CHI 2017 Impressions

Attending conferences to present your own work and hear about the work of others is an important part of academic life. As HCI (human-computer interaction) researchers, one of the highlights of each one of our years is attending the top conference in our field, CHI (the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems). This year, we attended CHI 2017 to present some of our own research and stay up to date with the latest findings on HCI research. Here are some of our impressions and experiences!

Dr. Lennart Nacke

Associate Professor and Director of the HCI Games Group

Going to CHI is always inspiring and entertaining. The more often I attend the conference, the more the people in my community there feel like a family to me. I have really enjoyed the volunteering that I have done for ACM SIGCHI in the past. This year, I had the pleasure of working on the new SIGCHI website that was unveiled at the conference and organized another special interest group on games research at CHI as well as chaired the subcommittee on games. This made me feel connected to the games papers there, but two other venues drew lots of my attention this year in comparison to past years: being a judge in the Student Game Design Competition and teaching two well-attended courses, one together with PhD student Gustavo. It was a different, but highly enjoyable experience.

As a judge for the student game design competition, I basically gave up coffee breaks for the first two days of the conference — which are usually so essential to catch up with old colleagues — to play some excellent student games. I really enjoyed the hands-on nature of this work, seeing something tangible produced by student that care about pushing boundaries in interaction research for games. It is not quite at the level of sophistication of the Alt.Ctrl showcase at the Game Developers Conference but it was a great experience playing these games and talking to the students.

The courses I taught at CHI this year were on quite different topics (‘how to write and review CHI papers’ and ‘gameful design heuristics’ with Gustavo) but had a high numbers of attendees (close to 30–50) and were a different challenge from presenting research papers. I got the opportunity to work with people very interested in gamification and writing CHI papers, which is so close to the work I do with my graduate students (BTW, training them is one of the most rewarding experiences of my job). Although, I had two course units for each course, the time flew by so quickly and the experience was of teaching the participants was highly enjoyable that I can recommend this for anyone attending CHI. One of my personal highlights was Albrecht Schmidt (as you might know, he does not need any help writing excellent CHI papers) attending my CHI paper course, whose work I admire and with whom I enjoyed exchanging ideas about the structure of writing and reviewing papers for SIGCHI.

This retrospective, of course, only mentioned a small part of my CHI experience, omitting an amazing steak house experience, wild karaoke, real Canadian ‘flappy beaver’ talk, German food, reconnecting with many old friends and my first real ‘fan’ experience at the reception. Overall, CHI remains an important conference that leaves a different impression on me every time. That’s probably why I like it so much.

Gustavo Tondello

PhD Student on Personalized Gamification

Going to CHI this year was an amazing experience because I had the opportunity to present my research on gameful design heuristics as a course, together with my advisor, Dr. Nacke. Our course had a great audience, and everyone was really interested in learning something about gamification, user experience, and the heuristics we have been developing to help designers evaluate their gameful applications. It is a gratifying feeling to see that people are interested in your work and that your effort has turned into something that can be really useful to others!

Attending the paper talks was also very interesting. Throughout the many presentations of research results related to gamification and serious games that I could listen to, I had the opportunity to hear about many different ideas on how to use these core ideas to solve a variety of real-world problems in more effective and fun means. I will certainly remember these ideas to inspire my work in the future!

Another fascinating talk was Ben Shneiderman’s plenary on “How the CHI Community Got its Groove”! It was a great account of the history of HCI research, which showed how things have evolved in the field throughout the years and how some of the things that we take for granted now were developed. And now, you can also watch this intriguing talk on YouTube!

Attending CHI was an enjoyable experience, and certainly an important one to inspire and guide my work as a PhD Student. Now, I’m looking forward to CHI PLAY 2017, where I will again have the opportunity to present some of my work and see the amazing things that games and HCI researchers have been working on in this past year!

Giovanni Ribeiro

Master Student on Games User Research

CHI 2017 was my first CHI. It was also the first conference I ever attended. As a n00b in this community I didn’t know what to expect or how to act around people of such high esteem, so I spent the majority of my time observing and listening. I learned a lot from watching how people engaged with each other’s work and how they interacted with each other on a personal level.

As a student volunteer at CHI I spent 20 of my hours at the conference helping people. Most of my tasks involved signing people into activities, checking their badges, or giving them directions. It was a little jarring to be in charge of disseminating information to attendees while feeling like I knew the least about how this or any conference worked, but it was a worthwhile exercise in the vain of “fake-it till you make-it”. It also gave me a great opportunity to meet fellow students at similar levels of study to me all over the world, which made me feel like part of a larger community.

What I loved the most about CHI was its ability to inspire my work. I left the conference with at least three new project ideas that were barely in my mind when I set out on this adventure. Every game related paper session I attended imprinted yet another possibility on my research, further strengthening my ties with the community. Now I can’t wait to show up at the next CHI with my own work to share!

Rina R. Wehbe

PhD Student on Games User Research, Cheriton School of Computer Science

This year at CHI I got the opportunity to present my note:

Rina R. Wehbe, Elisa D. Mekler, Mike Schaekermann, Edward Lank, and Lennart E. Nacke. 2017. Testing Incremental Difficulty Design in Platformer Games. In Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’17). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 5109–5113. DOI:

I have been advised by one of my supervisors that submitting a successful paper is a rite of passage into the world of HCI and GUR. I am honoured given the high standards and the low acceptance rate (565/2435 = 23%). I can only hope that I find continued success given the upcoming CHI deadline (of course given our proximity to the deadline I may also be hoping to survive the next month of intense paper writing).

Presenting affords the opportunity to network, and reach out to people through research. It was also wonderful to see friends, HCI celebrities, and — of course — spend time with members of my research group both present and former.

I hope you all enjoyed this year’s CHI as much as I did. I hope to see you at the next one!

CHI 2017 Impressions

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