The Games Institute (GI) values innovation and outside-the-box thinking in both research and its dissemination. Partnerships with industry, government, non-profit organizations, and other academic institutions are a vital part of how the GI functions. Our researchers are able to enrich 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.
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 complex 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 produced by GI researchers is inherently interdisciplinary. This is how our research ecosystem functions and how we thrive. For example, Stitch Media, our most prolific industry 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.
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. We focus on how the project will benefit from the ideas that are generated through the researcher’s specific discipline, 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 and alum 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 used to complete their Master’s degree in English Language and Literature.
Knowledge Mobilization Consulting:
On occassion, the GI provides knowledge mobilization and knowledge translation support and mentorship services to various University of Waterloo units. Some of the examples include: a knowledge translation workshop for graduate students participating in Velocity’s Graduate Student Startup Fund; Velocity’s Hockeyhack competition; and the Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business students during the intensive educational event, StoryCamp; among others.
Elsewhere, following the international success of the GI Podcast, the podcast producers can also provide advice on launching podcasts focused on knowledge mobilization initiatives.
GI researchers also participate in knowledge translation through games and other interactive media. One such example is the Quantum Cats mobile game (available on Google Playstore) which presented the basic concepts of quantum mechanics to make very complex technical knowledge accessible to the general public through a fun and engaging game.
Collaborations with our partners lead to transformational experiences for our faculty and student membership, including:
Enabling GI members and partners to design games, books, white papers, online articles podcasts etc. that make a real and immediate impact;
Preparing young scholars for future careers through hands-on work experience and projects for their portfolios;
Connecting members and partners to additional resources and connections that accelerate their research;
Leveraging funding to support our research.