective or methodological approach. Rather, we focus on how the project will benefit from the ideas that are generated through the researcher’s specific lens, while also considering the benefit the researcher will gain from working on the project.

For example, Waterloo Global Science Initiative (WGSI) collaborated with GI member AC Atienza, a game poetics researcher, to develop the sustainable energy educational game, Energize. Despite the fact that Atienza’s academic background has little to do with the environment, they were the best researcher for the project. Game poetics, according to Atienza, considers a game holistically, meaning it strives to understand how mechanics and narrative work together to craft player experiences. They redesigned the game through this holistic research creation methodology, finding creative ways to teach players the lessons of WGSI’s sustainable energy research by provoking an emotional learning journey. Atienza leveraged the research-through-design findings from working on Energize to produce a novel game poetics framework, which they published as their Major Research Project upon the completion of their Master’s programme.

How do these collaborations change the landscape of games and interactive technologies research?

Already, numerous industries recognize that games have strong potential beyond ‘just being fun’. We know that games can also be vehicles for experiential education, engagement, knowledge sharing, and training, among others, regardless of the sensitivity of the topics at hand.

For example, the Violence Evidence Guidance Action (VEGA) project, led by McMaster University, is an online platform to assist healthcare and social service providers to recognize and respond safely to family violence, and Dr. Steve Wilcox from the Games Institute collaborated with them as the lead designer of a series of knowledge mobilization games. In Dr. Steve Wilcox’s words, “Through this collaboration we designed simulated interactions which allow healthcare providers to discover the signs of family violence for themselves and to explore various responses, the outcomes of which align with evidence and best practices. The result is a learner-centered, interactive approach to recognizing and responding safely to family violence".

How do collaborations benefit researchers in the short and long-term?

Experiences from partnerships accelerate and enhance a researcher’s career regardless of where they choose to go after they graduate. If they do want a career in industry, government, or non-profits, working with partners is an important addition to their resumés that often differentiates them from other candidates. In fact, we have had partners recruit researchers to work full-time at the company after graduation.

When they plan to remain in academia, working with partners is valuable to a student’s career as it expands their research options. Sometimes, the collaboration supports the researcher by introducing resources such as additional perspectives, data sets, and industry experts. After the partnership ends, publishing findings through academic channels about the work allows researchers to make unique contributions to their scholarly field, which they are able to leverage to find more research jobs and even tenure-track professor positions.

What are the benefits for our partners when they harness the Games Institute’s interdisciplinary thinking?

Interdisciplinary work, for us, means integrating perspectives from multiple academic fields. Whether the project involves one researcher who has an interdisciplinary background and ability to engage with multiple scholarly spheres, or the project is a collaboration involving multiple researchers across disciplines, all the work flowing from the Games Institute is inherently interdisciplinary. That is what our ecosystem fosters and how we thrive.

We offer the benefit of the equivalent of a having an interdisciplinary R&D department for specific projects when partners work with us. When potential projects are presented to us, we consider multiple directions for addressing the research question and then build a team accordingly. For example. Stitch Media, our most prolific partner, has run a variety of interdisciplinary projects with us. Over the years, they have worked with our research experts in game design, games user research, artificial intelligence, computer science, narrative, and virtual reality. The projects (Rival Books of Aster, Terrorarium, and Flow Weaver) required entirely different research approaches, but due to our emphasis on interdisciplinarity, we were able to work with Stitch Media each time and produce fantastic outcomes.