Virtual Tour

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Welcome to the Games Institute

Thanks for joining us for a virtual tour of the Games Institute. We’ve set up this up to show you the various areas of our facility, all while highlighting the people that keep our ecosystem thriving. Whether you came to our institute as a potential member or partner, or are just exploring a new part of campus, we’re excited to guide you through our wonderful world of games and interactive technologies.

Imagine you’re standing with us, in the hallway that leads into the Institute. You’d be surrounded, quite literally, by Games Institute research. Not only because the doors off this hallway, to the left and right, lead right into the hearts of the GI, but also this hallway is lined with posters displaying our research projects and initiatives.

Every poster tells a story about our research.

Learn about the virtual reality rendering of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children, Digital Oral Histories for Reconciliation, that helps teach high school history students about systemic racism, then, discover how three GI members collaborated with industry partner, Stitch Media, to develop the game Terrorarium, which was featured in the Indiecade at E3. Click here to browse the posters and read about the sheer variety of ways interdisciplinary researchers think about games and interactive technologies.

Nicholas in the hallway of posters

Tour Directory

  1. Meet the Games Institute Staff
  2. Enter the Collaboration Space
  3. Get to Know Our Inventory
  4. Learn About Our Research Labs
  5. Meet Our Residents
  6. First Person Scholar

Meet the Games Institute Staff

Let’s head on in through the door on your right and see who’s around. Our Operations Specialist sits at the very first desk so you can’t miss them when you walk in. They are in charge of managing the resource inventory and lab facilities. If you have any questions about the Games Institute, send an email to the Ops Specialist at games.institute@uwaterloo.ca, and don’t forget to say “hi” whenever you come in. As we keep walking, meet two more members of our staff team, also working right by the entrance. Our Research Project Facilitator supports GI members with project and partnership inquiries and our Research Communications Officer amplifies GI research news to the world. The directorial team at the Games Institute are also available during the day from their respective offices. Executive Director, Dr. Neil Randall, Associate Director, Dr. Mark Hancock and Associate Director of Administration and Strategic Planning, Agata Antkiewicz will be happy to talk to you about your specific research collaboration interests.

If you don’t have any specific questions ready for our staff, feel free to browse some of the Games Institute brochures and resources to get more of a feel for what we’re all about. We’re always keeping our bulletin board up to date with event posters, research participant sign-ups, and community news, so make sure to check it when you visit our facility.

Enter the Collaboration Space

Without a doubt, the Collaboration Space is where most of the action happens at the Games Institute. It’s an open-concept area with tables, chair, screens, and games. Regardless of whether or not you have a desk at the Institute (what we call “resident status”), you’re welcome to come and work in the collaboration space. People come to work in the space, and then often end up sitting next to someone and having a spontaneous conversation. Most of our serendipitous, interdisciplinary crossovers happen in the Collaboration Space just because of chance encounters or social lunches that blend into talking about research. A lot of our members choose to conduct meetings in the collaboration space in order to encourage that serendipity: they know that working in the collaboration space signals to others that it’s ok to drop in and join the meeting.

Collaboration Spage

We run research events and social gatherings in the Collaboration Space too, since it has the best energy with the capacity to host up to 80 people. In any given week, you’ll likely see different groups running writing circles, playtests, brainstorming sessions, and lab meetings. The Games Institute staff team also runs more structured research lectures, workshops, and project launches throughout the terms with video recordings published to our YouTube channel afterwards. All the tables and chairs are modular, so feel free to start thinking about how you would like to use the space.

Get to Know Our Inventory

We have a large collection of board games and video games across a great variety of consoles, all available to GI members. Often, we use these games to help break the ice with our new members. One-Night-Ultimate Werewolf is our go-to team bonding game – read this article by Pamela Schmidt, an English graduate, and staff member, to see why. In our collection, we keep games and prototypes created by GI members. Here are some examples to get you started:

Our 3D printer was purchased via the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) grant awarded to Dr. Mark Hancock (Associate Director). Use of the 3D printer is managed by a member of the UW Touchlab. It’s hospital-grade, meaning that it has the capability of printing organic medical-grade items (we joke around that we will start printing kidneys as an extra source of revenue … at some point in the future); however, we typically use it to print modulated figures all in one go. Marco Moran-Ledesma, graduate student in Systems Design Engineering, uses the 3D printer to create objects to build into interactive systems in virtual reality for his research.

3D printed objects

Learn About Our Research Labs

Immersion Room

All of our labs have restricted access, granted to members based on their research needs. Good news though! On this tour, you get to see what’s behind the doors. The Immersion Room has 5 independent workstations around the perimeter. The stations vary in what they offer including high end TVs, monitors, a PS4, VR equipment and one even has a larger biometric sensor system. The Immersion Room is sound-proof, has white walls, and no windows. In other words, it replicates the ambiance of playing video games in your basement, just as the GI Executive Director, Dr. Neil Randall, likes it. Despite the fact that these are typically bad qualities for a working environment, these features actually make the space ideal for running participant studies where researchers need to limit environmental stimuli that could cause confounds in the research.Immersion Room

Virtual Reality (VR) Storytelling Lab

The Virtual Reality (VR) Storytelling Lab has multiple purposes, all enabling GI members to develop and study VR experiences with rich narratives. The computers in the lab allow researchers to take advantage of the full Adobe Creative Suite as well as VR development software. It’s a great studio space, featuring a full suite of recording equipment that we take advantage of to record the Games Institute Podcast. On occasion, you’ll see that our residents use the VR Storytelling Lab to host office hours, small meetings, or sneak away to it if they need a quite space.

Presentation Room

Our largest lab is the presentation room, approximately the size of a classroom. Our members book the room to use for group meetings, such as writing circles, lab talks, partner meetings, and workshops. The Presentation Room houses two of our large Smart Screens. When you come visit, don’t forget to look up! There is a multi-track unit attached to the ceiling that’s all set up for work involving motion-capture equipment.

Presentation Room

Living Room Lab

Our most popular lab, the Living Room Lab is actually best described as the antithesis of the Immersion Room. It is bright with windows, green walls, and a colourful comfy seating facing a 4K TV along with gaming consoles. Researchers choose to operate their studies out of this space if they want to make their participants feel comfortable or replicate a social setting.

Living Room

Haptic Makerspace

Still under construction, the Haptic makerspace is funded by the CFI grant awarded to Dr. Oliver Schneider and is part of his larger Haptic Computing Lab (HCL) work. The Haptic Makerspace will be dedicated to work that advances research and development of haptic and multisensory systems. When the makerspace is ready, the HCL will be open to all GI members who wish to tinker around with things.

Meet Our Residents

PodTour of the pods with photos coming soon! Here's a sneak peak...

Our residents are assigned individual spaces – what we call “pods”. We get an excellent intermingling across disciplines, since the seating arrangements tend to be randomized. Faculty members at the Games Institute also work out of our shared offices in the GI space when they’re not using their offices in their home departments.  There are no specific zones to keep people representing particular disciplines together because the best conversations happen when disparate disciplines cross paths. GI members acquire knowledge from other disciplines by ‘osmosis’ and get inspired to bring interdisciplinary perspectives into their work thanks to serendipitous encounters with others.

Every researcher is encouraged to decorate their pod and express their individuality however they choose, provided that expression is in line with our equity, diversity, and inclusivity policies.

Here are some examples to express the sheer variety of interests among the folks who work in our space:

Jenn Rickert's pod

Jenn is our Community Experience Curator and English graduate researcher. She has decorated her pod to express her love for Blizzard games, especially World of Warcraft, which, incidentally, is a major focal point for her dissertation research on gender, technology, and gaming cultures

Joe Tu’s pod

Joe is a graduate student in Systems Design Engineering and often displays elements from his research on his desk, including a variety of computers and intriguing devices. Recently, he was tinkering with sound systems for his escape room game, so he has a tiny toy that is actually an Arduino programmed to play the song “Despacito”.

Dr. John Muñozs pod

John is a Human-Computer Interaction Postdoctoral Fellow. He displays the toys he uses to provoke ideas during brainstorming sessions about creating VR Exergames for older adults.

Lillian Black’s pod

Lillian is an English graduate student. She displays the final projects created by her students in an English course she instructed about Harry Potter (along along with some retro consoles and a wide variety of fan art).

Marco Moran-Ledesma’s pod

Marco is a Systems Design Engineering graduate. On his desk, he has a display of his 3D printed objects that he uses for his research about creating 3D-integrated systems to improve immersion in VR.

Pierson Browne's pod

Pierson is a Sociology and Legal Studies graduate student whose research looks at the propagation of concepts and information through the social networks formed around and within communities of play. His pod features his collection of card games, like “Arkham Horror and Android: Netrunner”.

Toben Racicot’s pod

Toben is an English graduate student and comic book creator. He keeps a stack of the graphic novel, “Crown and Anchor”, which he creates with his partner, Alaire Racicot.

Stay tuned for updates with photos (once we can go into the space) AND a special surprise...

First Person Scholar

Our final highlight brings us to the area where the editors for the online middle-state publication, First Person Scholar, sit. Since 2013, First Person Scholar has delivered timely and accessible game studies scholarship each week as the most visible public-facing outlet of the Games Institute. The articles published by First Person Scholar encourage players—be them developers, scholars, critics, or enthusiasts—to consider alternatives to popular interpretations of games, game play, and games culture.

With a wide international readership bringing together the foremost academics in the discipline, games industry professionals, journalists, and the wider public, FPS has provided and continues to provide a respected and highly visible platform for young scholars and especially marginalized writers to make an impact on game studies discourse.


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