IMMERSe Meeting 2015

Organizers

Neil Randall Director IMMERSe
Agata Antkiewicz Project Manager
Alvaro Joffre Uribe Quevedo Post-Doctoral Fellow
Steve Wilcox Ph.D. (c)
Emily West Project Manager The Games Institute
Ruby Huang Co-op The Games Institute

Meeting Program

Purpose

The theme of the meeting is “The Story of IMMERSe: Past and Future”. We had set this theme quite some time ago, but we were in Ottawa at SSHRC this past Monday addressing new Partnership Grant holders, and we learned that what SSHRC truly needs is a strong research-activities-growth story for the federal government. So it is now a perfect time to look at the substantial activity that has occurred, how we have made excellent use of the funds, and where we go for the second three years of the project. Furthermore, given that IMMERSe was very largely responsible for the existence of The Games Institute space at Waterloo, we wanted to showcase the space and its CFI-funded (via IMMERSe) immersive lab called WatGAME.

Thursday, November 26th, 2015

Welcome

8:30AM

Coffee and registration

9:00AM

Opening Address

Dr. Neil Randall, University of Waterloo

Serious Games and Game-Based Learning

9:15AM

Allergies & Allegories: A Knowledge Translation Game

Presenter: Steve Wilcox, University of Waterloo

9:30AM

A Serious Game for Medical Based Cultural Competence Education and Training

Presenter: Rob Shewaga, University of Ontario Institute of Technology

9:45AM

Closing the Gap between Game-Related Technologies and Health Professions Education

David Rojas^, University of Ontario Institute of Technology
Zain Khan, University of Ontario Institute of Technology
Brent Cowan, University of Ontario Institute of Technology
James Rob, University of Ontario Institute of Technology
Dr. Alvaro Uribe, University of Waterloo/University of Ontario Institute of Technology
Dr. Adam Dubrowski, University of Toronto
Dr. Bill Kapralos, University of Ontario Institute of Technology

10:00AM

The SciGames Hub

Dr. Ashley Rose Kelly^, University of Waterloo
Dr. Brad Mehlenbacher, North Carolina State University
Christopher Kampe, North Carolina State University

10:15AM

Serious Game Creation Framework

Brent Cowan^, University of Ontario Institute of Technology
Dr. Bill Kapralos, University of Ontario Institute of Technology

10:30AM – 11:00AM

BREAK

Narrative and Dialogue in Games

11:00AM

The Effect of Time Scales on Generated Narratives in Historical Simulation Boardgames

Presenter: Dr. Neil Randall, University of Waterloo

11:15AM

Choose Your Own Life: Research into Text and Self-Expression in Videogames

Presenter: Dr. Michael Hancock, University of Waterloo

11:30AM

Strange New Worlds: Narrative Spaces in Virtual Games

Presenter: Nicholas Hobin, University of Waterloo

11:45AM

Exploring Locative Game Design: Stories of the Past and Future

Dr. Brian Greenspan^, Carleton University
Dr. Caitlin Fisher, Carleton University
Adam Stock, Carleton University
Adam Benn, Carleton University
Matt Carroll, Carleton University
Adrien Robertson, Carleton University
Ingrid Reiche, Carleton University
Jenna Stidwill, Carleton University
Sarah Thorne, Carleton University
Ida Marie Toft, Carleton University

12:00PM

A Visual Exploration of Game Narrative Structure

Bethany Dunfield^, Carleton University
Dr. Anthony Whitehead, Carleton University

12:15PM

Gamifying Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

Presenter: Dr. Daniel T. Kline, University of Alaska Anchorage

12:30PM – 1:45PM

LUNCH BREAK

Multimodality in the Game

1:45PM

Serious Games and Multimodality: Visual, Haptics, and Sound Cues on Learning Medical Skills

Dr. Alvaro Uribe^, University of Waterloo/University of Ontario Institute of Technology
Dr. Bill Kapralos, University of Ontario Institute of Technology
David Rojas, University of Ontario Institute of Technology
Dr. Adam Dubrowski, University of Toronto

2:00PM

Adding Cartoon-Like Motion to Realistic Animations

Rufino R. Ansara^, Carleton University
Dr. Chris Joslin, Carleton University

2:15PM

Sketched Characters to 3D Model Block Outs

Shaikah Bakerman^, Carleton University
Dr. Chris Joslin, Carleton University

2:30PM

Serious Gaming: Multi‐Modal Interactions, and Customizing the User Interface

Dr. Bill Kapralos, University of Ontario Institute of Technology

3:00PM

Analysing Game Design Principles

Presenter: Salvatore D’Amore, McMaster University

3:15PM – 3:45PM

BREAK

Games that Change Behaviour

3:45PM

Improving Neuro-Rehabilitation Outcomes through Universal Control of Games

Presenter: Lucas Stephenson, Carleton University

4:15PM

Usability and Motivational Effects of a Gamified Health and Fitness System based on Wearable Devices

Zhao Zhao^, Carleton University
Dr. S. Ali Etemad, Carleton University
Dr. Ali Arya, Carleton University

4:30PM

Towards a Personalized Playful Digital Wellness Assistant

Gustavo F. Tondello^, University of Waterloo
Dr. Lennart E. Nacke, University of Waterloo

4:45PM – 6:00PM

RESEARCH THEMES NETWORKING

Start collaborative discussions with IMMERSe Theme Leaders and researchers at The Games Institute’s facilities and continue over dinner off-site.

6:00PM – 9:00PM

ProtoPlay Night for Interactive Fiction: Introduction to Twine and
Inform 7

ProtoPlay Nights are recurring weekly events co-hosted by the UW Game Dev Club and The Games Institute. Each event focuses on a different aspect of game design. If of interest, IMMERSe researchers are invited to join the workshop introducing Twine and Inform 7 at The Games Institute’s facilities.

Friday, November 27th, 2015

Welcome Back

8:30AM

Coffee and Registration

9:00AM

KEYNOTE

Challenges and Opportunities in the Videogame Industry: a Console Developer’s Diary, 2004-2015

Presenter: Michael Schmalz, President of Digital Extremes

10:00AM – 10:30AM

BREAK

10:30AM – 11:45AM

GAME DEMONSTRATIONS AND POSTER SESSION

UW CS798 (Games for Health) Graduate Students taught by Dr. Chrysanne Di Marco

Rufino R. Ansara, Carleton University

Shaikah Bakerman, Carleton University

Victor Cheung, University of Waterloo

Zain Khan, University of Ontario Institute of Technology

Rina R. Wehbe, University of Waterloo

12:00PM – 1:00PM

LUNCH BREAK (WITH IMMERSE FACULTY MEETINGS)

Interactions and Gameplay Mechanics

1:00PM

Empirical Comparison of HUDs and Diegetic Displays in First-Person Shooters

Margaree Peacocke, McMaster University
Dr. Robert J. Teather^, McMaster University
Dr. Jacques Carette, McMaster University

1:15PM

A study of menu navigation systems for games on mobile and touchscreen platforms

Selena Rikley^, McMaster University
Dr. Jacques Carette, McMaster University

1:30PM

Ordinary People: Integrating Emotional Reactions into Non-Player Characters in Computer Role playing Games

Geneva Smith^, McMaster University
Dr. Jacques Carette, McMaster University

1:45PM

Managing Minecraft: Notes Toward a Book

Presenter: Dr. Darren Wershler, Concordia University

2:00PM

Minecraft and The Hunger Games: A Collaborative Research Project

Presenter: Nic Watson, Concordia University

2:15PM

A Simple Yet Surprisingly Effective AI

Presenter: Jonathan Rodriguez, University of Waterloo

2:30PM – 3:00PM

BREAK

Cultural and Social Interactions

3:00PM

Leafs Shrine: Gameful Support for Collectors of Sports Memorabilia

Diane Watson^, University of Waterloo
Dr. Deltcho Valtchanov, University of Waterloo
Dr. Kirk Goodlet, Greater Toronto Airports Authority
Kent Aardse, University of Waterloo
Dr. Jason Hawreliak, Brock University
Dr. Mark Hancock, University of Waterloo
Dr. Neil Randall, University of Waterloo

3:15PM

Mapping Gender Identity in Digital Games

Presenter: Dr. Gerald Voorhees, University of Waterloo

3:30PM

Publish with Purpose: Future Directions of First Person Scholar

Presenter: Emma Vossen, University of Waterloo

3:45PM

FYDLYTY: A Low-Fidelity Serious Game for Medical-Based Cultural Competence Education

Presenter: Zain Khan, University of Ontario Institute of Technology

4:00PM

Media and Mediums: Cybertext and Divinatory Games

Sandra Huber^, Concordia University
Dr. Darren Wershler, Concordia University

4:15PM – 5:30PM

RESEARCH THEMES NETWORKING

Continue collaborative discussions with IMMERSe Theme Leaders and researchers at The Games Institute’s facilities.

^Presenting contributor

Presentation Abstracts

Allergies & Allegories: A Knowledge Translation Game

Keywords: serious games, knowledge translation, food allergies

Contributor: Steve Wilcox (swilcox@uawterloo.ca)

Themes: Serious Games and Game Based Learning; Games that Change Behaviour; Cultural and Social Interactions

In a recent study published in Risk Analysis children with food allergies reported instances of exclusion, anxiety, stress, and harassment related specifically to their food allergy. Other studies echo the reality that food-allergic children are adversely affected by the lack of awareness and understanding of food allergies. But while the scholarship is clear on this, translating that research for non-food-allergic children and adults is another matter entirely. Allergies & Allegories addresses this gap between researchers and the public by mobilizing food-allergy scholarship through an interactive, web-based game. In Allergies & Allegories players take on the role of a food-allergic child who is transferring to a new school. Players work to build friendships, strengthen support networks, and establish safe and supportive spaces, providing a practical understanding of food allergies and their risks in the process. Allergies & Allegories is being developed in collaboration with IMMERSe and GET-FACTS (Genetics, Environment and Therapies: Food Allergy Clinical Tolerance Studies), a Canadian Institutes of Health Research-funded project that investigates food allergies in Canada.

Program

A serious game for medical‐based cultural competence education and training

Contributor: Rob Shewaga

Theme: Serious Games and Game-Based Learning

Medical professionals must routinely interact with both patients and the patient’s loved ones, especially in circumstances where personal medical information must be shared across language and cultural boundaries. Without the proper training, these doctors, nurses, surgeons and staff may unwittingly touch upon a sensitive cultural issue that breaks the communication channel. We present an all-in-one tool and serious game platform aimed at medical professionals and trainees to practice various culturally sensitive scenarios in an ethically safe and cost effective manner. Users are able to design hospital rooms and layouts to suit their own workplace, connect dialogue paths between the user and the patient (and the patient’s family), and play through scenarios that combine the two. In this way, the player can interact with a particular scenario highlighting a cultural communication issue to increase preparedness for a real-world situation.

Program

Closing the Gap Between Game-Related Technologies and Health Professions Education

Contributors: David Rojas, Zain Khan, Brent Cowan, James Rob, Dr. Alvaro Uribe, Dr. Adam Dubrowski, Dr. Bill Kapralos

Themes: Serious Games and Game-Based Learning; Multimodality in the Game

Given the highly competitive and motivating nature of today’s medical students, gamification, when properly implemented, have been thought to be an effective learning tool. Serious games have previously been suggested as another possibility to enhance medical education, but in reality, none of this methodologies are being used in current practice. I started my research trying to define a set of best practices for the implementation of the game-related methodologies within health profession education. After conducting several experiments, and literature reviews on technology enhanced learning in health professions education, and given the experience acquired by doing a fellowship at the Wilson Centre (Centre for research in health professions education), I have come to the realization that the introduction of these technologies is currently far from perfect. Health profession educators need more research to validate and legitimize the utilization of new technologies in such environment. Health professionals do not deny that technology can enhance practices, but when it comes to education little or no evidence has been shown of the benefit of using game-related technologies as a mean to teach medical students. Current discourses question the necessity of high fidelity environments for medical learners, the benefit of game elements when introduced to improve motivation and engagement, and the effectiveness of game-related technologies when compared against traditional methods of learning. During my presentation I’ll highlight the main problems I see for the introduction of game-related technologies in health profession education, and the future research that will help to support the inclusion of new technologies.

Program

The SciGames Hub

Contributors: Dr. Ashley Rose Kelly, Dr. Brad Mehlenbacher, Christopher Kampe

Themes: Cultural and Social Interactions; Games that Change Behaviour

The SciGames Hub will be part of the University of Waterloo Games Institute. Covering a range of games from educational games to citizen science games, the SciGames Hub will coordinate activities around research into science games.

At its core the SciGames Hub grows out of Science Communication and Science Studies, both broadly conceived, but also works to integrate Game studies, Education studies, Sociology, Psychology, Human-Computer Interaction, and other fields concern with games for science.

Several areas of scientific gaming will be considered, including:

  • Citizen science and games (e.g., Foldit, Cell Slider, Phylo, Eyewire, etc.; See: Curtis, 2014)
  • Disaster preparedness, risk reduction, and games (e.g., Disaster Awareness Game and Beat the Quake).
  • Environmental education games (e.g., eco, fate of the world)
  • Disaster recovery and games
  • Decision-support and games (e.g. campus at risk)
  • Science education and games (e.g. learn with portals, miasmata, reach for the sun)

In this presentation I will discuss why the study of science-focused games is important and how the SciGames Hub hopes to approach research in this area, addressing both games-based learning and games for the advancement of scientific knowledge.

Program

Serious Game Creation Framework

Contributors: Brent Cowan (brent.cowan@uoit.ca), Dr. Bill Kapralos

Theme: Serious Games and Game-Based Learning

Serious games have been applied within a wide range of applications from surgical skills acquisition to military strategy training, to interpersonal skills development. Given the ubiquity of video game use across a large demographic (i.e., male, female, from the very young to the very old), and their ability to engage and motivate learners, the popularity of serious games has seen a recent surge across all areas of education and training.

Developing an effective serious game is a difficult and time consuming process often requiring technical expertise which is lacking by many educators employing such tools within their curriculum. We have recently begun development of a framework designed to simplify the process of creating serious games. Novel to this framework is the Sky Script scripting language that balances simplicity and functionality, allowing educators to design and build their own interactive content and games, without any prior programming knowledge.

Program

Choose Your Own Life: Research into Text and Self-Expression in Videogames

Keywords: narrative, text, gamebook, Life is Strange, aesthetics, Choose Your Own Adventure

Contributor: Dr. Michael Hancock
(m3hancoc@uwaterloo.ca)

Themes: Narrative and Dialogue in Games; Multimodality in the Game

I’ve currently working on two new distinct, but related, research projects. The first is an investigation of the in-videogame journal. Many videogames call on the players to associate their actions with a leading avatar they control; some games go a step further and employ a journal system that records player actions and presents them chronologically as a coherent narrative. Often, these games came be drastically different: in Planescape: Torment, the player-character is an amnesiac undead immortal in a fantastic realm inhabited by angels and demons; in Life is Strange, the player-character is an eighteen year old girl in an art school attempting to fit in and reconnect with her best friend. But despite the extreme difference between setting and goal, both of these games employ similar rhetorics of choice, and use the journal system to bind the player’s choices together.

My other project also looks at text and choice, but from a different direction. In the 1980s and 90s—not coincidentally, the same period that computer was becoming a part of everyday experience—a series of books called Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA), created by Edward Packard, used second person narration and multiple paths to create a story with choices for the reader. Despite the seemingly innocuous subject matter and the restrictive simplicity of the design, these stories employed a narrative and procedural rhetoric, as evidenced by a study of gender norms as they appear in CYOA games aimed at female tweens (Ashwell). These gamebooks employ—albeit in much similar forms—the same sort of branching techniques found in videogame dialog trees such as those in Mass Effect, Telltale games, and (connecting to my first project) Life is Strange. It is my hope that through detailed, close-study of gamebooks published in the 1990s—such as Alien Go Home, Beneath Nightmare Castle, and Necklace of Skulls—I may be able to derive principles of design applicable to modern videogames.

Program

Strange New Worlds: Narrative Spaces in Virtual Games

Keywords: Narrative; Interactivity; Procedural Rhetoric; Virtual Worlds

Contributor: Nicholas Hobin
(nhobin@uwaterloo.ca)

Theme: Narrative and Dialogue in Games

My research explores how spaces in the virtual world perform this narrative function, communicating the author’s meanings to the audience. In a person’s real-life experience, the objects, concepts and spaces encountered have emotional resonance, and each takes greater or lesser prominence in his or her worldview based on the personal value attached to it. In the entirely constructed world of a book, play, movie or video game, the personal narrative of the author or characters is put on display: the subjective experience of the characters, and the importance they put on their relationships with each other in the plays, become embodied in the setting of each work. The challenge of the writer is to reveal, through the topography of his production, the importance of each object in the world he creates.

Of course, while the narrative of a video game might resemble that of a book or a play, it operates under a very different set of limitations and constraints, particularly the constraint of its interactivity. Its audience is does not passively absorb the narrative of the game, but actively participates in its production. The physical environment remains the primary resource with which the game designer can engage with his or her players, but the designer must account for the extra challenge of the game’s performativity in creating its narrative. My dissertation will consider the question of the role of virtual space in the creation of a video game narrative, and consider how the interactivity of the medium complicates this.

Program

Exploring Locative Game Design: Stories of the Past and Future

Keywords: ARGs, LARP, locative, narrative, augmented reality, utopia

Contributors: Dr. Brian Greenspan (brian.greenspan@carleton.ca), Dr. Caitlin Fisher, Adam Stock, Adam Benn, Matt Carroll, Adrien Robertson, Ingrid Reiche, Jenna Stidwill, Sarah Thorne, Ida Marie Toft

Theme: Narrative and Dialogue in Games

This presentation outlines two browser-based “first-person stroller” games in development at Carleton’s Hyperlab and Digital Rhetorics and Ethics Lab and Concordia’s TAGLab. Golden Days, Silver Nights, is a steampunk-themed locative alt-history game designed to provoke critical thinking about social progress. Players explore real space using a projector-equipped mobile device, which provides text, images, and videos to create the illusion of living within an alternate history and geography. By unearthing verbal and visual rebuses strewn about the landscape, players unveil a counter-factual America extrapolated from actual political events.

The second game, In the Mesh, is set in 2027. Following a series of economic crises and ecological disasters known as ‘The Ruinations’, Montreal has become a quasi-autonomous city-state divided into the proletarian “Hab Nots” downtown, and the elite “Habs” who rule from the relative security and prosperity of the Expo ‘67 site. Users play a Habs spy who moves through the city looking for entry into “Exodus,” the Hab Nots’ shadowy resistance movement. Along the way, they receive official government propaganda and secret hints leading to a final location, where the story’s ultimate mysteries can be solved through an augmented-reality puzzle.

We will use these games to test several propositions drawn from the scholarship on LARP and Alternate Reality Games. As narrative and multimodal games that use the real world as a platform to publicly explore social and political themes with the goal of changing behaviour, our user tests will explore all of IMMERSe’s six research themes to one extent or another.

Program

A Visual Exploration of Game Narrative Structure

Keywords: Procedural Generation, Narrative,
Character­-Driven, Visualization

Contributors: Bethany Dunfield, Dr. Anthony Whitehead

Theme: Narrative and Dialogue in Games

Procedural generation of content for video games, defined as content generated algorithmically by a computer instead of by human designers, is an active field of research. While many types of objective content, such as objects, locations, and graphics, are common today, algorithms for generating subjective content, such as narratives, have not yet seen success. Our ultimate goal is to develop a procedural generator capable of creating compelling stories for games. To that end, our current goal is to analyze game-based stories in search of patterns or characteristics shared by games with critically successful stories. We categorize game story events as either “character­driven” or “plot-driven” with the theory that games with a higher proportion of “character­driven” events will be considered to have “better” stories, both critically and subjectively. Other meta-data is being created including the translation of game events to a variety of narrative structures, such as the hero’s journey. To assist in the analysis of this data, a visualization tool has been created which translates character interactions from a game into a visual format. Analysis of data thus far is generally supportive of our hypothesis, but the sample size is small. There are some challenges facing the project. The subjective nature of stories makes it difficult to evaluate the accuracy of the categorizations. Additionally, playing through games is a time-intensive process. We are making calls for collaboration on this front, to assist in gathering a data pool large enough to be meaningful, and for collaborators who have extensive background in narrative or literature.

Program

Gamifying Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

Keywords: Chaucer, gamification, game mechanics, RPG, medieval, neomedieval

Contributor: Dr. Daniel T. Kline (dtkline@uaa.alaska.edu)

Themes: Narrative and Dialogue in Games; Interactions and Gameplay Mechanics; Cultural and Social Interactions

At first blush, medieval literature might seem not to be amenable to pedagogical ramification; however, Chaucer’s Canterbury Talesalready provides a number of characteristics common to RPGs: it is fashioned as a pilgrimage (like the quest structure of many games); it inscribes different characters who take on a variety of social, political, and ideological characteristics (like the members of a campaign); it is structured as a contest (like a game with winners and losers); it incorporates moments of conflict and negotiation (like boss fights and decision points); it provides a criteria for evaluation (like the judgment necessary for in-game activities); it creates an end point or goal (like the objectives set up in quest games); and it provides for ‘replayability’ (as in a variety of games). This presentation will lay out these parallels in more detail and describe an approach to gamifying Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, combining game mechanics with more traditional teaching goals in an MA-level pedagogical experiment for Spring 2016 semester at the University of Alaska Anchorage. (Themes 1, 2, 6)

Program

Serious Games and Multimodality: Visual, Haptics, and Sound Cues on Learning Medical Skills

Keywords: Haptics, serious games, sound, stereoscopy, virtual anatomy

Contributors: Dr. Alvaro Uribe, Dr. Bill Kapralos, David Rojas, Dr. Adam Dubrowski

Themes: Multimodality in Games; Serious Games and Game-Based Learning

Despite the great technological advancement we have recently experienced, accurately simulating haptic cues in the virtual world is difficult, computationally intensive, and currently too costly. Perceptual-based rendering, whereby the rendering parameters are adjusted based on the perceptual system, is often employed to limit computational processing. Prior work has shown significant interaction effects between sound and visuals yet little work has considered the haptic sense.

Given the potential benefits with developing low-cost haptic-based simulations and serious games that can focus on technical skills development in a cost effective manner, the goal of our work is to develop a greater understanding of fidelity, and multi-modal interactions within a virtual simulation/serious gaming environments. We believe that this will ultimately lead to more effective virtual learning tools and technologies. Building upon our prior work that examined audio-visual interactions within a serious gaming environment, in this paper we outline three future experiments (e.g., work in progress) that will examine the influence of sound on haptic perception and more specifically, whether sound can be used to increase our perception of haptic fidelity and what, if any, role this influence plays in learning haptic-based medical technical skills.

Program

Adding Cartoon-Like Motion to Realistic Animations

Contributors: Rufino R. Ansara, Dr. Chris Joslin

Theme: Multimodality in Games

In comparison to traditional animation techniques, such as manual key framing, motion capture allows animators to obtain a large amount of realistic data in very little time. The motivation behind our research is to try to fill the gap that separates realistic motion from cartoon animation. With this, we could allow classical animators to produce high quality animated movies (such as Frozen, Toy Story, etc.) and non-realistic video games in a significantly shorter amount of time.

To add cartoon-like qualities to realistic animations, we suggest an algorithm that changes the animation curves of motion capture data by modifying local peaks and troughs. We focus on exaggerating the overall motion, increasing jump magnitude, and morphing a neutral walk into a stylized cartoon female walk.

We also propose a curve-based interface that allows users to quickly edit visualize the changes applied to the animation. Finally, to evaluate the performance of both the algorithm and the user interface, we present the results of two user studies that evaluate both the overall user satisfaction with systems functionality, interactivity and learning curve and the animation quality.

Program

Sketched Characters to 3D Model Block Outs

Keywords: Sketch-based modeling, Automatic modeling, Automatic block out, Sketch to 3D, Interactive Skeletonization

Contributors: Shaikah Bakerman (shaikahbakerman@cmail.carleton.ca), Dr. Chris Joslin

Theme: Multimodality in Games

3D modeling, a vital part in most video games and movies, is a process that starts by blocking out the basic shape of an object, which is then transformed into a detailed and enhanced mesh. Blocking out is creating a simple geometry of the model using primitive shapes like cylinders or cubes. It forms the overall shape of the model with a relatively small number of polygons. To build a 3D model, modeling artists usually use reference images to recreate the model from photographs or sketches. Using reference images helps artists block out the model in relatively accurate proportions, and later apply the details laid out in those images. In our research, we focus on the process of blocking out 3D human characters using a single front-view sketch as reference. Our aim is to automatically produce a low-poly model block out using one sketch and a simple user interactive process.

We developed a system that reads a front-view sketch image of a human character, cartoon or realistic. The system interface prompts for user interaction, with the image, to cooperate in the decision of locating some of the critical data that are necessary to produce a model block out. Finally, combining image-processed and user-given data, the system produces a low-poly block out in a shape that proportionally matches the sketched character. Our goal for the system is to produce a character block out with good geometry and topology. This way, we ensure that our system will positively contribute to the 3D modeling process by automating what is, otherwise, a manual and redundant phase. In addition, we are going to test whether our system is going to help speed up the blocking out process.

Program

Serious Gaming:  Multi-Modal Interactions, and Customizing the User Interface

Contributor: Dr. Bill Kapralos

Theme: Multimodality in Games

Traditionally, designers and developers of serious games aim to remain faithful in their representation of the real environment that they simulate, and therefore strive for high fidelity particularly with respect to the visual scene. However, even with the great computing hardware advances we have recently experienced, real‐time high fidelity rendering of complex environments across all modalities is still not feasible particularly when considering the potentially limiting computational resources. Furthermore, striving for high fidelity environments can increase the probability of lag and subsequent discomfort and simulator sickness, and increase  development  time/costs.  Previous  work  has  demonstrated  that  cross‐modal  effects  can be considerable, to the extent that a large amount of detail of one sense may be ignored or enhanced by the presence of other sensory inputs. Taking advantage of such cross‐modal effects, perceptual‐based rendering, whereby the rendering parameters are adjusted based on the human perceptual system, can be employed to limit computational processing. We have recently begun investigating the perception of visual realism of 3D rendered (virtual) scenes under various auditory conditions. Our work has shown strong subjective effects regarding sound’s effect on visual fidelity perception and task performance suggesting the importance of customizing the virtual environment (e.g., audio/visual fidelity, background sounds, etc.) to increase user engagement and ultimately learning. This is part of our larger‐scale effort that examines virtual environment fidelity, multi‐modal interactions, user‐specific factors (e.g., personality, learning style, existing knowledge, level of attention, motivation etc.) and their effect on knowledge transfer and retention. Our work seeks to develop more effective virtual simulations/serious games that maximize learning.

Program

Walk-up-and-play: Overcoming Interaction Barriers in Large Interactive Displays with Multi-Display Experience

Contributor: Victor Cheung

Themes: Cultural and Social Interactions; Multimodality in Games

Games at public large interactive displays can be immersive and engaging, but they are not necessarily easy to join and sometimes even intimidating. For example, some gestures have to be performed, and there is only a limited space available. Allowing external devices like mobile phones and tablets to be part of the gameplay mitigates this problem, but they typically require pre-installing apps or creating user profiles. By using the current web technology together with the hardware commonly found in most mobile devices, this work focuses on making the joining process as quick and as simple as possible, thereby allowing players to better enjoy the subsequent gameplay experience. The outcome of this work is an application framework that supports this form of interaction, as well as a collection of game mechanics that are best suited for it.

Program

Analysing Game Design Principles

Contributors: Salvatore D’Amore, Dr. Jacques Carette

Themes: Multimodality in the Game; Cultural and Social Interactions; Serious Games and Game-Based Learning; Interactions and Gameplay Mechanics; Narrative and Dialogue in Games;  Games that Change Behaviour

There exists a plethora of “game design principles”. While these are popular, and discussed extensively, there has been little work done on formalizing them. They currently exists as guidelines for designers; we look to model video games in such a way as to be able to verify that these principles are adhered to. By breaking down each principle into its components, we want to determine if they are objective enough to formalize (using concepts from mathematics and computer science). Then we would like to create a modelling framework, for each principle, that enables one to verify if the principle indeed holds or not.

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Improving Neuro-Rehabilitation Outcomes through Universal Control of Games

Contributor: Lucas Stephenson

Themes: Games that Change Behaviour; Serious Games and Game-Based Learning

Acquired brain injuries leave a staggering number of people worldwide with impaired motor abilities. Repetitive motion exercises can, thanks to brain plasticity, allow a degree of recovery, help adaptation and ultimately improve quality of life for survivors. Rehabilitation of neurological injuries general provides diminishing, but not-null returns, lifelong improvement and maintenance of rehabilitation is the goal, however the motivation for survivors to complete these exercises typically wanes over time as boredom sets in. To provide longevity to a client’s participation, and ease the effect of boredom for patients, research efforts have tied the rehabilitation exercises to computer games. These systems typically involve specially developed experiences that use specific control sensors, and are thus not widely available. The goal of the AIM (aggregate with intelligence, motion) for Neurological Rehabilitation project is to create an software engine that can consume a range of input signals that can be used to control any computer system, including off the shelf games and general computer applications. The system is designed to be modular at all levels; providing flexibility for the sensors used and how their input is consumed. There are presently two main segments of the project. AIM-engine, provides a distributed framework for AIM modules that receive, process, record and output sensor signals. AIM-design is the user interface system that allows practitioners, caregivers, clients and other stakeholders to choose and co-ordinate AIM modules. Both AIM-engine and AIM-design are being designed, with the former existing in a basic prototype and the later as a paper prototype.

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Playing for a Better World: Using Emergent Gameplay for Knowledge Translation around Food Allergies and other Social Applications

Contributor: Ryan Clement

Themes: Games that Change Behaviour; Serious Games and Game-Based Learning

The term knowledge translation has been gaining considerable traction in recent years as more and more funding bodies push for applied research with definable outcomes and social impacts. Meanwhile, in the field of game studies, supporters of gamification or gameful design have pushing forward the use of games as a means of engaging both the public and research interests towards meaningful dialogues, better health, and other applications for “games for good.” Since 2013, members of the University of Waterloo Games Institute (GI) have been working with the Canadian Institute for Health Research’s GET-FACTS project on the subject of knowledge translation around of food allergies. To this end, GI member and Kitchener-based game designer Ryan Clement designed the co-operative tabletop board game, Kitchen Table, as means of using games to increase public awareness of the issues faced by people with food allergies. The presently ongoing University of Waterloo-based study “Use of Persuasive Games to Promote Empathy Towards Persons with Food Allergies” is expected to provide both quantitative and qualitative data to support the premise that the Kitchen Table game, and arguably games like, can and does encourage greater empathy towards persons with food allergies amongst it players. In the end, the main goal is for this study to set the foundation for further research on knowledge translation through emergent game play and game narratives and to promote the improvement of “persuasive” game design.

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Usability and Motivational Effects of a Gamified Health and Fitness System based on Wearable Devices

Keywords: Gamification, Wearable Device, Health and Fitness

Contributors: Zhao Zhao (zhaozhao@cmail.carleton.ca), Dr. S. Ali Etemad (AliEtemad@cmail.carleton.ca), Dr. Ali Arya (Ali.Arya@carleton.ca)

Themes: Multimodality in Games; Interactions and Gameplay Mechanics

Wearable technologies are a growing industry with significant potential in different aspects of health and fitness. Gamification of health and fitness, on the other hand, has recently become a popular field of research. Accordingly, we believe that wearable devices have the potential to be utilized towards gamification of fitness and exercise. Therefore, we have proposed [1] a novel approach for gamification of exercise and fitness, where off-the-shelf wearable technologies are utilized for interaction with real-time exercise games for the wearable devices. Results illustrate that the idea of employing wearables activity trackers for gamification of exercise and fitness is feasible, motivating, and engaging, especially with real-time gameplay experience. In our recent work, we expand this idea through the design and implementation of a smartphone game application and integration with three wearable devices of different form factors. User tests evaluate the effectiveness of the combined use of games and wearable devices in promoting fitness and healthy lifestyle. Questionnaires are used to evaluate the usability of our proposed approach and effects of different factors such as the position to wear the device, game modes, and different activities. Preliminary studies show a positive trend based on our proposed approach of applying gamified elements to health and fitness applications using wearable sensing systems (especially with real-time gameplay experience). Users demonstrate high satisfaction with the way of interacting with the game and enjoy exercise more in this way compared to regular exercise. Factors such as the wearability of different devices, user’s preferences for different types of exercise or game modes affect the user experience of the game.

References

[1] Zhao, Zhao, S. Ali Etemad, and Ali Arya. “Gamification of Exercise and Fitness using Wearable Activity Trackers.” Proceedings of the 10th International Symposium on Computer Science in Sports (ISCSS). Springer International Publishing, 2015.

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Towards a Personalized Playful Digital Wellness Assistant

Keywords: Health Games; Gameful Design; Gamification; Personal Health Assistant; Persuasive Technologies

Contributors: Gustavo F. Tondello (gustavo@tondello.com), Dr. Lennart E. Nacke (lennart.nacke@acm.org)

Theme: Games that Change Behaviour

Positive effects of using digital games to improve personal health have been studied, but it remains unclear which game design techniques are most successful at motivating and changing long-term behaviour to improve wellbeing. To inform the design of gamified and effective personal healthcare, we will develop design guidelines and tools for gameful health and wellbeing applications, personalized to the needs and challenges of each individual user. The main goal of our research is to develop a gamified Personal Digital Wellness Assistant (PDWA), with a playful user experience that allows individuals to track their personal health. By integrating a visual analytics tool, this application will explore new ways of processing health-related data. We intend to study and employ personalization approaches, such as persuasion profiles, user typologies, and affective ludology, to further improve the application with personalization capabilities that will tailor its features according to the individual needs and preferences of each user. The proposed application will draw together the current best practices of existing health-focused applications, gamification research, and persuasive technologies in a meta-review, which will lend them a baseline for developing future gamified and personalized health systems.

Reference: G. F. Tondello, R. R. Wehbe, and L. E. Nacke. Towards a Personalized Playful Digital Wellness Assistant. In: Workshop on Personalization in Serious and Persuasive Games and Gamified Interactions, London, UK, 2015.

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Presentation Proposal: Empirical Comparison of HUDs and Diegetic Displays in First-Person Shooters

Keywords: diegetic displays, HUDs, first-person shooter, user study

Contributors: Margaree Peacocke, Dr. Robert J. Teather (teather@mcmaster.ca), Dr. Jacques Carette

Theme: Interactions and Gameplay Mechanics

Diegetic displays embed in-game information into the game environment and fiction. They are increasingly used in modern first-person shooter (FPS) games, in lieu of heads-up displays (HUDs), which present game information in meters, numbers, and icons on the periphery of the display. Current design sensibilities recommend the use of diegetic displays over HUDs. However, there is little, if any, empirical foundation to this claim – it is unclear if differences in these display types might impede (or enhance) player experience.

To build empirically-founded design guidelines, we conducted four experiments comparing several methods of displaying FPS game information . Each experiment focused on a different information type, including ammunition, health, weapon, and navigation aid. Both diegetic (in-game) and heads-up display (HUD) options were compared. The goal was to reveal differences in terms of player performance, preference, and immersion between these two classes of displays, and across different types of information. Results suggest that neither HUDs nor diegetic displays are universally best, as each performed well for different information types. For ammo, a diegetic in-game option was best. For health, HUDs were the better option. For weapon, a combination of displaying the participant’s gun in front of them and (redundantly) showing an icon in the bottom right corner of the HUD was best. For navigation, a “navigation line” (showing the path) did best, but mini-maps also offered reasonable performance.

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A study of menu navigation systems for games on mobile and touchscreen platforms

Contributors: Selena Rikley, Dr. Jacques Carette

Theme: Interactions and Gameplay Mechanics

The increase of popularity of the mobile platform for gaming has introduced the redesigning of existing console and pc games to work on smaller screen sizes with touch controls. Games that use large menu systems are not easily converted to the mobile platform without impacting the game functionality and experience. The presented research focuses on construction-and-management simulations and real-time strategy games, which commonly require large menu systems. These genres rely on the ease and efficiency with which a user can navigate through large menu systems as a game mechanic. The research analyses some common menu systems currently used for games on the mobile platform. The presentation gives a proposal for alternative designs that may help maintain the game experience for the player and a discussion on the methodology to evaluate the effectiveness of the designs.

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Ordinary People: Integrating Emotional Reactions into Non-Player Characters in Computer Role playing Games

Contributors: Geneva Smith, Dr. Jacques Carette

Theme: Interactions and Gameplay Mechanics

Many video games lack the appeal or re-playability of traditional board games because of insufficient differences between plays. Researchers have already made significant progress to improve this by designing and testing reactionary learning systems in strategy games, where tactics are altered in response to player choices. However, this approach might not be effective for all game genres. For example, in computer role-playing games (CRPGs) many of the non-player characters (NPCs) are ordinary people with no military training. In this case, it is more realistic to have them react emotionally to the player and their actions. Using machine learning techniques, a system can be designed based on basic emotions (joy, sadness, anger, fear, and disgust) such that NPCs develop their opinion of the player and other in-game entities over time, rather than having scripted opinions.

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Managing Minecraft: Notes Toward a Book

Contributor: Dr. Darren Wershler

Theme: Interactions and Gameplay Mechanics

TBA

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Minecraft and The Hunger Games: A Collaborative Research Project

Contributor: Nic Watson

Theme: Interactions and Gameplay Mechanics

Our project investigates the genre conventions of competitive, trans-media “Hunger Games” themed scenarios played on Minecraft servers. Having evaluated and catalogued the standard features and emergent practices of this mini-game, our team is now in the process of iterating new, experimental scenario designs, which will be play-tested by students in a university-level sociology class. The goal of these experiments is two-fold: first, to explore the tension between fidelity to the _Hunger Games_ narrative and the deathmatch-style rules and conventions of the Minecraft interpretation; and second, to determine to what extent the genre lets us interrogate sociological research questions while still remaining recognizable as Minecraft Hunger Games.

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A Simple Yet Surprisingly Effective AI

Contributor: Jonathan Rodriguez

Theme: Interactions and Gameplay Mechanics

This talk is about a simple collectable-card game AI that works surprisingly well. Despite having no capacity for planning, learning, or probability computations, initial feedback from the development team suggests that it is winning 70% of games against moderately experienced human players. Interestingly, feedback also suggests that human players perceive the AI to be more deeply strategic than it actually is. Possible avenues for further research are discussed. The AI is implemented in the newly-released commercial game “Rival Books of Aster,” which was designed at the University of Waterloo and funded in part by the Canada Media Fund and Mitacs.

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Leafs Shrine: Gameful Support for Collectors of Sports Memorabilia

Keywords: Games, Sandbox games, Collectors, Collections, Emergent Play

Contributors: Diane Watson, Dr. Deltcho Valtchanov, Dr. Kirk Goodlet, Kent Aardse, Dr. Jason Hawreliak, Dr. Mark Hancock, Dr. Neil Randall

Themes: Cultural and Social Interactions; Narrative and Dialogue in Games; Interactions and Gameplay Mechanics

One person in three is considered a collector and collects artifacts that share a theme, such as stamps, coins, or sports memorabilia; however, current technology does not fully support digital curation or sharing of these physical collections. In this paper, we perform semi-structured interviews with collectors of sports memorabilia, which informed a set of design guidelines for interfaces that support collectors. Our findings highlight the importance of narrative, organization, and authenticity to collections, and identify the need to support emergent and playful behaviour. We then present the design of our prototype based on these findings, Shrine—a playful sandbox environment for collectors to create and share sports memorabilia in a publicly available archive along with its associated narrative. We employ a gameful design to motivate people without using badges and points, which are commonly employed in games with a purpose. A comparative evaluation suggests that Shrine supports the sharing of collections better than existing digital social sharing systems.

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Mapping Gender Identity in Digital Games

Contributor: Dr. Gerald Voorhees

Theme: Cultural and Social Interactions

This project aims to plot a closely bounded set of coordinates around the representation of gender in games that is both substantial and comprehensive, but by no means complete. Over the course of a year we will collect qualitative data on the representations of masculine, feminine and genderqueer identity in the twenty-five most popular digital games from 2015 in order to plot the various figures — the stereotypes, archetypes and new formations — of gendered identity that digital games enshrine, legitimate, demean and demonize. By charting the various constructions of gender that digital games (re)produce and the valances they are ascribed, the project will determine the touchstones that players accept, reject, negotiate or otherwise use to shape their sense of self.

The project will produce a grid of intelligible gender identities by employing content analysis and rhetorical analysis in tandem. The various rhetorical figures of masculine, feminine and genderqueer identity, as well as the valences they are ascribed, will be (re)assembled through rhetorical analysis of the data collected in the content analysis. And the relations between these figures, dispersed along coordinates shaped by sex, sexuality, physical appearance, personality and behaviors, will be mapped as a grid of intelligibility, revealing which constructions of gender are made ‘possible’ and ‘sensible’ by games and which are drawn outside the ‘lines of making sense.’

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Publish with Purpose: Future Directions of First Person Scholar

Contributor: Emma Vossen

Theme: Cultural and Social Interactions

At the IMMERSe annual meeting I will be presenting on the aims and future of the game studies publication First Person Scholar (FPS). As the current Editor-in-Chief my presentation will include a quick overview of the notoriety FPS has achieved in both public and academic spheres before moving on to our future aspirations. Despite the success of FPS many academics continue to question the validity or use value of putting their work in a middle state publication without full peer review. The underlying assumption tends to be that online open source writing is not as valuable as print writing within closed access journals. My talk will discuss how the future aims of FPS include dispelling the myths that surround academic writing that chooses to forgo traditional publishing methods. I will discuss my desire to provide an alternative to the “publish or perish” model with my “publish with purpose model” and then I will discuss the merits of a “reviewed by your peers” model over the classic “peer review” model. Lastly i’ll discuss the importance of public facing publishing for the knowledge mobilization of IMMERSe research.

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FYDLYTY: A Low-Fidelity Serious Game for Medical-Based Cultural Competence Education

Keywords: Serious games, cultural competence, scenario editor, dialogue authoring tool

Contributor: Zain Khan

Themes: Cultural and Social Interactions; Serious Games and Game-Based Learning

Cultural competence, in health-based education is an essential skill to provide effective medical-care services to a culturally diverse audience. Cultural competence skills include knowing about others cultural values, traditional illnesses, handling language barriers in an adequate manner, and forming a relationship of trust with the patient. In the past, various techniques have been employed to train medical-students and practitioners to learn cultural competence skills. Here I present Fydlyty, a web-based, low-fidelity serious game to educate, and inform medical practitioners and trainees about cultural competence. Fydlyty includes a scenario editor and dialogue editor which has the ability to build conversations, interpret responses, and respond to questions/answers from the game player. These responses are based on predefined cultural characteristics of the virtual character (avatar), and on different moods that the avatar may express depending on the situation (i.e., normal, upset, or angry). In addition to its educational purposes, Fydlyty has been developed as a research tool to examine the role of graphical-based fidelity in the learning process. Furthermore, to facilitate debriefing and to provide instructors and students a platform to collaborate on and learn through observational practices, the OPEN system has been introduced. OPEN is designed to provide the instructor with flexibility to frame a learning process, thereby teach, evaluate, and attain feedback from the students. A variety of resources described can be used to facilitate this process. The experiments conducted provide evidence that both these tools can be used for cultural competence training in health professions education.

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Media and Mediums: Cybertext and Divinatory Games

Contributors: Sandra Huber, Dr. Darren Wershler

Theme: Cultural and Social Interactions

In this presentation, I will briefly discuss an in-progress IF Tarot game that I’m making in Twine called The Wilfrid Tarot. In 1997, when Espen Aarseth introduced concepts of digital cybertext, he started by presenting two examples: Eliza, a chatbot programmed in 1963 to imitate a Rogerian psychoanalyst, and the I-Ching. Though he introduced them separately, these examples present a number of interesting networks: a querent consults the I-Ching as she consults Eliza as she consults the Tarot deck, especially the twenty-two cards that compose the Tarot’s major arcana, said in some legends to be “secrets” embedded into a regular deck of playing cards. These texts are machines built by us to somehow give guidance or direction to us; to divine a path (ergodic) — what is interesting here is that chatbots or texts such as the I-Ching and Tarot are ascribed sentience. What is being sought in these machines, these algorithms, what is the particular kind of sentience ascribed to a deck of cards that can actually be used to direct one’s life decisions? And why, when the Tarot is translated to a digital version, does it (in my opinion) flatten and lose its intrigue?The Wilfred Tarot is a research question in the form of a game that seeks to open a more textual, interactive avenue for the digital “divinatory” game, where the platform, Twine, literalizes Aarseth’s ergodic path and becomes a medium.

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