WATERLOO, Ont. (Friday, May 25, 2012) - The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) has awarded a University of Waterloo researcher a grant of more than $2.5 million for his work into the effects of digital games.

Professor Neil Randall from the Department of English and Literature and the Games Institute is receiving a SSHRC Partnership Grant worth $2,549,960 over seven years for his project examining the intricately related fields of player experience, including immersion, presence, addiction and social interactions in games. Called IMMERSe: the Interactive & Multi-Modal Experience Research Syndicate, this network will explore player experience, both positive and problematic. The project involves industry partners, as well as academics from the humanities, social sciences, engineering, and computer sciences in a project that promotes collaboration across several disciplines.

“The social sciences and humanities impact many facets of our everyday lives,” said Feridun Hamdullahpur, president & vice-chancellor of Waterloo. “Waterloo appreciates SSHRC’s commitment to groundbreaking research, enabling solutions to the challenges that affect all of us.”

Research teams from seven partnering institutions in Canada and the U.S. will assist with the research by conducting studies on social media games, virtual worlds and gambling games, among others.

“Designers seek to create highly immersive products and technologies, complete with capabilities for players to lose themselves in the content and re-engage it frequently and in depth,” said Randall. “Growing concerns about players focusing on these systems to the exclusion of other social physical and mental activities have become a focus among scholars, teachers, and parents.”

Additional cash and in-kind contributions of more than $3 million raise the total amount to $5.8 million. These contributions come from five academic partners: McMaster University, Carleton University, Concordia University, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, University of California Davis. There are six industry partners as well, namely Microsoft Studios, Electronic Arts, Digital Extremes, PineLake Communications, The Ant Firm, and Communitech.

The Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology, made the announcement at the opening event for the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences conference. Five Waterloo researchers also received a combined $954,344 in funding from SSHRC Partnership Development Grants.

Philip Beesley from the School of Architecture was awarded $199,720 for research into near-living experimental architectural constructions featuring interactive physical movement, artificial intelligence, and chemical exchanges with the environment. Kathleen Bloom from the Department of Psychology is receiving $176,432 to support her work in the area of knowledge mobilization, part of the decison-making process. John Lewis from the School of Planning was awarded $183,624 for his project that will address multiple sustainability objectives and explore sustainable urban growth strategies for the city of Waterloo. Jennifer Simpson of the Department of Drama and Speech Communication receives $198,480 to help fund her research into colonialism and race-related challenges in Canada. And Frances Westley was awarded $196,088 for research that will initiate and foster a long-term collaborative partnership between Waterloo, Queen’s University and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA).

SSHRC is the federal agency that supports and promotes post-secondary research and training in the humanities and social sciences.

About the University of Waterloo

In just half a century, the University of Waterloo, located at the heart of Canada's technology hub, has become one of Canada's leading comprehensive universities with 34,000 full- and part-time students in undergraduate and graduate programs. Waterloo, as home to the world's largest post-secondary co-operative education program, embraces its connections to the world and encourages enterprising partnerships in learning, research and discovery. In the next decade, the university is committed to building a better future for Canada and the world by championing innovation and collaboration to create solutions relevant to the needs of today and tomorrow. For more information about Waterloo, visit www.uwaterloo.ca.

Media Contact:

Pamela Smyth
Media Relations Officer
Communications & Public Affairs
University of Waterloo

Waterloo news release no. 44

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