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Insights Serious Games

Serious games in sustainable urban development – Part 2

Missed Part 1? Catch up here.
Coniuncta is an interdisciplinary research team founded in Warsaw University of Technology by professor Robert Olszewski. Main goal of the team is the research on application of gamification and design thinking mechanisms in promotion of civic engagement.
Our team perceives gamification as an answer to a problem observed in implementation of participatory mechanisms (such as participatory budgeting) in Polish cities. Research conducted by the Coniuncta team is focused on identifying key gamification and serious games mechanism which could be used to foster civic engagement, as well as provide geo-reference data on public opinion on various topics and projects.
In 2015 and 2016 our team conducted series of experiments conducted in the form of workshops, held in Warsaw (capitol of Poland) and Płock (city in central Poland of c.a. 120 000 inhabitants). The workshops were organized by the Municipality of Płock for local high school students. In April and June together around 250 students took part in these workshops. Scenario of the workshop was based on the game City Hall 2.0, using map of the Płock city center and gamified model of urbanistic problems as a main narrative axis of the game’s scenario.
Analysis of the decisions in game was base for several research papers on effects of gamification in urban planning consultations process [1]. First conclusions from this project were used in design of another serious game, Spot On, in the form of mobile browser based game, using real time GPS location data, real maps (based on OpenStreet Map API) and designed for both workshop application and outdoor gameplay.
app oneapp two
Outdoor version of the application uses gamification mechanism to motivate players to visit various points in the city and leave their opinions concerning optimal changes in those places. Other players can also see those opinions and give feedback on whether they like or dislike certain solutions proposed by game community.
The Spot On game is targeted mainly to the younger players (primary school, high school and university students) as well as other people who like mobile games and travel through the city on various occasions. It’s main educational aim is to cope with first barrier mentioned in our previous post: lack of civic engagement, due to bad experiences from the past or general low level of civic activity.
Spot On promotes activity and sharing opinions in the urban context, and presents them as fun and easy activity, and part of engaging narrative of the game. In consequence the game is meant to build positive attitude to social participation in the targeted age group, which in few years will actively take part as urban citizens in various consultations and participatory projects.
Spot On is currently undergoing final testing and finalization of development phase, and will be launched in January in series of workshops in Warsaw and Dublin.
References:
[1] Łączyński, M., Olszewski, R., Turek, A., Urban Gamification as a Source of Information for Spatial Data Analysis and Predictive Participatory Modelling of a City’s Development, [w:] DATA 2016 Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Data Management Technologies and Applications, Science and Technology Publications, Lda. Lizbona 2016, s. 176–182.

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Interviews

Debunking urban myths around playing and creating video games

Dario Maggiorini and Laura Anna Ripamonti (University of Milan) came to GOODTECHS 2016, 2nd EAI International Conference on Smart Objects and Technologies for Social Good as keynote speakers, bringing with them the topic of light and dark sides of teaching video games, and we were very happy to get an opportunity to pick their brains. Just what does creating a video game entail? And what roles can video games fulfill aside from entertainment?
Could you summarize the scope of your current work and what you came to share with everyone at this event?
LAURA: My current work is aimed at delivering a high level teaching and research – from the point of view of computer science – in the field of video game design and development. We are working in several directions, in collaboration with the industry, in order to help Italian companies in this field become more innovative and competitive.
DARIO: Currently, I am focusing on bringing innovation to how technology is used in designing and developing video games. I came to Goodtechs to share my perspective on where doing research on gaming is not a mere application of science where a game is involved, but rather designing games around science and innovate technology linked to games while considering all their meaningful features.
You mention the dark and light side of teaching video games. What are they?
LAURA: The Italian situation is quite peculiar among the industrialized countries, since we are a huge consumer of video games. But our industry, although able to deliver high-quality products, is a dwarf from the point of view of the number of companies, their dimension and their income. In this quite dark panorama, we are trying to shed some light on the opportunities – both from the industrial and academic point of view – of this field, potentialities of which are largely acknowledged all over the world. Video games are not only a means of entertainment: they have been proven to be effective for a range of other applications: education, social care, teaching, rehabilitation, etc. Moreover, they are a huge driver of innovation in many areas related to computer science and engineering (artificial intelligence, virtual reality, sensors, graphics, just to name a few).
DARIO: First of all, with “dark and light” we do not mean “good and bad” rather than the contrast between something well known and something we have yet to explore and understand. In this country, we have a fairly good understanding of the gaming market and its potential. Nevertheless, there are still several misconceptions and urban legends about creating games. Many students believe that passion will be enough and others – including companies – think it will be easy because “it is just a game”. Our role in this landscape is to shed light on this dark side. Shedding light means to help researcher and non-gaming companies understand that a videogame is a complex digital artifact and to help students creating a strong background for their professional future.
What do you see as the biggest challenge that smart objects and technologies for social good are currently facing?
LAURA: I think that smart objects and technologies offer great opportunities to advance our way of interacting with technology in many fields, and video games are no exception. What I fear is that many opportunities could be lost due to a mismatch between the potentialities of the new media and the type of applications that will be developed. I mean, too often (also recently) we have been disillusioned because of applications that did not match the expectations of the potential users (at least in the field of video games). I wish that in the near future this mistake will be avoided by putting the “user” needs and interests at the centre of the development process.
DARIO: If I combine the concepts of smart technology and social goods, what comes to my mind is the emerging wave (maybe “tide” would be more appropriate) of the Internet of Things aimed at improving the quality of our life. From a technical standpoint, their biggest challenge is to wrap around us in a non-cumbersome way. They should be invisible while flying around us and not a cumbersome load to carry around in order to achieve a – potentially huge – benefit. Other technologies failed in this direction for being too intrusive in our lifestyle, demanding to change our habits to be used. IoT for social good is an immense opportunity for both companies and individual. But, in order not to waste this opportunity, new technologies should be designed around the users and not just offered to them as part of a deal.
What would you say are the main trends in this area that are showing promise?
LAURA: As far as the video game field is involved, I think that at the moment the main trend is the exploitation of VR and sensors techniques to add immersion to the interactive ludic experience. Of course this will supply plenty of opportunities for creating more compelling game-based applications in many fields. In the same vein, I guess that some advancement in the area of game development will prove beneficial for other neighbouring disciplines.
DARIO: If I think to the future of gaming, I would say that the main keywords are “services” and “integration”. First, services; because today there are not “just games” but games connected to complex ecosystems where your experience is also the result of many external services and information flowing into the games. We must still understand how to provide and manage them in a way which is compatible with the structure of games. Second, integration; because gaming ecosystems are expanding and start to embrace new technologies (such as Virtual and Augmented Reality), which must be coordinated and managed in the right way. Moreover, different ecosystems are starting to merge in the process of bringing together a huge number of users, in the number of millions. Integrating large gaming networks and providing seamless services through them will be paramount in the near future.
To conclude, have you had an experience at this event that you found compelling, or which inspired you for future work?
LAURA: Well, I should answer “no” to this question, just because the whole conference has been inspiring! It has really been a pleasure to have this occasion to share knowledge and experiences with colleagues interested in this area of expertise, and I think that many interesting and compelling research challenges have emerged.
DARIO: Sharing ideas and discussing about research is always compelling. Needless to say, I saw the whole experience of being there as an opportunity. For the future, I have no idea right now but I am sure, as often happens, the seeds planted during the conference will bud.

Categories
Papers

Understanding cognitive biases through virtual role-playing

‘Do Warriors, Villagers and Scientists Decide Differently? The Impact of Role on Message Framing’ by J. Siebelink, P. van der Putten (Media Technology, Leiden University), and M. C. Kaptein (Tilburg University)
Best Paper Award at Intetain 2016, 8th International Conference on Intelligent Technologies for Interactive Entertainment

The ‘framing effect’, one of the more well-researched cognitive biases, is one of the central phenomena in the fields of decision-making and behavioral economics. It assumes that choices between logically equivalent alternatives can be influenced by framing the problem in different ways, and it is often used as evidence for irrational or impulsive decision-making.

There are two treatments for a hypothetical outbreak of an Asian disease that infected 600 patients. Treatment A will save 200 patients, while with treatment B, there is a 1/3 probability that everyone will be saved, and a 2/3 chance that nobody will be saved. Alternatively, you can describe, or ‘frame’, the same problem as follows – with treatment A, 400 people will die, while with treatment B, there is a 1/3 probability that nobody will die, and a 2/3 chance that everyone will die.

The ‘Asian Disease Problem’ is a classic example of the risky-choice framing effect. Science tells us that most people will be influenced by whether the problem is described to them as a gain (positive frame – 200 patients will be saved), or a loss (negative frame – 400 patients will die), even if it is the same thing logically.
Although we have a decent understanding of how the framing effect works in everyday life, there are still avenues to be explored when it comes role-playing a virtual character. Authors of this paper set out to investigate how the framing effect changes when a person plays a distinct role with characteristics different from themselves. In a wider perspective, it is an investigation of changes in cognitive processes and decision-making when put into the shoes of a digital persona, the research question being “Does playing an analytic or impulsive character, respectively, influence the susceptibility to the framing effect?” It is an exercise in not only advancing our understanding of cognitive processes, but also exploring new methods of  learning about behavioral psychology.
Researchers had three groups of people play Skyrim – a well-known roleplaying video game, with modifications made to it to create experimental conditions. 86 participants have played as ‘warriors‘, ‘scientists‘, or ‘neutrals‘ (effectively a control group), progressing through a set of tasks in a positive or a negative framing with multiple solutions. Each group had a set of abilities that allowed them to manipulate the world in a certain way, and an expectation was set that the warriors would be more more susceptible to the framing effect and therefore more likely to react impulsively, while the scientists would approach problems analytically, and would therefore be less susceptible to the framing effect.
A fascinating method, certainly. If you would like to learn more and see the results of the study, you can download the full paper for free here.
 

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Call for participation Conferences

Participate in SGames 2016!

SGames 2016, the 6th EAI International Conference on Serious Games, Interaction and Simulation will take place in Porto, Portugal on 16-17 June, 2016.

In spite of the existing evidence of success, there is still a limited use of Serious Games. This has mainly to do with social concerns and stereotypes about the relation of games and serious purposes. Other issues relate to physical and cost barriers, hardware and license cost, access (for online games), maintenance and support. But this limited use is also related to the lack of extended evidence of effective application.

SGames 2016 will be a conference with multidisciplinary approach to the presentation of research, theory, application, practice and validation in the field of Serious Games for any level and any area. As such it covers areas like cognition, psychology, technology-enhanced education, evaluation and assessment, multimedia and information technology, interaction and simulation. SGames 2016 is interested in new scientific approaches and results from experiments and real-life applications.

The Conference will host a great keynote speech by Dr. Sylvester Arnab (Coventry University, UK).With more than 10 years research experience in simulation, serious games and gamification combined, his research interests include gameful, playful and pervasive designs that transform ordinary tasks into extraordinary experiences.

To see which are the topics to be discussed at SGames 2016, see the Final Program in Full.

Selected papers, particularly those nominated for the Best Paper competition, will be automatically considered for publication in the EAI Endorsed Transactions on Serious Games.

Registration to SGames 2016 is open! If you need more information about the Conference, visit the official website.

Categories
Insights Serious Games

Serious games in sustainable urban development – Part 1

Concepts of sustainable urban development, “smart city” and civic engagement are becoming more and more popular among researchers and people in charge of municipal planning. With their growing popularity, there are also ideas to include gamification mechanisms and serious games in the course of their implementation.

Key reasons of this growing attention towards serious gaming are the main barriers preventing wide acceptance of social innovations such as participatory budgeting, civic consultations or various technologies used in sustainable urban development. Those two main barriers are:

  • Lack of civic engagement, due to bad experiences from the past or general low level of civic activity;
  • Beliefs and attitudes which inhibit the acceptance of social or technological innovations crucial to the development of a sustainable urban community;

Gamificiation and serious games are perceived as a possible remedy for those two problems, because of their potential of increasing people engagement and activity, as well as using this engagement to educate them and change attitudes towards various new behaviors.

From around 2010 a lot of ideas emerged on how to gamify civic engagement in modern urban communities. Some representative cases of those games and game related projects are:

  • Trash Tycoon – a social network game by Guerillapps, running from 2011 to 2012, which focused on issues like recycling and upcycling in modern cities(1);
  • Invisible playground – a series of urban games held initially in Berlin and now all across Europe, aimed as a form of leisure activity, but also as a medium for increasing social engagement across urban areas (2);
  • Community PlantIt – created by Emmerson’s College Engagement Lab, a serious game and a platform that enables municipal authorities to communicate with citizens. The aim of the game is to gather opinions and feedback from community dwellers and foster their engagement in social consultations (3);
  • Gamefull Urban Mobility – a research project held at Games & Experimental Entertainment Laboratory of RMIT University. The aim of this project is to assess the potential of gamification when applied to urban mobility (4);

Furthermore, Community PlantIt is an example of a recently emerging approach towards gamification that merges the concepts of social engagement and sustainable urban development with data-oriented focus typical for a “smart city”. In this kind of approach, a game not only educates, engages and promotes certain attitudes and behaviors, but is also a source of data on citizens opinion and activity, as well as feedback on various projects planned by municipal authorities.

In the second part of this post we’d like to present the results of “CONIUNCTA” project held at the Warsaw University of Technology. Our project is based on a similar approach as Community PlantIt, but it also integrates several layers of geospatial data used to gather feedback from city dwellers during the course of dedicated serious games City Shaper and City Hall 1.0.

References:

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trash_Tycoon
  • http://www.invisibleplayground.com/en/welcome
  • https://www.communityplanit.org/
  • http://www.geelab.rmit.edu.au/content/gameful-urban-mobility
Categories
Call for participation Conferences

Call for participation: GameNets 2016

GameNets 2016, the 6th EAI International Conference on Game Theory for Networks, will take place in Kelowna, Canada on 11-12 May, 2016.

Considering that Game Theory has recently become a useful tool for modeling and studying various networks, together with the rapid growth of data traffic, it requires more intelligent transformation. GameNets 2016 aims at addressing the major opportunities and challenges in applying traditional game theory as well as intelligent game theory to the understanding and designing of modern network systems, with emphasis on both new analytical techniques and novel application scenarios.

The Conference will host a speech by Prof. Vikram Krishnamurthy (The University of British Columbia, B.C. – Canada), active in Statistical Signal Processing, Stochastic Control, Game Theory and Dynamics of Random Graphs. If you are curious to discover all the hot topics that will be discussed at GameNets 2016, check the accepted papers and the Conference Program!

Furthermore, authors of the Best Papers will be invited to submit an extended version of their work through the EAI Endorsed Transactions on Serious Games and ACM/Springer Mobile Networks & Applications (MONET) Special Issue on “Game Theory for 5G Wireless Networks” .

For more information about GameNets 2016, we invite you to visit the official website.

Categories
Conferences

Understanding and designing modern network systems

Game theory has become a useful tool for modeling and studying various networks, but with the rapid growth of data traffic, from any kind of devices and networks, game theory is requiring more intelligent transformation.It is precisely the goal of GameNets 2016, the 6th EAI International Conference on Game Theory for Networks, to gather research contributions, from game theory and networks, that address the major opportunities and challenges in applying traditional game theory as well as intelligent game theory to the understanding and designing of modern network systems, with emphasis on both new analytical techniques and novel application scenarios.

The conference will take place in Kelowna, Canada on 11-12 May, 2016 and venue of the Conference will be the UBC – Okanagan Campus.

GameNets 2016 will host a speech by Prof. Vikram Krishnamurthy (The University of British Columbia, B.C. – Canada), active in Statistical Signal Processing, Stochastic Control, Game Theory and Dynamics of Random Graphs.

If you are curious to discover all the hot topics that will be discussed at GameNets 2016, check the accepted papers and also the Program of the Conference!

There is also a good news for authors! Best Papers at GameNets 2016 will be invited to submit an extended version of their work through the EAI Endorsed Transactions on Serious Games and ACM/Springer Mobile Networks & Applications (MONET) Special Issue on “Game Theory for 5G Wireless Networks”.

Get involved in GameNets 2016! For further information about the Conference, we invite you to visit the official website.

Categories
Call for papers Conferences

SGames 2016: deadline extension!

The 6th EAI International Conference on Serious Games, Interaction and Simulation (SGames 2016) is going to take place in Porto, Portugal on 16-17 June, 2016.

With its multidisciplinary approach to the presentation of research, theory, application, practice and validation in the field of Serious Games for any level and any area, SGames 2016 will be cover areas like: cognition, psychology, technology-enhanced education, evaluation and assessment, multimedia and information technology, interaction and simulation. SGames 2016 is interested in new scientific approaches and results from experiments and real-life applications.

The Conference invites submissions that deal with issues including:

– Technology, tools and systems for Serious Games;
– Game platforms, toolkits, frameworks, engines, APIs and libraries;
– Game interfaces (input devices, speech, gestures);
– Content generation tools;
– Immersive Environments, virtual environments, virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality use for Serious Games;
– Games for education and training;
– Games for emergency and disaster management, crowd simulation, crime scene investigation;
– Games for health, medical training, therapy;
– Games and art;
– Serious Games for other purposes;
– Games for science and research.

To see all the topics of interest to SGames 2016, click here.

Furthermore, SGames 2016 will host a great keynote speech by Dr. Sylvester Arnab (Coventry University, UK).

All accepted papers will be published by Springer and made available through SpringerLink Digital Library, one of the world’s largest scientific libraries. Proceedings are submitted for inclusion to the leading indexing services: DBLP, Google Scholar, Thomson Scientific ISI Proceedings, EI Elsevier Engineering Index, CrossRef, Scopus, as well as ICST’s own EU Digital Library (EUDL). Selected papers, particularly those nominated for the Best Paper competition, will be automatically considered for publication in the EAI Endorsed Transactions on Serious Games.

Important dates:

Full Paper Submission Deadline: 4th April, 2016    14th April, 2016

Notification Deadline: 11th April, 2016   22th April, 2016

Camera-ready Deadline: 18th April, 2016   29th April, 2016

If you need more information about SGames 2016, visit the conference official website.

Categories
Interviews

Embracing the pervasiveness of games

We have talked with Laura Anna Ripamonti, Dario Maggiorini (University of Milan), and Daniela Villani (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan), General Co-Chairs of GOWELL 2016, EAI International Conference on Games for Well-being (14-16 June, Budapest, Hungary), co-located with eHealth 360° Summit 2016. In their research work, they span the areas of online social interaction in virtual worlds, software and network architecture to support entertainment applications, the use of interactive simulations for the training of psychological skills, and the cognitive factors related to the use of mediated technologies in education and clinical domains. We talked about what role games play in the modern society, and where their potential could take them in the future.

What is the central topic of GOWELL 2016 and why is it important? What is this event’s vision?

The starting point of GOWELL 2016 is the assumption that there is an emerging confluence of technologies that are being used more and more to support our daily activities, and the search for well-being that is a transversal goal of multiple disciplines. Thus, the conference builds upon the increasing relevance of applied gaming approaches, gamification techniques and game-related technologies and devices for health and well-being management and recovering. The objective is to bring together researchers, technologists and visionaries from Academia, research labs and industry to foster a lively discussion about the theory and practice of games as a way to improve health and well-being in tomorrow’s society.

What have been the recent developments in games for well-being? What are the biggest challenges that this area is currently facing?

Over the last five to ten years, increasing attention has been given to the possibility of games improving health and well-being. Using games as a medium presents a wide range of opportunities for the format of the intervention, since playing digital games and other playful activities are so pervasive in our modern-day lives. Current research suggests that video games already have a positive impact on different aspects of well-being, including positive social relations, environmental mastery, emotional regulation, relaxation, and stress reduction. The experience of engagement while playing video games, also leveraged by ubiquitous modern portable technology, has been proven to have a positive influence on well-being. Furthermore, other studies are interested in better understanding the optimal levels of game play, the influence of factors such as gender, personality, and other psycho-social characteristics, on well-being. Future research should attempt to monitor evidence regarding links between games and positive mental health and to provide guidelines for use by other researchers as they design specific tools and games to improve quality of life in a broader sense.

What are your expectations for GOWELL 2016?

The goal is to build a community of experts with a broad range of expertise in games and well-being-related research. This will allow us to share research results and to develop new multidisciplinary projects in a cooperative context involving multiple countries.

Categories
Interviews

Virtual characters are more than mere entertainment

John-Jules Meyer is a full professor of computer science at Utrecht University. His group works on several aspects of artificial intelligence and agent systems. They work on multi-agent logic, multi-agent programming, multi-agent argumentation and multi-agent learning. He is also the CSO of the Alan Turing Institute in Almere, a company that works on applications of AI for biomedicine and health care. He is the General Chair of Intetain 2016, the 8th EAI International Conference on Intelligent Technologies for Interactive Entertainment (28-30 June 2016, Utrecht, Netherlands)Prof. Meyer tells us about his passion for believable virtual characters and human-computer interaction.

What is the central topic of INTETAIN 2016 and why is it important? What is this event’s vision?

I’d say issues concerning relationships between human-computer interaction and entertainment, and for me, that includes some forms of artificial intelligence. Of course, this is very multi-disciplinary, and I like that very much about the conference.

John-Jules Meyer
John-Jules Meyer, General Chair of Intetain 2016

What have been the recent developments in intelligent technologies for interactive entertainment? What are the biggest challenges that this area is currently facing?

I’m biased here. So what I think are the most recent developments? I’m very enthusiastic about both ‘believable’ virtual characters in games and e-buddies, e-companions and e-coaches. To start with the latter, this is really about human-computer interaction, and may contain forms of entertainment. But of course these are more than ‘mere’ entertainment. They can be real helps in serious business such as health care. Such e-buddies already exist, but still in a primitive and rudimentary form. For me it is challenging to render these companions more intelligent, in the sense that they can converse with a human user in sensible way, can reason about what has been said by the user and his/her needs, and takes appropriate action to assist him/her. This may include helping with the user’s agenda, but also monitoring the user as to medicine use or keeping up with a certain desired lifestyle (non-smoking for instance, or keeping some diet). And for me, the more intelligent and sophisticated, the better ;-). This work on e-buddies is very closely related to the first thing I mentioned, virtual characters, i.e. controlling NPC’s in video games. These also should interact with human users in an adequate (believable) way. We are now trying to look at video games with partners to render them more interesting, including more believable behavior by also including affective aspects (emotions).

 What are your expectations for INTETAIN 2016?

I’m expecting a lively conference with a lot of interesting new results in the field. I especially hope to see a number of applications of AI that will have an innovative impact on interactive entertainment and on science and society, more in general.