The Games Institute supports researchers, with a holistic view of how research works and how researchers make it happen. The Games Institute views the entire research process as a continuum with publishing as not the end goal, but as one of many steps along the path to great research. All stages of the research process are conducted by human beings doing their work in the context of their jobs, lives, collaborators, and the societies and cultures that their research impacts. Traditional outputs of university research such as conference talks, journal articles, and scholarly books, are valued as equal to the hard work of grant writing, knowledge mobilization, research implementation, collaboration, and team management. The Games Institute values innovation and outside-the-box thinking in both research and its dissemination.
Our members and researchers guide the Games Institute, and it’s the Institute’s goal to provide the best possible environment – physically, socially, and culturally, to support and share their work.
Partnerships with industry, government, non-profit organizations, and other academic institutions are a vital part of how the Games Institute functions. Our students are able to define and launch their careers thanks to experiences with partners in industry, academia, or our community. In return, we generate research that accelerates and expands what our partners can do.
Collaborations with our partners lead to transformational experiences for our student membership including:
- Enabling GI members and partners to produce games, books, white papers, online articles podcasts etc. that make a real and immediate impact
- Preparing young scholars to go out into the world with hands-on work experience and projects for their portfolios
- Connecting members to additional resources and connections that accelerate their research
- Obtaining funding that is vital in the support of our research programs.
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. This selection isn’t based on the researcher’s disciplinary perspective or methodological approach, instead, 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. 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 using research-creation methodologies, 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 program.
How do these collaborations change the landscape of games and interactive technologies?
A growing number of industries now recognize that games have strong potential beyond simple entertainment. Games and interactive immersive technologies like VR and AR are a medium that can be used for experiential education, engagement, knowledge mobilization, workplace training and more. Games and simulations can be used to make serious and sensitive topics more approachable.
For example, the Violence Evidence Guidance Action (VEGA) project, led by McMaster University, is an online platform to assist healthcare and social service providers in recognizing and responding safely to family violence. Dr. Steve Wilcox collaborated with VEGA as the lead designer of a series of knowledge mobilization games. In 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".
What are the benefits for our partners?
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 from different disciplines, all the work flowing from the Games Institute is inherently interdisciplinary. This is how our research ecosystem functions and how we thrive. 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 on the projects like Rival Books of Aster, Terrorarium, and Flow Weaver.