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It can be very daunting for international students to leave their home countries, communities, friends, and families –upending their lives to further their education. For Ana Lucia Diaz de Leon Derby, finding a community during her master’s degree was crucial to her mental health and well-being.

Schmidt’s report outlines how the GI curates an interdisciplinary environment by encouraging staff, students, and faculty to critically play together—and how that act of play creates a common language where research ideas begin to flow. Looking back, the findings of this report continue to ring true today and we hope to continue sponsoring research excellence with this unique method of interdisciplinary creation. 

From October 10th to October 13th, 2023, CHI PLAY took place at the Stratford School of Business and Interaction Design. In this retrospective, we sit down with GI faculty Drs. Cayley MacArthur, Jen Whitson and Leah Zhang-Kennedy who recount their experiences at CHI PLAY, including what makes it so unique, what they took away from the 2023 conference, and what advice they would give to those looking to attend in the future.

Dr. Hector Perez worked with many Indigenous communities during his time as a postdoctoral fellow including the Peguis First Nation in Manitoba who often asked him, “When are you coming back?” One of the most valuable lessons Perez learned was that Indigenous communities would expect visitors, including researchers, to return to the community to share their research insights and participate in social gatherings. As Perez moves on to new opportunities, there are five lessons he wants to impart on our community.

Dr. Cayley MacArthur is a long-standing name in the Games Institute (GI) ever since the GI opened its physical doors to researchers and students. She’s spent time here working on her undergraduate and Master’s theses, her Doctoral research, and has officially joined the GI as a faculty member. As Assistant Professor, Dr. MacArthur teaches out of UWaterloo’s Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business. But how did she get here? Well, luckily, Dr. MacArthur took the time to answer questions we had for her about her time at the GI and her hopes of continuing on with her research.

Florian Marcher’s first contact with the GI was—like with many international students—with Dr. Lennart Nacke at a CHI conference. Then, through the suggestion of his master’s supervisor in Graz, Austria, Marcher applied as an International Visiting Graduate Student (IVGS) to Dr. Nacke not only for his guidance, but also for Dr. Nacke’s expertise in the field of Human Computer Interactions (HCI). After he was accepted, Marcher made the trip over to Waterloo, Ontario to make progress on his Master’s thesis “Procedural Generational Tools for Green Spaces” with a focus on their usability and feasibility.

From May 15 – 19, 2023, the Games Institute (GI) hosted the second International Conference on Games and Narrative (ICGaN). It focused on the theme Isolation and Return: The Making of Narrative Worlds. Speakers from 40 universities joined from around the world explained how, societally, we have all been forced to consider and rethink personal and communal lives necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The final turnout of the 2023 conference resulted in 17 sessions, 47 unique presentations, 5 keynotes, 3 workshops, 4 academic game streams, and a game jam.

Dr. Cayley MacArthur (Stratford) delivered the keynote address at the inaugural Jeux & Accessibilité / Game Accessibility conference took place on August 17 – 18, 2023 in Montreal, Québec. Her address - “Can Making Games Inclusively Help to Make More Inclusive Games?” responded to the conference themes of video game accessibility.

On August 9, 2023, Dr. Ifi Mavridou and Dr. John E. Muñoz (J&F Alliance, Adjunct) spoke at a panel on the use of physiological monitoring, biofeedback equipment, and tools for VR applications and research. Both researchers are experts in this field, with Mavridou talking about the creation and design of hardware and Muñoz about design and the use of software, they presented their experiences on what these tools can offer for research in games and more. The applications that both Mavridou and Muñoz work with are cutting edge and provide researchers with a toolkit on how they can design and approach their studies. This approach personalizes and tailors the study design not only to make it easier for researchers but also for study participants to jointly design and study immersive experiences.