DiGRA.nl 2016

The Dutch DiGRA Chapter (DiGRA.nl), the forum for game research in the Netherlands, is organising a pitching event on April 28 2016, hosted by the focus area Game Research.

The speakers in alphabetical order are:

Gaming in Multicultural Classrooms: The Potential of Collaborative Digital Games to Foster Intercultural Interaction

With growing cultural diversity in European educational settings, acculturation processes at schools have become more complex as well as ‘problems’ associated to cultural essentialisms in everyday classroom practices. The use of digital games has found to be an effective tool to reinforce teaching/learning practices. While most studies have focused on the benefits of gaming for students’ school performance and knowledge acquisition, the present research aims to explore the potential of digital collaborative games to foster intercultural interaction in multicultural classrooms. Contact theory serves to explain the importance of intercultural interactions for the long-term process of acculturation.

Amanda Paz Alencar, Lecturer Department of Media & Communication, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Teresa de la Hera Conde-Pumpido, Postdoc Researcher and Lecturer, Utrecht University

GAMYGDALA: An easy to use emotion engine for NPCs

The technology to simulate emotions for NPCs is industry ready. This has been the case for several years, and recent scientific advancements show that pluggable, black-box, emotion engines are feasible. We believe that exposure to, and ease-of-use of such engines are important factors that limit uptake. To facilitate this, we have developed a fully documented JavaScript-based version of GAMYGDALA including a plugin for the JavaScript-based game engine Phaser. Further, to seed imagination, we have developed two experimental games: an emotional arcade game and an emotional puzzle game. The games use GAMYGDALA to simulate NPC emotions and showcase novel gameplay enabled by emotion simulation. Further, these two cases show how straightforward simulating emotions is when properly supported by an emotion engine.

Joost Broekens, Assistant professor Affective Computing, Interactive Intelligence group, Intelligent Systems department, EEMCS Faculty (EWI), Delft University of Technology

Virtual Agents for Social Skills Training (VASST)

We pitch the idea of a research consortium called Virtual Agents for Social Skills Training (VASST). In VASST, we aim to optimize interactions in serious games with virtual agents so that players can learn social skills effectively and efficiently. The main ICT Science question of VASST is: how can we personalise serious games for social skills training to improve players’ learning experiences? This question consists of tackling three challenges. The first research challenge is to design and implement techniques to automatically analyse player data to create player profiles. The second research challenge is generating new content for scenarios, such as richer behaviour of the virtual humans with which players interact, based on players’ actions in the game. The third research challenge is to perform analyses of the player data so that the privacy of users is secured. We happily welcome interested partners to our consortium.

Merijn Bruijnes, Human Media Interaction, University of Twente

Jeroen Linssen, Human Media Interaction, University of Twente

Let's Talk About Sex

Children with post traumatic stress syndrome after sexual abuse often have to deal with feelings of shame, guilt and a lack of vocabulary to describe the traumatic event. We developed a tool that offers a save environment to discuss the traumatic experience in save and non-verbal manner. Building forth on play therapy, the tool puts children in charge of their own story and normative statements concerning the experience.We are looking for partners to engage in validation studies that concern the conversation quality between clients and therapist, concerning the traumatic experience and / or preferred future interactions.

Menno Deen, Fontys University of Applied Sciences on Information Technology and Communication

Towards believable crowds: a generic multi-level framework for agent navigation

Real-time crowd simulation is crucial in virtual environments, e.g. to determine evacuation times in complex buildings, avoid overcrowded areas during mass events, and to populate games with realistically moving characters. We present our modular crowd simulation software, which is easily extendable and can simulate large autonomous crowds in real-time.

Our software is available for research and commercial use. We welcome researchers and companies to collaborate, e.g. to write joint project proposals or to integrate our framework into their products.

Roland Geraerts, Department of Information and Computing Sciences, Utrecht University


DataQuest: Modern Warfare. A quantitative content analysis of games about about modern wars (1939-present)

During this presentation I will talk about aspects of a quantitative content analysis of a set of games about World War II and contemporary armed conflicts I have been carrying out over the last few months, e.g. focussing on game characters and locations.

Pieter van den Heede, Centre for Historical Culture (CHC), Erasmus Research Centre for Media, Communication and Culture (ERMeCC), Erasmus University Rotterdam


Game appeal: the variety of reasons why games are appealing

My PhD project focuses on the question why games are appealing. Much research has already been done to map these reasons, however there seem to be many large unresolved discrepancies. Interaction between the existing research is troubled by the differing perspectives on the subject (perspectives focus on e.g., motivation types, fun types, or gamer types) and the variety of disciplines involved. My PhD project identifies and investigates the various perspectives on the question why games are appealing, to allow for effective interaction between the existing research. Subsequently the existing research will be synthesized into a perspective-neutral framework on game appeals.

Marries van de Hoef, Game Research Graduate Program, Department of Information and Computing Sciences, Utrecht University

Play to Win Over: Effects of a Persuasive Game

Persuasive games are a subset of serious games that are made with the primary intention to change the attitudes of their players. In this presentation, I will discuss a study into the effects the game My Cotton Picking Life has on the attitudes of players towards cotton picking. In an online experiment, participants either played the game or watched a YouTube clip on the same topic. After discussing the results of this study, I will briefly outline a generalizable model explaining the effects of persuasive games, with an eye on what needs to be done in future research.

Ruud Jacobs, Erasmus Research Centre for Media, Communication & Culture, Erasmus University Rotterdam


Pitching our MOOC Serious Gaming

The DiGRA.nl pitch event is meant to share information about current game research. We would like to share how we used the Coursera.org platform to present our knowledge about serious gaming. Our Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) will be accessible by May 15, 2016. Have you ever wondered how playing games can help us to train complex behavior, address societal challenges or raise awareness? In this MOOC you will learn the ins and outs of games that are designed with exactly those purposes in mind: serious games. We will define serious games, discuss the different types that have been developed, why people like to play them and what impact they may have. State of the art theories from game studies, philosophy and media psychology will be used to help you understand how serious games work and how they appeal to players. The potential impact of gaming is addressed in detail by discussing persuasive games, which aim at changing the player's attitude. Throughout the MOOC, theoretical insights will be illustrated with animations and contemporary case studies of serious games, which are developed by companies in the city of Rotterdam.The pitch will include our 45 seconds trailer and actual footage from the MOOC

Jeroen Jansz, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Mijke Slot, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Playing along to game music

In contrast to film music, game soundtracks are generally though not just to illustrate the events that they accompany, but to affect the player’s interaction with those events as well. While there is a growing number of experimental studies describing and explaining these effects on a psychological level, there have been few attempts to describe player experiences of these kinds of musical interaction. What are the extents and limits of ‘playing along’ to game music? What in the music do players consider themselves to be playing along with? While ultimately these questions will benefit from empirical work such as interviews, it bears to first unpack the concept of ‘playing along’ from a ludological, music-analytical, and phenomenological perspective.

Michiel Kamp,
Department of Media and Culture Studies, Utrecht University


Expanding the Empathy Machine to shape how we think and feel about reality

Within this design-research we explore and design novel virtual experiences aimed to shape how people think and feel about reality. Over the past couple of years the role of empathy, occasionally as persuasive appeal, has been of increasing interest to game researchers and developers alike. And at the same time, technological advancements such as virtual reality now allow us to actually step in someone else’s shoes, stimulating this perspective-taking process even more. In our work we reflect and expand on this and question what design strategies could stimulate this perspective-taking, empathy inductive and persuasive process regarding real world issues.

Martijn Kors, Eindhoven University of Technology & Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (TU/e & HvA)

Simulation gaming as a research method: Applications in transport

Simulation gaming has proven to be an influential research practice to study complex systems. It addresses questions of human behavior in the context of organizational action, social change and technical development. Games are apt instruments to perform multi-disciplinary research that integrate different perspectives, concepts, theories, data, information, methods, and tools. A key advantage of simulation gaming is that it can take a dual position regarding the two main branches of science-- design science and analytical science. I will highlight these advantages practically, by explaining how I used simulation gaming to research about situational awareness in the field of transportation.

Shalini Kurapati, Delft University of Technology

Exploring the possibilities of intergenerational digital gaming practices

This study explores the potential of intergenerational digital gaming practices. The question is how intergenerational gaming between older and younger individuals (e.g. grandparents and grandchildren) can be used to benefit their mental, physical and social wellbeing/bonding. To address this question we study in which ways digital games can be used to foster intergenerational interactions and from which perspectives can intergenerational gaming be approached with the objective of overcoming loneliness.

Eugène Loos, Utrecht University

Teresa de la Hera,
Utrecht University

Monique Simons, Utrecht University

Games, Play, and the City: Games as Tools for City Models

Blurb: Games are used instrumentally in city contexts. This means that games are believed to facilitate the resolvement of issues that plague the city. Sometimes the act of playing is enough to instigate alternative engagement with an issue, such as role playing games that let various stakeholders explore different positions. At other times playing the game must instil a lasting change in behaviour. The form of play must be attuned to the particular issue pursued. I approach the fit between city issues and digital games by scrutinising the technological and appropriative agency of games.

Sjors Martens, Game Research Graduate Program, Department of Media and Culture Studies, Utrecht University

Playful organisations and learning systems: the Serious Game Research Program at NHTV Breda


Igor Mayer, Lector Applied Games, Innovation & Society, NHTV Breda, University of Applied Sciences

Ecoplay: Digital games and ecological citzenship

Policymakers and politiciens face challenges finding effective strategies to engage individual citizens on climate change. Digital games seem to be well-suited to address these challenges. They can serve as effective tools for promoting attitude change, pro-environmental behavior and the understanding of the complexity of the issue. I will present an overview of types of climate change games, and explore some of their benefits and trade-offs. I will analyze and evaluate what kind of arguments they make about ecological citizenship.

Joost Raessens, Utrecht University

Play with impact

Our work investigates how playful interaction with ambient environments and tangible technology can have a measurable impact on the physical and social behavior of participants. Domains of interest include, among others, children's free play, rehabilitation therapy, and play for people with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities.

Dennis Reidsma, Human Media Interaction, Creative Technology, University of Twente

An ecological view of the player: gaming practices in context

Much gaming research to date has focused on gaming practices, yet few researchers have addressed the role of context in understanding the appeal and appropriation of digital games. I therefore advocate an ecological perspective on gaming, with a renewed emphasis on the setting and social circles in which gaming takes place. I will illustrate this point with two research projects. First, I’ll demonstrate how the prison context affects the meaning that prisoners attribute to digital gaming. Second, I’ll explain how social contexts and significant others surrounding young children affect their appropriation of digital games.

Wannes Ribbens, Assistant professor in Media & Communication, Department of Media & Communication, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Player-avatar relations in augmented reality games

Soon to be released augmented reality games are often portrayed in first person perspective. This type of setup, where the player is directly the protagonist, represents a very small subgroup of games that are possible with this technology. Games using virtual avatars (and third person perpective) are likely to emerge in the near future as well. The focus of my research is to understand how different perceptual configurations, e.g. type of visual/auditory/tactile feedback, will influence the relation the player can have with their avatar in AR.

Nina Rosa, Game Research Graduate Program, Department of Information and Computing Sciences, Utrecht University

Persuasive games: a revision of the typology of advergames

This research is focused on digital games designed by/for a brand. The first stage of this research will try to revise the definition of advergame and its classification, taking into account several main milestones such as mobile communication and market applications; banded content and the way the companies build their image through it; and the evolution of social networks that allow users to interact and modify the brand image. In general, from the results obtained we will have an updated evolution of this kind of digital games and a new classification of advergames.

Laura Cañete Sanz,
University of Murcia

Patterns in Conflict: Mapping Assemblages of Contemporary Conflict in Digital War Games

The present study maps the circulation of liberal war and peace frames within and through contemporary war games such as Spec Ops: The Line (Yager Development 2012), This War of Mine (11 Bit Studios 2014), and Riot (Forthcoming). This interdisciplinary computer science/humanities project is positioned in between software studies, conflict studies, and game studies. Its main aim is to analyse the material-semiotic network of relations in the production and circulation of dominant war frames and how they contribute to the political legitimation of contemporary conflict.

Stephanie de Smale, Game Research Graduate Program, department of Media and Culture Studies, Utrecht University

Designing for play

Over a decade after the serious games initiative, there is substantial proof that games can be used for learning, and even outperform traditional instruction. There is however less proof for the motivational merits of serious games. One problem we can discern is that serious games violate conditions of the magic circle, and are therefore not conducive to play. This is further compounded by a lack of understanding how to design for play to occur. In addition, current game learning goals ignore the more transformational and attitudinal correlates of the play experience. At TU/e we therefore research how to design play.

Erik van der Spek, Assistant professor in Game Design, Industrial Design, Eindhoven University of Technology

Game on! Research into the preservation and presentation of computer games as national cultural heritage

The ephemeral, performative, interactive and networked qualities of computer games require us to reconsider the way we think about games as cultural heritage and their preservation. In Game on!, a research project in collaboration with the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision works with a small body of Dutch gameproductions from the 80’s and 90’s to experiment with a number of preservation strategies, to understand the conceptual, technological, legal and financial aspects of the preservation of computergames.

Jesse de Vos, Researcher at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, in collaboration with University of Utrecht (René Glas, Jasper van Vught)

Perspectives on practice-based game research

My research aims for a combined perspective on theory and practice(s) with regard to games, particularly from three distinct angles. First, I am drawing on practice-based research in other media domains such as literature, music, architecture and film and use this media-comparative view to synthesize best practices for game studies research. Second, I am theorizing the shift from allegedly analytical playing practices such as theorycrafting and speedrunning to game design itself as a cultural technique. Finally, I am studying the role that (digital) tools and techniques play in this process and how they frame the cultural and technological imaginary of games

Stefan Werning, Department for Media & Culture Studies, Utrecht University

Social and emotional interactions with intelligent virtual characters in games

Recent methods for facial and body animation use 3D scanners, motion capture and realistic skin rendering techniques to generate highly detailed and expressive animations. However, animations for interactive virtual characters that can autonomously generate a variety of behaviors taking into account social situations and emotions still remains as a challenge.

Our goal is to generate realistic virtual human animations for interactive conversational characters that can respond to the users captured with sensors. To realize this, we analyze real human behaviors and adopt models from social sciences to find correlations between high level social/emotional states and face/body movements. Then, the results of these analysis are used to develop a computational model to drive the animations of virtual characters. A series of experiments are conducted with users to see how realistic and contextual expressions are perceived and whether we can pass through the uncanny valley. Such research is important for game companies to automatize their animation pipelines which are traditionally scripted. Additionally, realistic and highly interactive characters are becoming more important with the rise of Virtual Reality technologies.

Zerrin Yumak, Assistant Professor, Utrecht University