Some impressions from CHI PLAY 2015

We’ve just returned from CHI PLAY 2015 in London, which was a more than worthy successor to last year’s inaugural event in Toronto. The conference was a whirlwind of presentations, demos, inspiring conversations, restaurants and pubs, and we’ve come home excited about new collaborations and interesting ideas.

kieran london

If you’re interested in what other people thought about the conference, Gustavo Fortes Tondello of the HCI Games Group at the University of Waterloo wrote up a very nice blog post for the ACM’s Crossroads magazine.

And last but not least, we would like to thank Kieran Hicks, Alexandra Samper Martinez (Universitat Rovira i Virgili), and Max Birk (University of Saskatchewan) for joining us for post-conference talks at the University of Lincoln – our students very much appreciated the guest lectures and insights into the games research community.

Reflections on Accessible Game Design: Working with Players & Game Design Experts

Recently, we ran two very different game design projects: When teaching Advanced Games Studies, we challenged our students to create wheelchair-accessible movement-based games, and in a university-funded research project, I (Kathrin) worked with young people who use powered wheelchairs, trying to elicit game concepts that they would be interested in. A comparison of these two approaches to game design will be available in the forthcoming special issue on Participatory Design for Serious Games in the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies.

Perhaps the most surprising lesson that we learned throughout the project was how daunting the creation of a wheelchair-controlled game was for design experts; many of them felt they would not be able to grasp the implications of wheelchair use, and wondered whether they could create respectful and engaging games, worrying about the choice of game theme and background stories. In contrast, many of the young people using wheelchairs openly reflected on the impact of their abilities on play, and where we expected to see instances of vulnerability, participants voiced their opinions and appreciated the opportunity to make themselves heard. In the end, both groups came up with a number of exciting game concepts, and there was quite a lot of overlap between them.

What this teaches us is that involvement in design can expose vulnerability in unexpected ways. But beyond that, it also raises the question of how accessible game design should be approached to turn it into a rewarding experience for game designers and players, and it suggests that we might need a wider discussion of game accessibility that extends beyond interface design and adaptable game mechanics.

Gerling, K., Linehan, C., Kirman, B., Kalyn, M., Evans, A., and Hicks, K. Creating wheelchair-controlled video games: challenges and opportunities when involving young people with mobility impairments and game design experts. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies (in print, 2015). View Pre-print.

Lincoln Games Research at CHI PLAY 2015

This year’s edition of SIGCHI’s Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play (CHI PLAY) is quickly approaching, and with the acceptance of a range of submissions, it’s been a great success for us. What makes this even sweeter (besides the conference being hosted at our doorstep in London) is the fact that our papers are the result of great collaborations and excellent student work, for example, Kieran Hicks’ full paper on Hashtag Dungeon, his undergraduate project at the University of Lincoln and also a fully developed indie game soon to go live for sale on Steam.

Paper: Exploring Twitter as a Game Platform; Strategies and Opportunities for Microblogging-based Games

Kieran Hicks – University of Lincoln, United Kingdom
Kathrin Gerling – University of Lincoln, United Kingdom
Ben Kirman – University of Lincoln, United Kingdom
Conor Linehan – University College Cork, Ireland
Patrick Dickinson – University of Lincoln, United Kingdom

Note: “After All the Time I Put Into This”: Co-Creation and the End-of-life of Social Network Games

Alexandra Samper-Martinez – University Rovira i Virgili, Spain
Kathrin Gerling – University of Lincoln, United Kingdom
Ercilia Garcia-Alvarez – University Rovira i Virgili, Spain
Ben Kirman – University of Lincoln, United Kingdom
Shaun Lawson – University of Lincoln, United Kingdom

Paper: How Self-Esteem Shapes our Interactions with Play Technologies

Max Birk – University of Saskatchewan, Canada
Regan Mandryk – University of Saskatchewan, Canada
Kathrin Gerling – University of Lincoln, United Kingdom
Matthew Miller – University of Saskatchewan, Canada

Workshop: Ageing Playfully: Advancing Research on Games for Older Adults Beyond Accessibility and Health Benefits – http://chiplay15.gerontoludic.com/

Kathrin Gerling – University of Lincoln, United Kingdom
Bob De Schutter – Miami University, United States
Julie Brown – Ohio University, United States
Jason Allaire – North Carolina State University, United States

Work-in-Progress: Dendrogram Visualization as a Game Design Tool

Tom Feltwell – University of Lincoln, United Kingdom
Grzegorz Cielniak – University of Lincoln, United Kingdom
Patrick Dickinson – University of Lincoln, United Kingdom
Ben Kirman – University of Lincoln, United Kingdom
Shaun Lawson – University of Lincoln, United Kingdom

Work-in-Progress: Dead Fun: Uncomfortable Interactions in a Virtual Reality Game for Coffins

James Brown – University of Lincoln, United Kingdom
Kathrin Gerling – University of Lincoln, United Kingdom
Patrick Dickinson – University of Lincoln, United Kingdom
Ben Kirman – University of Lincoln, United Kingdom

Work-in-Progress: Exploring Casual Exergames With Kids Using Wheelchairs

Kieran Hicks – University of Lincoln, United Kingdom
Kathrin Gerling – University of Lincoln, United Kingdom

Preprints of most of our papers are available via the University of Lincoln ePrints site. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone in London!

Games Research Reading Group

For the 2014/2015 academic year, the Games Research Reading Group explores topics related to Human-Computer Interaction, Games Studies, and general Games Research.

The next meeting will be Tuesday, March 17th from 2:00 to 3:00 PM to discuss “The Effectiveness (or Lack Thereof) of Aim-Assist Techniques in First-Person Shooter Games” by Vicencio-Moreira et al. (available via http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2557308).

Everyone is welcome, and we particularly encourage participation of undergraduate Games Computing students. For a full overview of topics and dates, please visit http://games.lincoln.ac.uk/reading-group/. If you would like to join the group, please contact Kathrin Gerling.

Global Game Jam 2015

We again hosted an official site of the Global Game Jam, in space kindly provided by the School of Computer Science. This year we had over 50 jammers join us from all over the UK in what is becoming our favourite weekend of the year.

The Global Game Jam is the world’s biggest hackathon and this year saw over 28000 jammers work in 518 locations in 78 countries, simultaneously spending 48 hours creating 5437 brand new games. This year the theme was the simple question “What do we do now?”, which served as inspiration for a wide variety of games from imaginary skipping ropes, through idol worship simulators, co-op platformers, games of celtic mysticism and even a game that uses a real coffin as a controller. I prepared a short video of the many highlights to give a taste for the weekend:

You can see all 19 games created on the University of Lincoln page on the Global Game Jam site. All games are open source and downloadable for free – please give them a go!

Special thanks to Matt Ashton, technician for the School of Computer Science, for support and patience over the whole weekend, plus the School of Computer Science for loan of the space and expenses, and the University of Lincoln Computing Society for helping manage and organise the event. And of course thanks to all the jammers for making such a fun weekend!