McMaster University

Gaming Scalability Environment (G-ScalE)

Where we learned about emotional gameplay, scale effects and game displays, and player interaction.

A s with the other partner institutions, the award of IMMERSe had a profound effect on the trajectory of games studies at McMaster. Most notably, IMMERSe researchers at McMaster University were able to leverage their portion of the grant to acquire The Gaming Scalability Environment (G-ScalE), a large, interdisciplinary lab where IMMERSe-funded students and post-docs could conduct their research.

Located in the McMaster Innovation Park, the 2,000 square foot lab housed several digital media and game development workstations and gameplay spaces. In addition to the IMMERSe grant, the lab was funded federally by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the Ontario Ministry of Research & Innovation award (ORI). The award was part of a larger vision of collaborative research between the Faculty of Engineering, the Faculty of Humanities and McMaster Libraries. Specifically, researchers received $258,886 to investigate the effects that digital display size and resolution have on the user experience in the design of games and virtual environments (“Four McMaster research projects receive federal funding”).

In later years, McMaster researchers leveraged IMMERSe to receive the “New Frontiers in Research Fund-Exploration (NFRFE)” grant, a SSHRC Insight Development grant, and an NSERC Engage (Grant). These grants gave additional support to collaborative, interdisciplinary, and multi-institutional research. IMMERSe was critical to the formation of G-ScalE’s state-of-the-art facilities and to the formation of specific research visions for the Institute.

The cross-disciplinary nature of the IMMERSe network research and the existence of the G-ScalE lab opened up avenues for new collaborative research. This took place between non-IMMERSe affiliated researchers in music and multimedia at McMaster and a mostly NSERC-discipline based IMMERSe team at UW and McMaster. As the efforts of games-related research ramped up at the G-ScaleE lab, this has also allowed the IMMERSe researchers there to reach out to many different people in the small, but booming, local games industry.

Over IMMERSe’s eight year run, researchers from McMaster made significant contributions within the realm of emotional gameplay, scale effects and game displays, and player interaction.

Emotional Gameplay

Realistic video game characters and realistic in-game interactions heighten the emotional experience during play and may encourage players to replay a game multiple times. Despite its positive implications for marketability, few developments have been made to develop realistic game characters. Researchers at McMaster University concentrated their efforts to see if emotion could be integrated into character design to develop a new generation of emotionally intelligent programming. (Smith). McMaster focused a lot of their research in this domain through panel discussion, presentations, and publications in games journals.

Of note is the pioneering research of Geneva Smith in this domaim. In her IMMERSe funded project “GLaDOS: Integrating Emotion-Based Behaviours into Non-Player Characters in Computer Role-Playing Games” Smith created a system using Lazarus's theory of cognitive appraisal and Plutchik's theory of emotion as a guide. Findings were presented at Carleton University in Ottawa. In a follow up project, for her dissertation, Smith wrote the paper “Creating an Emotion Engine for Computer Role Playing Games.” This work aims to further the advances made in the GLADOS project, by create a detailed emotional model for NPCs and an engine that can be added to games to augment NPC behaviour.

Scale Size and Game Displays

Research on the effects of scale size in videogames was a prominent research vision for McMaster’s grouping of IMMERSe researcher. In particular, research examined the effects of bezel sixe, automatic scaling, and uniform and non-uniform scaling on videogame player experience. Research in this domain was disseminated in conference papers, presentations, and seminars.

The user interface and display of various games was another topic commonly under study, particularly within the context of first person shooter games. Games in the first person shooter genre are typically constructed to be highly immersive and as a result, researchers have begun experimenting to see if in-game (diagetic) communication systems would be more immersive and effective at conveying critical game information. Research conducted by McMaster in this domain is highlighted elsewhere in the website under the topic of Interactions and Gameplay Mechanics.

Player Interaction

The core interaction of games research is that which occurs between the player and the game. In “Ooh What's This Button Do?” Sasha Sorraine investigates the physical requirements of video gaming to understand the player-game relationship through challenges and motor abilities. The purpose of this study was to design better challenges for people of differing abilities, to explore novel motor experiences in games, and to create a better way to formally discuss and categorize game-play.

Sorraine later did her PhD on the topic. In her thesis “Exploring Mechanical Experience through Competency” Sorraine expand on her research, and aims to create a framework that defines the mechanical level of the player experience as a relationship between the competency profile of individual challenges and the individual player's ability profile.