Game User Research Summit (GUR)

April 24, 2010 at 9:48 am (Conferences - Events) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

San Francisco, CA, USA – The 1st Game User Research (GUR) Summit was on March 10th 2010, and it was awesome. The objective of this summit was to gather user-research professionals who work in the games industry, and share experience, knowledge and techniques.

GUR summit started with an update of the group by David Tisserand and Bill Fulton. The Games User Research Special Interest Group (SIG) has been created as part of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), there is a provisional board and the group is taking shape and organization.


There were presentations covering current practices:

Graham McAllister talked about ‘Promoting UX: Educating the Video Game Industry on User Research’, he nicely tackled an array of common statements and misunderstandings when people in the game industry are faced to user research, for example from “We don’t need it”, passing through “Our game isn’t ready”, to “We do this”.

Bill Fulton’s ‘From 0 to 35 in 7 years: scaling up a games user-research group’ was a neat presentation on his experience at Microsoft Game Studios and how he managed to get an user research team growing. Once upon a time (circa 1997), there was only Bill as a contractor at Microsoft Game Studios. He highlighted three aspects for growth:
1) Focus user research resources to maximize product improvement: how to impact the return-on-investment (ROI), to recognize limits, to be efficient, to have visible success.
2) Do UR in a way that generates more demand for UR: deliver high-quality, acknowledge and optimize the time of the development team, and stay in communication with them.
3) Have the right people :) by rigorous hiring process, and investing in your people.

Dmitri Williams from the University of Southern California presented his work on online games and how he harvests information. A lot of the analysis is done with a tool called Katana Analytics Engine.

Bruce Phillips showed us the amazing work he’s been doing on player experience using behavioral data at Microsoft Game Studios. The fascinating idea of keeping track of what people do with their XBox live games while players are comfy at their homes. They remotely track data to understand better what happen with the game after is shipped.

I presented the work that we, Veronica Zammitto, Magy Seif El-Nasr and Paul Newton, are doing at Electronic Arts. We are looking at game user experience on sports games by employing psychophysiological techniques and telemetry data. We used eye tracking, EMG, HR, GSC to identify the emotional profile of the player.

Ben Weedon talked about the work done at Playable Games. First, he showed us how fun and challenging getting feedback from kids can be. Later, he explained the process of international user research and how many things have to be taken into account in order to run smooth sessions for collecting data, for instance just to mentioned a few, the cultural differences and legislation about recording information, power supplies, local translators/facilitators even if you speak the same language, having local assistants.

Carla Fisher also works with kids. She shared a chart that leads the comments and annotation when kids try her hand-held device games.

Heather Desurvire is a consultant at Behavioristics and faculty at the University of Southern California. She explained game accessibility principles (GAP), a way of evaluating and designing games, and how that can be applied to game tutorials.

GUR summit was a great event that strengthened the game industry user research community.

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Sports and HCI

April 12, 2010 at 8:35 am (Conferences - Events) (, , , , , , , , )

Little did we know about sport from the human computer interaction field. Actually, we know very little.
Genevieve Bell, Director of the User Experience Group at Intel and keynote speaker at CHI 2010, points out the lack of research about sports and technology.
It seems that it’s a really good timing to be doing work in game user experience on sports game :)

Excerpts from her talk:
“Sports is a huge money maker, it’s a huge driver of new technology adoption.

40% of Americans when asked why they upgraded to HD, the answer was that sports look better on it.

Sports drive new technologies of production in video capture, in dealing with multiple streams of content, and now is one of the drivers of 3D.

Yet there are less than 40 papers written over the last 20 years in HCI about sports. And most of them are written about things that are not really sports, they are written about roller coasters, about going on around on motocross in Scandinavia and there is one about going to a Canadian stadium, and that’s it.

[Sports] is a critical domain of human activity, it schedules time and space and we are not writing about it.”

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Foundations of Digital Games – (and the Great Idea of Having a Game Conference on a Cruise)

September 27, 2009 at 10:32 pm (Conferences - Events) (, )

I attended Fourth International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games (FDG’09). In a nutshell, it was great, and it fulfilled the crossover between academics and industry, covering topics from both social and computer sciences.

FGD’09 had a nice variety of type of session and topics. There were panels on game curriculum and grant opportunities, stressing how important is to create archives of successful and unsuccessful applications.  There were tutorials for programming. There were presentations on both technical aspects and social aspects. It’s definitely a conference that worth going.

One of the features of this conference that I’d like to highlight was the fact that the conference happened on a cruise. Yes, one of those massive boats soaring the ocean.  It departed from Port Canaveral and one of the ports of call was Nassau (Bahamas).

The FDG09 Venue

The FDG'09 Venue

Beside how exotic this could sound,  I have to emphasize the convenience of having a conference on a cruise: you don’t have the hassle of having to find a hotel near the venue (but not out of budget) because your room it’s at the venue! You don’t have the problems of ‘where-to-eat’ or not having time to eat because it’s all inclusive! This also simplifies numbers if you have a per diem arrangement with your organization. You won’t be late, you won’t mind staying late, your room is just on the other floor! It provides more chances to comingle with other attendees, helping to establish a camaraderie spirit for the conference. You can have breakfast, dinner, coffee or a drink with your network really easily!

After all these reason, I strongly advocate for having more conference on cruises.

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Global Game Jam – The 48 hours @ Vancouver

February 4, 2009 at 10:01 pm (Conferences - Events) (, , , )

The Global Game Jam had a total of 53 locations around the world! From Friday January 30th to February 1st we were in the Jam, having a blast. The venue for the Vancouver location was SFU Harbor Center.

In Vancouver, we had a total of 27 participants, one of them actually drove from Seattle to be part of the event. Just to give you a glimpse of the great spirit and motivation that reigned.

At 5:00 pm on Friday the constrains were unveiled:

1) A complete play session has to last 5 minutes or less.

2) The Theme of the game should be: “As long as we have each other, we will never run out of problems”

3) To choose one of the following adjectives to incorporate in the game: thin, evolved, or rotating.

People pitched their ideas, discuss about them and got into groups. Five teams were conformed: Blobboy, Need Artists Inc., One Tonne Punch, Scorched Physics, and Treelings. There were also mentors who were at the Jam during the whole development process, helping with tips and supporting them, such us Mitch Lagran and Dan Taylor.

Saturday went pretty smooth. Everyone was working really hard to get their game.

On Sunday, the effort of 2 days was starting to notice, but always with a great atmosphere. At 3:00 pm, they had to stop working and upload their games to the Global Game Jam website, and then everyone was trying the games, including the judges that arrived.

Doing critiques of the games produced at the Vancouver Game Jam
Doing critiques of the games produced at the Vancouver Game Jam

We closed the event with every team presenting their game on the big screen, telling about how their idea evolved, some of them showing their prototypes as well. Judges gave their feedback, pointing out strength and weaknesses of those creations made in just 48 hours. We gave prizes to every team. Smiles, handshakes, and eagerness of coming next year for more Global Game Jam.

I’m proud of having been part of the organization, happy with the results, and thrill to the human factor of the event local and globally.

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Vancouver Game Jam – Announcement

January 15, 2009 at 9:42 pm (Conferences - Events)

Vancouver will be holding one of 52 Game Jams held simultaneously in 22 countries around the world. These Game Jams will all occur during the same 48 hours, January 30th – February 1st, 2009, as part of the Global Game Jam event coordinated by the IGDA (International Game Developers Association).

A Game Jam is usually a 48 hour event where artists, programmers, and designers come together to make games. Each participant works in a small team to develop a game from concept to final product under specific constraints established by the Game Jam event coordinators.

The Vancouver Game Jam will be at Harbor Center (515 West Hastings Street), Simon Fraser University, Downtown Vancouver, BC.

For more information check:

Call for Participation:

We hope to have 40 participants in the event. Participants can be a mix of industry professionals, students, and faculty. Through rigorous evaluation of applications of potential participants, we hope to get a good combination of skills and experiences to harness and promote learning and creativity among groups. We will also invite faculty and industry professionals for mentorship and judging.

You must apply through the process below by Jan 25th in order to participate.
There is a $25.00 participation fee, it will be used to cover costs of coffee and snacks that will be provided during the event.

To participate, please submit the following:
• Your resume.
• A cover letter indicating your current position and the role you would like to take: designer, manager, artists, or programmer.
Send these materials by email to magy @

Application deadline is Jan 25th 2009.

The application materials will be evaluated by the program committee for the Game Jam to ensure the right number of participants for each role as well as the number of participants fits the limit established (40 participants). We hope to get a good combination of skills and experiences and a good number of both students and industry professionals to harness and promote learning and creativity among groups.

A decision will be emailed to participants Jan 27th 2009.

At this time, successful participants will be asked to register through email and the registration fee of $25.00 for participation. Deadline for registering for the event will be Jan 29th 2009. Failure to register will disqualify the participant and the next participant in our ‘accepted but no space’ pile will be asked to register.

If you have any questions or comments please send them to Dr. Seif El-Nasr at (magy @ sfu. ca).

Looking forward to your participation!

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1st World Mind Sports Games

November 22, 2008 at 11:03 pm (Conferences - Events) (, , , , , , )

I’m really glad to say that I participated in the 1st World Mind Sports Games, held in Beijing, China. The event lasted from October 3rd to October 18th. The venue was the Beijing Convention Center, located in the Olympic Villa which also has a complex of hotels where we, the mental athletes, stayed.

There were 5 mind sport games: Go, Chess, Draughts, Xiangqi, and Bridge. I play go, and was representing Argentina in the Women’s Individual, and Women’s Team. It was such a great time! There were people from all over the world, and different strength in playing level. For instance, something that was significant was that there were professional go players playing in the tournament. That was a huge thrill for the amateurs! Lucky me, I played with professional go player, Cai Bihan, from China. See the photo!

Veronica Zammitto playing go with professional Chinese player Cai Bihan
From World Mind Sports Games – October 2008

It was an excellent opportunity for sharing, and shaping playing skills. It was also great chance to put this ‘mental sports’ on the big billboard.

Hope the organization makes the effort to keep this event alive.

Looking forward to playing in the 2nd WMSG in London 2012!!!

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Canadian Game Studies Association Workshop

November 16, 2008 at 4:43 pm (Conferences - Events) (, , )

During September 19-21 2008, the Canadian Game Studies Association (CGSA) held an Invitational Workshop, fund for it came from a grant of the Canadian agency Social Science and Humanities Research (SSHRC). The format was quite singular and awesome. There were about 35 researchers, and they were divided into smaller groups according their research interest, also general research discussions, keynotes’ presentation, and planning how to continue game research in Canada.

Every single person who was invited to the workshop had to present his/her ongoing research to the small group that responded with comments, questions, suggestions, that is a great atmosphere for discussion. I was lucky to be in a group with Bernard Perron (University of Montreal – Canada), Guillaume Roux-Girard (University of Montreal – Canada), and Magy Seif El-Nasr (Simon Fraser University – Canada). There were two international key speakers: Helen Kennedy (University of the West of England – UK) and Espen Aarseth (Center for Computer Games Research @ IT University of Copenhagen – Denmark) who, besides presenting a lecture, help to coordinate the general discussions.

As part of the Workshop, we (as CATGames) held a lab-tour, gaming session, and a dinner reception at the School of Interactive Art and Technology (SIAT), displaying among other things our ongoing projects: Gesture and Tangible Prototyping Tool, Intelligent Interactive Virtual Characters, and Narrativised and Embodied Interface. We were really happy for the whole event, and for the great feedback we got for the projects.

I want to specially thank Jennifer Jenson and Suzanne de Castell for their work towards the game research community in Canada.

Bart Simon, Bernard Perron, and Guillaume Roux-Girard
Bernard Perron, Espen Aarseth, Guillaume Roux-Girard, Jim Bizzocchi, and Bart Simon,

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Women in Games International – Event

September 15, 2008 at 8:14 pm (Conferences - Events) (, , )

Last Thursday night I went to the Women in Games International event. It was a nice socializing evening. The game developer community in Vancouver is open and friendly, that really values companies that allow creativity, self-motivation from their employees. Big Fish was co-hosting this event (aka Yaletown Fusion Mixer). You could recognize their people by their nice jackets with logo. Folks from the Seattle office were there. Peter did tours to the brand new office, answering as many questions as he could.

I want my NDA next time! :)

Thank you WIGI and Big Fish!!!

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September 8, 2008 at 11:12 pm (Conferences - Events) (, , , , )

Yesterday KRAZY! exhibition closed at the Vancouver Art Gallery. I apologize to those of you that I’m letting you know too late. It was great.

The exhibition featured comics, manga, anime, and videogames. Several walls were installed to create kind of maze walking in the gallery. I really like the work done for the installations; specially, the anime section where some projectors were aiming skewed in a delightful way.

One of the funniest feelings was having been intimately consuming ‘art’ from my childhood. Those hours in from of a screen from early times are paying off. And those recently too :) For instance, Rick Hunter fighting against the Zentraedi in “Super Dimension Fortress Macross”. Yep, “Robotech”. While you could here someone crying “Akiiiiiiraaaaa” in the back. Then, on another wall something more recent like “Paprika”. Sweet.

Going towards to the gaming part now, Will Wright was the curator. It was explained that the games were selected by their groundbreaking-ness:

  • Pac-man
  • Super Mario World
  • Sid Meier’s Civilization
  • Quake
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Grand Theft Auto
  • The Sims
  • Spore

Yes, I noticed that “The Sims” and “Spore” are in the short-list, but it’s undeniable that they’ve marked game history. Although, he could have waited a little bit more for “Spore”.

These games were displayed in original arcade cabinet cocktail type (“Pac-Man”) that people could actually play it, ink-jet prints (“Sid Meir’s”, “Zelda”), other games were running in a console plugged to a monitor (“Super Mario World”) that you could play as well. Several monitors showing excerpt of games. There was a huge projection on wall composed by several by several squares of Quake videos. Like a big collage alive.

Overall KRAZY! was a great exhibition. I’m looking forward to a KRAZY! 2 exhibition that could show other angles of the new media art.

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GDC ’08 – Game Studies Download 3.0

April 18, 2008 at 10:39 am (Conferences - Events) (, , , , , )

Two months ago was GDC’08. The media covering of the event has been huge but anyway I’d like to highlight one presentation: Game Studies Download 3.0
This presentation was lead by Ian Bogost, Mia Consalvo and Jane McGonigal. They found and went over the “best” 10 papers of 2007. Its neatness relies on the close attention they pay to present academic content and deliver it for industry content.

They were able to kept the diverse audience attracted by speaking both “languages”, they could summary the papers into nice ‘research questions’, explain what was done and then the big insights that were the practical conclusions. What else can you ask?! :)

The reference papers can be found at their site

Slides of this and previous versions are available as well.

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