Friday, May 25, 2007

Serious Games - a UK connection

Yesterday I attended a seminar by Professor Robert Stone from the University of Birmingham on his definition of Serious Games in the UK. The talk was organized by New Media BC, UK Trade & Investment, and The British Midlands. Vancouver was their last stop after having presented in Boston and Montreal this past week.

Recent UK serious gaming case studies have delivered successful proof-of-concept demonstrators to a variety of stakeholders, illustrating the value of incorporating human-centred knowledge into the early project design stages. These results are applicable regardless of whether the demonstrators are based on traditional gaming concepts (preserving the quest for entertainment and engagement), or on the straightforward exploitation of the quality and functionality of games engines and software development kits for contemporary interactive 3D applications (such as part-task training).

Professor Stone took us through why the original "VR" was unsuccessful (think the huge goggles and people shooting from a cabled "gun") because of certain things like 'dotcom mentality', but as he highlighted most importantly, that "most developers forgot the human user."

He also talked about how it is not the technology, but the content that immerses and used some video footage of his son playing CounterStrike and "peeking" around corners, thoroughly immersed. That is, his son did not need to be in a VR chamber, but just a simple computer interface with compelling content sufficed to create an environment in which his son was throughly immersed (so much so, he did not notice Prof. Stone videotaping him or commenting on his play). heh.

Prof. Stone went on to show us how his grad students in their 'spare time' were using game engines like that of the Far Cry "Cry engine" to attempt prototypes for different types of 'serious games' like those that address trauma medicine, military applications where a simulation/game would be useful (like explosive ordinance vehicles), and post traumatic stress.

There was also the case where he had the chance to shoot a minigun and learn that there's a delay from pressing the button, to shooting... and the resultant kickback that one must recover from. So, user factors like this must be accounted for when creating a simulation.

In the question period, asked him to discuss instances of 'user engagement' in his study, and he talked about spending 3 days in a Johanesburg morgue observing how autopsies are done, along with the minigun example. Given his examples which ideally take into account environmental and cultural factors, I would really like to see his future research staff include people focusing on even more user informed inquiry, possibly from the fields of sociology, anthropology, urban studies, and cultural studies (being Birmingham, and all.).

This seminar certainly got the imagination going. A good chance to see what is happening in the serious games research end, and afterwards hear about the governmental support provided by the British Midlands (things like, "if you need research done on how to locate your company here, it's our job to help you." :).

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Blogger adrian said...

Great new Serious Games Portal site !
Has profiles of serious gamers, forums, blogs, news, pictures and video all in one place. Plus links to all the best serious games content including: blogs, forums, podcasts and communities. Find links to serious games companies and research centres.
Customise your profile page's look and contents. Paste in widgets, youtube, any html. Start a serious games blog or add an RSS feed of your existing blog. Import your flickr pics, comment on others videos, pictures and posts.
It's like mySpace for Serious Games !

3:13 AM  

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