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.
The goals of his research focused on the importance and potential of auto-generative green spaces in virtual reality. Green spaces refer to not only naturally occurring greenery (like terrain and forests) but also includes urban green areas (like open spaces reserved as parks, or protected areas). While his research targeted the mental-health impact that green spaces have on study participants, the structure of his study required help with programming in Unity, as well as input from experts on worldbuilding–especially in virtual spaces. Dr. Nacke, and other members of the HCI Game Group who are experts in gamification and evaluating user engagement helped as guides for completion and provided a foundation of knowledge for Unity.
Marcher’s focus at the GI quickly went from not only research, but also to community, relationships, and experiences. Though he came to the Institute as a new face, Marcher left a legacy within his research and involvement here at the GI.
As a GI member for a full year and in-between research duties, he became an avid traveller of Canada. He made the most of the year by hitting all the nearby cities and attractions: Toronto, Niagara, Québec, Vancouver, and New York City most notably, and was even joined by other international GI members like Simone Bassaneli. Other than his frequent outings around Canada and the development of the auto-generative green-space tool, he also encouraged the growth of the GI community by drawing people into the physical space through several interesting methods—not unlike his mentor, Dr. Stuart Hallifax (another notorious Dr. Nacke-conference-opportunity-turned-community-builder). If you are ever walking through the halls of the Institute and notice foam Halloween stickers in the shapes of ghosts, pumpkins, or vampires—that’s Florian. If you are rummaging around in the storage cabinets and find a plastic Easter egg—that’s also Florian!
With his focus on chatting with new international students or attending the Coffee and Games social, Marcher decided to not publish during his time at the GI. His reasoning for this was that he wanted to take more time to develop his results and findings into something more concrete and user-friendly. The minutia and specific functionalities of the auto-generative tool quickly became at the forefront of Marcher’s priorities. The project has changed from focusing on a mental health application angle to focusing more on the usability of this tool in a real-world application.
Now, back in Graz, Marcher is continuing his Master's thesis while still staying in touch with his mentors at the GI. Everyone who was lucky enough to be a part of the Institute community that Marcher created wishes him the best of luck with the finalization of his thesis and his continued career in game design and development.