Welcome back to a new year at the Games Institute! Fall 2020 marked the third consecutive term of living amid COVID-19 restrictions so, as you read this issue of Instant Replay, I encourage you to remember that progressing any work at all during a global pandemic is a feat. Though much of our staff’s attention was dedicated to preparing the 5-year Senate Renewal Document, we were still noticing (with awe) all the work that was continuing. Inspired by what we were seeing, we launched a Research Spotlights series to showcase the creative solutions you developed and refined. A trend in this issue is that many members were taking advantage of the opportunities afforded by online tools and using them to emphasize connections with non-local audiences and partners. Read about guest lectures with speakers in other time zones, research that was presented for distant universities and conferences, and the collaborations that took place exclusively online.
The events of 2020 – the Black Lives Matter protests, Uyghur genocide in China, and protests in Poland and Belarus – brought to the fore the urgency of addressing Anti-Racism, Decolonization, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (ADEDI) in our research culture. In September, the GI had its official launch of the ADEDI Working Group, which you can read more about in a dedicated section below. Additionally, the GI partnered with the Council for Research Innovation and Technology (CRIT) and the Research Equity Diversity and Inclusion (REDI) Council to develop events that will advance Racial Equity knowledge mobilization work. In the events section, read about the Racial Equity Board Games Panel, with some very special speakers.
Wrapping up another Fall semester felt undeniably different due to COVID-19. Typically, Decembers at the Games Institute are one of the best months, with members bringing in freshly baked goods every day and unwinding with Super Smash Bros in the Collaboration Space. Though baked goods and Nintendo Switch couldn’t happen, our replacements – a Discord party, Among Us, and gift bags prepared by Jenn – were just as good if not better since we could include our international members.
I hope to see some of you around this term, donning your new GI masks. We’ll wave from a respectful distance, of course!
All the best,
Table of Contents
- Marking Milestones and Achievements
- Research Dissemination for external publics
- Events at the GI
- Partnership News
- Games Institute Podcast
- Recapping Community News
- Research Spotlights
- Return to Campus
- Reintroducing new GI Members
Executive Director Dr. Neil Randall was awarded a grant from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation to launch The Storyboard Lab, which will provide the infrastucture necessary to advance research on designing narratives using large interactive displays. Housed at the Games Institute at the University of Waterloo, the interdisciplinary research from this lab will explore and determine best practices for developing innovative narratives, simulations, and wayfaring applications using large interactive displays. Additionally, this lab will support the production of research about user behaviour and the design of user interfaces for this technology.
Tina Chan, Games Institute member and Master of Sciences alum from the School of Public Health and Health Systems, received the Young Alumni Award 2020 from Applied Health Sciences. The award recognizes an exceptional recent AHS graduate based on their achievements both from their time during the program and afterwards. Click here to read the full article on the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences' website.
First Person Scholar officially announced the instalment of a new Editor in Chief, Sabrina Sgandurra, and Co-managing Editors, Patrick Dolan, and Lillian A. Black. In the article "It's Dangerous to Go Alone: A Tale of Three Editors" First Person Scholar announces what readers can expect from this transition and shares messages Sabrina, Patrick, and Lillian about their plans for steering the middle-state publication into exciting directions and carrying on with the great legacy established by their predecessors.
Two Games Institute teams were selected to be finalists for the CHI Play 2020 Student Game Design Competition. Competing among 8 other teams, Tina Chan and Adam Leung presented Illuminate (image 1), and Joseph Tu and Ekaterina Durmanova presented Curioscape (image 2).
Fall 2020, the ADEDI Working Group met to appoint a chair and start working on the Terms of References that will inform many aspects of the groups’ approach and direction moving forward. Announcements will be shared with the GI community via the Chair later on this term. In the meantime, please read the statement below that outlines the original intentions for forming the ADEDI Working Group.
“In order to ensure the continued awareness and expansion of understanding of issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion, the Games Institute formed the Anti-Racism, Decolonization, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Working Group in 2020. The mandate of the Working Group is to establish policies, practices, and education for Games Institute members, associates, partners, and colleagues. The Working Group is composed of faculty and student members of the Games Institute and is supported by Games Institute Executive and Associate Directors and Games Institute Administration. Its goal is to create, strengthen and implement policies, procedures and culture aimed at ensuring Games Institute’s activities, member composition, administrative and research processes withstand scrutiny in the areas of representation, equity, inclusion, and diversity. It is the ambition of the Working Group that, in time, it will be able to advise project teams on how to make their work reflect these principles, assist faculty supervisors with engaging mentors and co-supervisors for their students to ensure as diverse training as possible, and develop a plan for systematic and ongoing assessment of Games Institute’s progress in this realm.” – from the GI Senate Renewal
- Jennifer Roberts-Smith, Co-Director of the qCollaborative Lab, presented "Performative Relationality in Design Research" for the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Read about it at this link
- Alex Fleck, English graduate researcher, presented "Communities in Care in Platform Construction: Understanding Video Game Preservation in 2020" for the Digital Scholar Lecture Series hosted by McMaster University, the University of Guelph and the University of Waterloo
- Lillian A. Black, English graduate researcher, presented "It's Queerly Identifiable: Transgender Narrative Reclamation in Overwatch”, also for the Digital Scholar Lecture Series
- Dr. Lennart Nacke, Director of the HCI Games Group, gave a keynote speech, "The Loot Box of Gameful User Experience", for the virtual Mensch und Computer 2020 conference, Germany's largest HCI conference with 785 participants globally. Watch a recording of the talk on YouTube
Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher and Brad Mehlenbacher talk "Trusting public figures during COVID-19" in Waterloo Stories
Waterloo Stories published a Q and A with GI members Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher and Brad Mehlenbacher, professors of rhetorical studies, about trusting public figures during COVID-19. Drs. Mehlenbacher and Mehlenbacher shared insights into how leaders can more effectively communicate complex scientific and technical information and help people trust them and the information they are providing. Check out the article at this link.
CHI Play 2020 is an international Human-Computer Interaction and games conference hosted by SIGCHI. Click the links below to check out the Games Institute member research presented at the conference:
- Katja Rogers presented "The Potential Disconnect between Time Perception and Immersion: Effects of Music on VR Player Experience," co-authored by Maximilian Milo, Michael Weber, and Lennart E. Nacke
- Maximilian Altmeyer presented "HexArcade: Predicting Hexad User Types By Using Gameful Applications," co-authored by Gustavo F. Tondello, Antonio Krüger, and Lennart E. Nacke
- Giovanni Ribeiro presented "Game Atmosphere: Effects of Audiovisual Thematic Cohesion on Player Experience and Psychophysiology," co-authored by Katja Rogers, Maximilian Altmeyer, Thomas Terkildsen, and Lennart E. Nacke
- Adam Leung and Tina Chan presented the game Illuminate. Watch the YouTube video, "Illuminate: A Simulation game to instill grounded hope in youth for climate action"
- Joseph Tu and Ekaterina Durmanova presented the game Curioscape. Watch the Youtube video, "Curioscape: A Curiosity-driven Escape Room Board Game"
In her latest article published on Loading..., Lindsay Meaning analyzes the adaptation of the novel Kim (1901), by Rudyard Kipling, into a video game by the same name, Kim (2016). The article "Adaptations of Empire: Kipling’s Kim, Novel and Game" focuses on the ways the video game deals with the underlying imperial and colonial ideologies of the book.
Gustavo Tondello and Lennart Nacke published research showing that personalized gameful systems lead to higher task performance in Frontiers in Computer Science
The article, “Validation of User Preferences and Effects of Personalized Gamification on Task Performance”, discusses the results from two studies with 252 participants. Players performed better and found a game more enjoyable when they could customize their experience by selecting game elements, compared to participants who had no opportunity to customize. Click here to learn more about other gameful systems research coming out of the HCI Games Group.
Daniel Harley co-authors "Sound Beginnings: Learning, Communicating, and Making Sense with Sound" in Music Educators Journal
Dr. Daniel Harley, GI faculty member and Assistant Professor at the Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business, co-authored an article entitled, "Sound Beginnings: Learning, Communicating, and Making Sense with Sound" with Drs. Kurt Thumlert and Jason Nolan. Published in the SAGE Music Educators Journal, the article presents five recommendations for music pedagogy and sound-based inquiry that support a more inclusive understanding of music.
Dr. William Odom, Assistant Professor in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology at Simon Fraser University, joined us to discuss the methodology of research through design. He is the co-director of the Everyday Design Studio, specializing in the areas of research through design, interaction design, and tangible computing. He presented findings from projects that explored the changing nature of interaction design in response to the increasing role technology plays in mediating everyday practices like reminiscence, self exploration, social connection, and the making of home life. Watch the talk on YouTube.
Drs. Kishonna Gray, Lai-Tze Fan, and Aynur Kadir discussed how board games can inspire conversations that confront racism and educate players about what needs to be done to address systems of white supremacy. Watch the panel at this link. The Games Institute partnered with the Research, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (REDI) Council and the Council for Responsible Innovation and Technology (CRIT) to host this panel as part of the larger event, UW’s first ever Racial Equity Board Game Showcase, which will take place Winter 2021 under the guidance of University of Waterloo’s Office of Research and with consultation from the Equity Office.
Allen Bevans, User Experience (UX) Research Manager for Stadia at Google, presented "Building User Experiences for a cloud-native gaming platform" for Dr. Lennart Nacke's Design and User Experience of Interactive Games class, DAC 305. Allen Bevans provided insights gained from his experience working as a games user researcher and UX researcher first at Electronic Arts, then Google play, to his current position with Google Stadia, the cloud gaming platform.
Allen’s lecture was made possible with the help of Xinyi (Annie) Zou through the Global Spark initiative. Learn more about games user research at the Games Institute from the HCI Games Group, here.
Fempower.tech publish "A call for respect, inclusion, fairness, and transparency in SIGCHI" in ACM's Interactions magazine
Fempower.tech are a group of intersectional feminists who aim to raise awareness of feminist issues in HCI and technology, generally. In their article, "A call for respect, inclusion, fairness, and transparency in SIGCHI", Fempower.tech advocates for structural change in SIGCHI that recognizes the interlocking nature of marginalizations.
Dr. Lennart Nacke is the Principle Investigator for three Mitacs partnership grants, awarded October 2020, to advance research for new industry partners, AlphaLabs, MLD Solutions, and Wiggles 3D. Over the course of the next 8-months to one year, Nacke and graduate and postdoctoral researchers from the HCI Games Group, the Games Institute, and the Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business will generate research-based solutions and outcomes to address each partners’ needs.
- AlphaLabs: Improving User Experience and Accessibility of Online Medical Test Data via Gameful Design
- MLD Solutions: Studying Gameful Design for Bite-Sized Information
- Wiggles 3D: The Impact of Cultural and Economic Factors on Play and Purchase Decisions for Tabletop Games
Updates from the CanHaptics Network
The CanHaptics network brings together Hapticians across Canada to create a research hub. When the pandemic began, Dr. Oliver Schneider and other members of the CanHaptics Network were faced with the question: how do we study, let alone teach haptics which is completely dependent on touch interface and sensation, remotely without touch?
CanHaptic Network Members decided to co-create and co-teach a haptics course for students studying haptics at the partnering universities. After months of planning, Oliver along with his colleagues Dr. Vincent Levesque (ETS), Dr. Karon MacLean (UBC), Dr. Jeremy Copperstock (McGill), Dr. Pourang Irani (UofM) are jointly teaching this virtual haptics course – the first of its kind – to their graduate students for the W21 term.
The Games Institute Podcast shift from recording in person to recording via Microsoft Teams to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions. This change enabled us to create video recordings which we began publishing to YouTube in the Fall term, thereby improving the podcast’s overall accessibility.
- Episode 026: COVID Update
- Episode 027: Apocalyptic Video Game Narratives with Pamela Maria Schmidt
- Episode 028: Competitive Cultures and World of Warcraft with Jenn Rickert
Preparing the 5-Year GI Senate Renewal
Grace Van Dam, Operations Coordinator in Fall 2020 (and a GI lifer) worked very hard to prepare critical pieces of the GI Senate Renewal Document. She had this to say in thanks for your help: “None of this would have been possible without all of you. The 60+ statements and lists of supported work we received all went towards creating a final document we are proud of. As a GI lifer, I look forward to the next 5 years and trust that the GI will continue to be a place where people can enjoy research, work, and play.” – Grace Van Dam
Discord highlights from Fall 2020
We had not one but two great GI-driven social gatherings for Halloween & the winter break
- For Halloween, we came in costume and had scary trivia
- For the Holidays, we collaborated on this story: https://docs.google.com/document/u/1/d/1mas5Y-6QV2Lh1KGUaZSgdf5_kEDQ5glLqH0ucCk6_eU/edit
- And, during the party, many of us learned how to play Among Us for the first time
We kept up with weekly virtual coffee & chill sessions, which remained a much needed place to reconnect with peers, find solace in social structure & solidarity. Additionally, we hosted community-driven events and activities including virtual parties, writing circles, and streaming sessions. Look forward to more of these this term!
Quick Stats from our Slack ghost
The Games Institute Slack is both (relatively) new, with the first two test messages being sent on February 17th. And yet, it's somewhere that many of us feel like has been here all along.
Let’s take a look at some numbers:
- Our Slack supported 164 members closing out the year
- The most messages sent in a single day was 3425, on November 25
- In total, 218,671 messages were sent!
- Our busiest channel, #random, had 1,678 messages sent. In a close second is #social-forest-focus with 1,042 messages, where folks do group pomodoro focus sessions
- Shoutout to Joseph Tu, our most active Slack member, who sent out 20,093 messages
- And, most excitingly, we have 997 custom emojis (and counting!) that we use to express our true selves
Energize is an educational tool for understanding how to plan and implement sustainable energy solutions. It represents the potential that games have for teaching people complex ideas, like environmental realities, by demonstrating the obstacles, considerations, and possibilities involved. AC Atienza, English graduate student, collaborated with the Waterloo Global Science Initiative (WGSI) via a Mitacs partnership and co-op term to turn their prototype and concept of Energize into a fully-realized game. In part 2, the conclusion of "Behind the redesign of Energize, the sustainable energy game", we take a deep dive into AC's holistic game design approach and learn how Energize evolved through iterative playtesting.
In our “Research during COVID-19” series, we explore how members of the GI community are navigating their daily lives and innovating to adapt their research and collaboration techniques. This instalment looks at how The Human-Computer Interaction labs at the Games Institute, and at the University of Waterloo, have developed virtual collaboration strategies during the CHI season, a height of the research year.
Dr. Judy Ehrentraut's PhD dissertation is an exploration of posthumanisms through digital artifacts, arguing for a theoretical frame called "inclusive posthumanism" that accounts for the ways individuals intersect with technology. She successfully defended her dissertation on November 29th, 2019, completing her requirements and obtaining her PhD in English Language and Literature. In this spotlight article, we look at how Dr. Ehrentraut's dissertation deconstructs perspectives of subjectivities, transhumanism, and techno anxiety to explore alternative structures that make fewer assumptions about life enhancement or prescribed subjectivity.
John Muñoz is a Postdoctoral fellow with the Intelligent Technologies for Wellness and Independent Living (ITWIL) Lab. His research involves developing virtual reality (VR) exercise games (Exergames) for people living with dementia. Their design approach is user-centred, which means that John and the research team work directly with end-users and stakeholders to incorporate feedback and improve the VR experience. Thus, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, John faced many challenges to advancing this work, so he and his team had to adapt.
Return to research has been a complicated and everchanging process that Pamela Maria Schmidt, our Research Projects Facilitator has spearheaded since mid-July. According to Pam, the process is messy and consistently changes, especially since lockdown and red zones influence what we can do.
“I read over 200 pages of documentation and created a safety plan for the GI general as well as for each individual lab,” says Pam. “I’m focusing on liaising with Office of Research and other campus entities on changing procedures, how to best accommodate research and student needs in an environment that seems safe”.
By the beginning of September, we had reconfigured the layout of the space and equipped it with plex-glass shields, floor markers, and safety and sanitation equipment. “I didn’t have a measuring tape for 2m so I took some scotch tape and a 30cm ruler, counted out 2m, and was running around the GI with this piece of tape to ensure social distancing guidelines are adhered to”.
Thank you, everyone, for your patience as we continue to work things out and focus on doing our part to bring the numbers down in our communities!
Alê Luz (she/her)
Alê is pursuing a PhD in Computer Science: “My research focus is to bring a fun experience to diagnosis and treatment of illnesses in children. I also have a special interest in accessibility and good design that is inclusive and accessibility.”
Alice Peng (she/her)
Alice is a third year Game Design student currently studying at Sheridan college. “I am currently not working on any research as I am an undergrad/assistant, but my personal focuses and interests are in educational gamification and UI/UX. I am currently working on the GI x WIN project as a designer to translate the technical information of a COVID vaccine into a game.”
Arielle Grinberg (she/her)
Arielle is pursuing a Management Sciences PhD. Her research involves “Online collaborative spaces for heterogeneous groups (I think!)” She first joined the GI in the summer of 2019 working as a research assistant, but now she’s “playing with the top dogs as a PhD candidate! So excited to be onboarded full-time and be working with Mark on my own projects.”
Dr. Beth Caravella (she/her)
Beth is an Assistant Professor of Visual Studies, Writing Department @ York University (earned PhD in Writing & Rhetoric at George Mason University): “My research focuses on digital rhetorics, and specifically visual rhetorics. Currently I am interested in how video games use visual cuing to develop habits in players, both inside and outside of the game itself. My research also includes aspects of digital storytelling, especially interactive narratives, data visualization, and utilizing gameful design as a means of enhancing gamification practices.”
Dakota Pinheiro (he/his/him)
Dakota is a 2nd Year PhD with Department of English Language and Literature. “My research focuses on American literature, my current project being an investigation of post-2016 American literature and discourse (especially since the Covid pandemic) using the frameworks offered by protest literature from the 1930s. This project will primarily examine the demands that subjects living under American neoliberalism are subjected to, and the ways that systemic shocks and catastrophes unsettle/reinforce the stability of the subject/state relationship.”
Ekaterina (Kat) Durmanova (she/her)
Kat also goes by Ekat or Ekaterina. She is a “brand-new” Master's student working towards a degree in Systems Design Engineering under Lennart Nacke in the Faculty of Engineering and as part of the HCI Games Group. “At the moment my research focus is still fairly broad! I am really interested in how games can improve physical and mental health, building healthy habits using gamification, and accessibility.”
Dr. Katja Rogers (she/her)
Katja will also respond to “Kat” or “Kate” or most variations thereof. She is joining as a postdoctoral researcher with Lennart, though plans have been delayed due to COVID-19 but she hopes to move to Canada soon! “My key interests are game audio and embodied interaction in VR. I am currently exploring these interests through research projects on effects of audio feedback on players, asymmetric VR contexts, and different types of realism in games. In the future I am planning to study how all of these aspects (embodied interaction, audio, realism, …) in VR experiences can help with stress recovery from climate change anxiety.”
Dr. Leah Zhang-Kennedy (she/her)
Leah is an Assistant Professor in Interaction Design and User Experience Research at the Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business, University of Waterloo. “My research focuses on human-oriented security and privacy. Previously, I investigated cybersecurity education and literacy for adults and children through multimedia tools. My current interests are in the user experience aspects of security and privacy.”
Mel Edens Chen
Mel Edens is pursuing a Master of Systems Design Engineering. Mel “just started so I am not sure of the details” but identifies these research interests: Gamification of Finance, Gamification of Crypto, and Gamification of learning engineering skills.
Triskal DeHaven (he/him/his)
Triskal is pursuing a Systems Design Engineering PhD, under the supervision of Dr. Lennart Nacke. “My area of research focus is currently concerned with virtual reality, accessibility, and Games User Research. I completed my masters in Human Centered Interactive Technologies, where my master's thesis delves into the accessibility of virtual reality controls and applications, which is a highly unexplored area at the moment. I have since gotten involved with various organizations to enhance my knowledge on my research areas, including but not limited to; CHI PLAY, GamesUR NA Summit, and AbleGamers.”
Welcome to Instant Replay: Spring 2020
This is your highlight reel of summaries and anecdotes from the Games Institute's virtual Spring 2020 term!
- Highlights from our research news
- Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity practices
- First ever virtual GI Jam
- Adapting the facility and operations
- New and improved GI website
- Our Discord server
- Graduating members shout-out
Brought to you by Your Instant Replay team: Marisa, Pam, Grace, Jenn, Agata and Cayley
GI Members Sharing News and COVID-19 Research Expertise
Many of you responded to calls from the media and Waterloo partners, asking for expertise about navigating life during the pandemic. Here is a non-exhaustive list of stories that were shared throughout the wider community, featuring our members:
- Tanay Singhal and Mahika Phutane publish a Touchless Elevator Concept to help contain the spread of COVID-19
- Dr. Shana MacDonald talks social media and our quarantine life
- 6 GI Members speak on panel "The Post-COVID-19 Reboot: Our virtual future" hosted by GEDI
- Dr. Kristina Llewellyn in Waterloo Stories discussing equity in education during COVID-19
- Dr. Jim Wallace in Waterloo News discussing Social Media, public health and COVID-19
First Person Scholar Indigenous Games Special Issue
Guest edited by Michelle Lee Brown, the First Person Scholar Indigenous Games Special Issue showcases Indigenous game designers, developers and scholars, as they share their stories and insight on the relationships between game design, Indigenous survivance, Indigenous futurisms.
- (Re)coding Survivance: Sovereign Video Games Special Issue
- (Re)Coding Survivance and the Regenerative Narrative
- The Burden on Our Back: Conveying Nahua Survivance Through Games
- Kakwitene Vr: Virtual Reality Endangered Language Revival and Retention with Onkwehonwehneha A.I. (Ancient Intelligence)
Hosting Research Events, Virtually!
When CHI 2020 was cancelled, volunteers led by a graduate student, Robert Gauthier, from the UW Human-Computer Interaction (UWHCI) Lab joined together to organize WatCHI 2020, a mini-event hosted virtually to provide a platform for sharing their research. Click this link to watch the presentations from WatCHI2020, then read the articles below for deeper dives into three of the research papers:
- Food literacy game app study receives Honourable Mention Award from CHI 2020
- Haptic User Experience study receives Honourable Mention Award from CHI 2020; Research Spotlight: Defining Haptic User Experience by Erin Kim and Dr. Oliver Schneider
- Spotlight on player perceptions of personal space on Large, Multi-touch Displays
Later in May, we hosted our first ever virtual Brown Bag Talk: Dr. Shana MacDonald talks Publishing in the Humanities, which we turned into a downloadable toolkit.
Then, at the end of June, GI volunteer organizers led by graduate student, Marvin Pafla, hosted the GI Jam completely virtually for the first time ever. A story about the event was featured by the University of Waterloo on their homepage.
Collaborations With Partners
Partnerships with industry, non-profit organizations, academic collaborators, and governmental agencies are a central part of the Games Institute ecosystem, allowing us to expand our networks and advance research. During Spring 2020, we published a new (and improved) webpage that showcases our research partnerships. We also featured the following spotlight articles that tell stories about fantastic research crossovers:
- Resources assist healthcare and social service providers to help those who experience family violence
- Behind the redesign of Energize, the sustainable energy game
- “Games as learning sandbox” Approach: The story behind the Ideas Clinic and Games Institute crossover
A Note From the Researcher Communications Officer
“I’ve seen how many of you have shifted your research focus in order to adapt to the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. These new circumstances changed the way we work by not only dramatically altering our time and access to resources, but also impacting our well-being. Nevertheless, when Media Relations called on us, seeking experts to share research with news outlets, multiple members volunteered their time and energy. Then, when the Office of Research got in touch, asking us for a list of COVID-related research, you volunteered your time and energy yet again. I think about all the wonderful research happening in our institute and I can’t help but feel hopeful and proud to be a part of this ecosystem. Your efforts and willingness to share your research with the world are so valuable to people. Thank you.”
At the GI, we want to champion EDI initiatives as we advance toward our goal of becoming a global hub of game and interactive technologies research. We are committed to supporting and uplifting marginalized voices and commit to making EDI the foundation of our culture.
- The Games Institute announced the formation of the GI working group on anti-racism, decolonization, equity, diversity, and inclusion, bringing together interdisciplinary perspectives to help us make our culture and community more equitable for BIPOC communities. We are committed to continuous growth, education, and action
- First Person Scholar published an Indigenous Games Special Issue
- The Feminist Think Tank joined the Games Institute Slack, implementing weekly meetings surrounding a variety of EDI topics
- Members participated in a shutdown STEM event, pausing their regular work to make space for conversations about Black Lives Matter
The first ever fully virtual GI Game Jam was held on Discord last June. Weeks of prep went into setting up a series of automated systems in order to make the jam as seamless as possible. With a choose-your-own adventure style setup, we were able to bring a large group of people into the Jam that might not have otherwise been able to participate. Connecting time zones and participants from all around the world in one unified place, here are the highlights:
- 54 new roles and 57 new channels were created in the server
- 25 teams participated
- People joined from across the world, from USA to Korea
- Age of participants ranged from 6 years old to 50
- Our server hosted the opening ceremony, team collaborations, workshops, and showcase
Read more about the event in the feature from the University of Waterloo homepage, “Connecting through games”. Stay tuned for future events – our Discord team is already looking into how these frameworks can translate to larger scale events in the future.
In a totally virtual environment, many of us have come to miss the GI in all its capacities including quick Timmie's runs, quick rounds of Captain's Gambit or Overcooked , and just real human contact (who would have thought?).
While you've all been working hard to adapt your home environments to accommodate school and work lives, we've been trying to support your amazing research, create a "virtual GI", and simultaneously prepare the space for our inevitable (staggered, but triumphant!) return.
Most of this includes liaising with Safety Office, Office of Research, and our other EC1 building-mates to figure out what our requirements are and what overarching University policies ask that we do to make our community as safe and clean as possible. Physically, this has meant lots of construction at the GI to move common areas around, get signs in place, and install wipe dispensers, plexiglass, and other distancing barriers.
GI staff have been working hard to figure out how to modify the GI space and are mostly…figuring out things as they go along. As Pamela Maria Schmidt might tell you, it's kind of like juggling and you keep getting thrown more balls. Except the balls are on fire. Thanks everyone for your patience!
Our staff worked all term to ensure our website reflects the exciting research and activities happening at the GI so that it can amplify our culture, community, and diversity with the world. We invite you to check out the new Games Institute website – we made so many changes, you’ll hardly recognize it!
For the first time ever, our website features a virtual tour of the GI so that we can offer an experience of our facility that visitors would normally have to enter the space to get. Though it’s designed for incoming members and campus visitors, our members can also check it our for a little nostalgia and to learn something new about the GI. We spotlight the people, research, and history of the GI to share the welcoming and exciting atmosphere of the space that can be enjoyed wherever you happen to be.
Explore our Level Up section where you can find information on our projects, productions, our people and our partners. If you miss walking through our hallway of posters, check out the Projects page under Level Up and discover research projects over the years. Under Productions, you will find many interesting collaborations we consider to be at the heart of the GI. We also revamped our Partners page with new explanations about what it means to be a GI partner, how integral partners are to our research, and a list of projects over the years that were possible thanks to these partnerships.
From Tutorial to Max Level
COVID-19 launched us into our utilizing our Discord server in entirely new and more intensive ways than we had originally planned. Not only did it accelerate our original plan to use Discord as a virtual meeting space for members and the community, we reimagined the server as a virtual translation of part of the Games Institute culture. The Games Institute Discord works alongside Slack to be a place for GI news, socials, and office hours, as well as a space to share strategies for adjusting to our new reality.
Behind the scenes: the above photo is a screenshot of our Discord!
We continue to work alongside our members to enhance the Discord experience, bringing new features and customizing existing ones in order to give the best server for all. Got ideas? Reach out and help us develop it more!
Save Point Socializing
We held a number of social events this term through the Discord server! Newly dubbed “Save Point Socials,” these events served as an extension of the former in-person “Coffee and Toasts.” We had two different varieties: Wellness Wednesdays & Coffee’n’Chill. Alternating throughout most of the summer, we stretched out our bodies (during yoga) and our minds (during scribbl.io) in efforts to stay connected and adaptable throughout these isolated times. Our hope is to carry some form of these into the Fall term. We were able to connect and meet new people, facilitating sharing of ideas, technologies, and conversations across disciplinary lines.
Members also enjoyed a number of virtual pub crawls on Discord over the weekend. All while staying in our bedrooms, kitchens, or living rooms, we were entertained by JackBox games and great conversation. We blared music with the LucioBot and laughed together through competitive games of pitching the best ridiculous product and robot rap battles. We look forward to more of these times, too.
Many Games Institute members graduated from their academic programs at UW this term, and considering everything going on in Spring 2020, we believe this calls for some extra celebration! Our new alumni are:
Andrew graduated with a MASc in Systems Design Engineering with a primary focus in digital media design. Andrew joined the HCI Games Group in order to also pursue his passions in game design, development and Games User Research.
Caroline graduated with a MASc in Management Sciences, and spent the last 3 years working as a part of the UW HCI TouchLab. In her master's thesis, she compared people's experiences with information visualizations using mouse, touch, and physical interaction techniques. During her time at the GI, Caroline was also involved in research projects on investigating tabletop interfaces, public large interactive displays, use of creativity in games, and gender inclusivity in makerspace environments
Kenny graduated with a Masters in Computer Science, where he completed research with the HCI Games Group on dynamic difficulty in games and improved his skills as a software developer
Marvin graduated with a Masters in Systems Design Engineering and completed a thesis which explored explainable AI and Human-AI collaboration. Over the course of his degree, he worked with Axonify through a Mitacs partnership, helping advance their research in explainable AI.
Pamela Maria Schmidt
Pamela graduated with an MA in English, Experimental Digital Media from UW where she explored the function of hope in apocalyptic video games, which intersected climate related catastrophes and technological paranoia.
Congratulations to all Spring 2020 graduates and graduates from Winter 2020 who also missed an in-person convocation. We are excited to see what you do next and will cheer you on in person as soon as that’s possible!
The Winter 2020 term was both a rewarding and tumultuous term for our community. March marked the start of the global pandemic becoming a reality here in Canada; anxiety and anticipation from abroad finally becoming a reality. At the time whispers and rumours of how long lockdown would last were circulating and no one could anticipate how long the "temporary" lockdown would last--especially when stay-at-home orders were extended for the remainder of the term.
Despite this, our members showed both creativity and resiliency; with many helping each other pre-lockdown by sharing equipment, tips and tricks, and keeping the place lively in its final day. In particular, many international students or students who do not have family in Southern Ontario joined each other online to found support in community. Jenn Rickert's Discord Wizard and Community Curation role finally blossomed into fruition with the beta-launch of the GI's Discord being pushed to all our members.
Many University partners and colleagues began reaching out to our members for expertise on how to navigate these new virtual spaces successfully during a time of heightened anxiety and digital learning curves and drew from the knowledge of all faculties on campus. Although April may have seemed like a write-off for many, we believe it proved the hard work of our community to not only navigate this uncharted territory, but also to show compassion for our fellow human being by supporting and uplifting one another.
For GI staff, the shift to online meant rapidly adapting all our membership services to a digital landscape or provide hybrid options such as the continued rental usage of our equipment. However, while working towards adjusting to work-at-home and the services we provide, the GI and its staff heavily pushed our online communications and community building efforts to support each other and help build resiliency in these difficult times. This meant looking into virtual office hours and “watercooler” opportunities, adjusting to meetings on TEAMS, and creating contingency plans should lockdown continue in Spring 2020 term.
Launch of the Games and Narrative Reading Group
The interdisciplinary Games and Narrative reading group is a newly launched initiative, imagined by Dr. Ken Hirschkop, Professor of English Language and Literature. With Dr. Hirschkop's guidance, graduate students who join the reading group will explore how the fields of Narrative Theory and Game Studies intersect and inform one another.
They will be engaging with a survey of readings, spanning foundational texts to contemporary research and games. In the future, the GNRG will also be looking into launching a conference to invite scholars from all over the world to join them in exploring how narrative intersects with topics like game timelines, AAA games, and player agency.
Adjusting Research and the Launch of the CanHaptics Network
The closure of lab spaces meant that researchers had to discover new and innovative ways to conduct research; especially for researchers who deal with touch-interfaces, such as Dr. Oliver Schneider who studies Haptic Technology. Although still in its early stages, the network committed to uniting Hapticians across Canada and creating a research hub similar to the IMMERSe network. Although in it’s early state at the beginning of the term, working towards website creation and networking, the arrival of the pandemic prompted Dr. Schneider and his colleagues to consider how they research and test haptics while working remotely. In other words, how do you study touch and sensations virtually?
- Haptics Computing lab launches new website
- Prof Aynur Kadir presents "Collaborative Indigenous Media: Participatory design for Indigenous Art and Cultural Heritage"
- Toben Racicot leads "Creativity in the Classroom" Workshop for the Centre for Teaching Excellence
- Marvin Pafla and Samira Mehrabi present at GRADflix videos about AI and VR research goals
- Tina Chan and Jim Wallace present at the Hallman Lecture Series, which featured Jane Philptt, former Heath Minister of Canada
- Multisensory Brain and Cognition Lab welcomes applications for Postdoctoral Fellowship
- John Munoz demonstrates VR at THEMUSEUM's family day Hackjam
- Prof Lennart Nacke co-authors the Player Experience Inventory in the International Journal for Human-Computer Interaction
Research Spotlights Blog
Lockdown at the University of Waterloo began March 17th, but between the beginning of the term and mid-March, the GI hosted a series of events that showcased the trans-disciplinary nature of the GI and the research conducted here, with an overarching trend about humanities-based research in tech spaces.
- Guest lecture by new GI faculty member, Dr. Craig Hardiman on Classical Studies and Video Games
- Brown Bag Talk by GI member Jennifer Rickert on Cheating and Modding
- Brown Bag Talk on Creative Research Design for the Resistance with GI Member Bri Wiens and GI faculty member Dr. Shana MacDonald
- Captain’s Gambit Kickstarter Launch Party: Talk and Tournament
Knowledge Translation Workshop
February 19th, Marisa Benjamin, our Research Communications Officer, and Eric Blondeel, Co-Founder of ExVivo Labs, teamed up to design and deliver a Knowledge Translation Workshop for Concept by Velocity's Graduate Student Stream. Due to the trans-disciplinary nature of the GI and our commitment to unique or uncommon collaborations, we have become local experts on what it means to break down academic jargon and translate it into more accessible language. Presenting research through conversations that reflect how people talk in regular settings is our speciality. This workshop was part of our overarching goal to engage UW partners in our efforts to break down barriers in the ways that research is shared with the public.
Dr. Lili Liu, Dean of Applied Health Sciences, and Colleagues Visit the GI
The Games Institute was thrilled to welcome Dr. Lili Liu, Dean of Applied Health Sciences, and her research colleagues, Drs. Adriana Rios Rincon and Antonio Miguel Cruz, from the University of Alberta for a visit and tour of our facility. Dr. Rincon delivered a presentation about the research team's (Drs. Liu, Rincon, Cruz, and Eleni Stroulia) ongoing work involving games that support the health and wellness of older adults. Our members were very excited to connect with researchers outside of their direct networks and to find that the ideas they brought sparked promising opportunities for new research directions.
The GI Welcomed 10 New Members this Term!
Licheng Zhang (he/him) is from the department of Computer Science, pursuing a Master’s of Mathematics. For now his focus is coursework, but afterwards he’ll be looking at VR/Game-related studies. When Licheng was little, he wanted to be an Anime director. His favourite game is Dota2, favourite book is A Song of Ice and Fire, and favourite movie is Castle in the Sky. If you’d like to get Licheng a coffee, he drinks a Double Double!
May Nemat-Allah (she/her) is qcollaborative's Research Assistant, pursing a BA of Arts and Business with a specialization in Theatre and Performance from the Communication Arts department. May supports qcollaborative's exploration of academic research's positive social impacts. When she was young she wanted to be an optometrist. “My favourite game is Persona 5, my favourite book is Stage Managing the Arts in Canada by Winston Morgan, and my favourite movie is How to Train Your Dragon”. May takes her coffee “cold and very sweet. I only ever drink ice caps”.
Lai-Tze Fan (she/her) is an Assistant Professor (tenure-stream), teaching media studies and digital storytelling in the Deptartment of English. Her research involves media history and theory, examining storytelling or politics/ethics. When she was young, she wanted to be a Visual artist or writer. Lai-Tze’s favourite game is A Fake Artist goes to New York; favourite book is Villette (Charlotte Brontë) or White Noise (Don DeLillo); favourite movie is Titanic or Devdas (Bollywood movie). She takes her coffee with one cream, one sugar!
Ally Suarez (she/her), is an Undergraduate Research Assistant in a co-op term under the supervision of Lennart Nacke, currently working with Rina Wehbe on her study. She is in her second-year of Health Studies from the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, School of Public Health and Health Systems. The research project she’s working on involves, “Creating a positive community with less stigma on mental health”. When she was young, she wanted to be a doctor! “I don't have a favourite video game - I generally just like adventure-based RPGs with good storylines. My favourite board game is Clue. My favourite book would either be Paper Towns by John Green or The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. My favourite movie is Big Hero 6.” Ally doesn’t really drink coffee, but on the rare occasion she does, she would take it with a lot of milk and a lot of sugar.
Kaylena Martens (she/her), is an Assistant Prof of Cognitive Neuroscience/Neurodegeneration from the Department of Kinesiology in AHS. “I study how movement informs us about brain functioning”. When she was little, she wanted to be a grade 2 teacher. Her favourite game is Clue, and favourite book is The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Kaylena takes her coffee with cream.
Max Altmeyer (he/him) is a researcher at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence and a PhD student of Computer Science at Saarland University. He is a visiting student with the HCI Games Group. “I teach courses related to HCI and games user research as well as web development at Saarland University and assist my supervisor in HCI-related core lectures (such as Human Computer Interaction or Ubiquitous Media Technologies)”. Max is interested in using gameful design for behavior change. What did he want to be when he grew up? “My grandfather was a police officer, my dad is a police officer, guess what I wanted to be? ;)” Max takes his coffee with a little milk and without sugar. Favourite game, book, and movie? “I like all sorts of action RPG's such as Fallout but also enjoyed playing MMORPGs such as Guild Wars very much (when I was a bit younger). My favourite book is "Hector and the Search for Happiness" (but this changes from time to time). I think I don't really have a favourite movie, there are many movies that I like. Usually, the presence of Denzel Washington, Keanu Reeves or Samuel L. Jackson is a good predictor for movies that I might want to watch :)”.
Myracle Wang (she/her), is a Coop Research Assistant under Mark Hancock studying digital ethnography and machine learning. She is from the Faculty of mathematics, Mathematical Finance & Statistics. Her research involves developing an AI video analysis tool that classifies videos' contents. When she was little, she wanted to be, “a writer/singer, but I realized shortly after that I don't have such talents in either role...” Her favourite game is Snake, favourite book is Harry Porter, and favourite movie is Flipped. Myracle takes her coffee with lots of milk & sugar.
Suji Sathiyamurthy (she/her) is a Research student, pursuing a Master’s in Management Sciences, in the Faculty of Engineering. Her research involves creating an instrument to measure haptics experience. I asked her what she wanted to grow up to be when she was little: “For some reason I was brave enough to think I can handle being a gynecologist!” Her favourite game is Pokemon GO and favourite book is If Tomorrow comes by Sydney Sheldon. How does she take her coffee? “Depends on my mood. But all variations of coffee is bae!”
Ken Hirschkop (he/him) is a Professor of English Language and Literature, teaching mostly 20th century literature, narrative theory, and philosophy of language. His research involves the social and political philosophy of language. When he was young, he wanted to be an astronomer. Favourite game: “To play? I hardly ever play them, but I’ve enjoyed chess, D-Day (Avalon Hill version), and the first ever video game, Space Wars (MIT, mid-1960s) To watch? baseball”. His favourite movie is The Thin Red Line. And his favourite book? “You can’t ask a literature professor for a favourite book”. Ken takes his coffee with cream/milk (no sugar)!
Arden Song (they/them) is pursuing a Bachelor's in Management Engineering, Department of Management Sciences. They are an Undergraduate research assistant on co-op. Their research is making games easier to play in small spaces using technology. Favourite game? “D&D if it counts as a game, then D&D. If not... uh... well... Wait! D&D is a game. D&D”. Favorite book? “Let's go with the books in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. All 41 of them. I mean, if you really twisted my arm, it's a tie between Hogfather and Monstrous Regiment. But I'm not picking between those two. That'd be like asking a parent to choose their favorite child.” Favorite movie? “Girltrash: All Night Long (please let there be someone in the GI who's heard of this movie)” Last but not least, how does Arden take their coffee? “I don't. TEAM TEA ALL THE WAY WOOOOOO”.
Warm congratulations to graduate researchers Marina Wada and AC Atienza on the successful completion of their programs this term!