Lennart Nacke

Director of the HCI Games Group

Dr. Lennart E. Nacke is an Associate Professor for Human-Computer Interaction and Game Design in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Waterloo. He is working on projects that deal with the cognitive and emotional side of playing games. His goal is to describe, analyse and have computers and machines react to the thoughts and feelings you have when you are fully engaged in playing a video game. With this research we can start understanding the effects of video games (positive and negative). Using body sensor technology, for example sensors for brainwaves, heart rate, or muscle tension, Dr. Nacke taps into some of video gaming’s most motivating features to improve our physical fitness and mental wellbeing. His research is funded nationally and internationally and his publications have won best paper honourable mention (awarded to the top 5%) and best paper awards (awarded to the top 1%) at the premier human-computer interaction conferences CHI 2011 and CSCW 2012. He also writes blog articles for the online magazine Gamasutra via his personal blog.

Post Doctoral Fellows

Graduate Students

Alberto Mora

Visiting Ph.D. Student, Gamification Elements

Alberto is a Ph.D. student at the Open University Of Catalonia, Spain, under the supervision of Dr. Joan Arnedo and Dr. Carina González, and a visiting researcher at the HCI Games Group. He holds a M.Sc in education and teacher training from the University of La Rioja and he is a computer engineer from the University of La Laguna. His main interests include gamification design in the field of learning environments, healthcare, and wellness. His thesis is titled "A framework for agile design of gamification services". Before starting his academic career, he has worked for several years as a software developer and IT consultant/manager, as well as a high school and vocational degree instructor.

Andrew Cen

Master's Student, Game Design Research

Andrew is a Systems Design Engineering student under SWaGUR, who graduated from Speech Communication with a minor in Digital Arts Communication. He joined the HCI Games Group because of his passion for game design and interest in Games User Research. Andrew is an emerging digital media designer. His primary focuses in digital design revolve around photography and videography. Andrew also has experience in the Adobe suites, including: Photoshop, Illustrator, Lightroom. He also has taken an interest in game development and game design, having played many games in his past time. His current focus is to expand his digital media portfolio and create inspirational work that will motivate those around him. His work can be viewed on Facebook at Jintoki Media.

Dennis Kappen

Ph.D. Student, Game Design and User Interaction for Older Adults

Dennis is a Professor of Design at Humber College and teaches in the 4-year Bachelor's program in Industrial Design. His specializations include human interaction design, ethnographic research, computer aided design, and visualization using various design utilities, such as Autodesk Alias, Solidworks, Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, and Dreamweaver. At UOIT, he is in his 4th year of Ph.D. studies, exploring human interaction design in the context of digital gaming for vulnerable populations under the guidance of Dr. Lennart Nacke, Director of the HCI and Game Science Group. Specifically, he is researching gaming technologies and user interaction as applied to older adults and individuals living with disabilities. Prior to joining Humber College, Dennis was a design strategist and consultant to various companies in both Canada and the United States. He continues to engage in design consulting projects, teaching, and research.

Giovanni Ribeiro

Master's Student, Games User Research

Giovanni is a Master’s student pursuing a M.A.Sc in Systems Design Engineering under the supervision of Dr. Lennart Nacke at the University of Waterloo. He is the first Waterloo student to be enrolled in the Saskatchewan-Waterloo Games User Research (SWaGUR) program. With a background in Psychology (B.A.) he is interested in how games make us feel different emotions. His research uses biological signal detection techniques such as skin response, facial electromyography, and heart rate to explore player reactions to game content.

Gustavo Fortes Tondello

Ph.D. Student, Personalized Health Gamification

Gustavo Tondello is a Ph.D. student at the University of Waterloo under supervision of Dr. Lennart Nacke and Dr. Daniel Vogel, researcher at the HCI Games Group, and research lead of the International Gamification Federation. His main interests include gamification and games for health and learning. His research focuses on the design and personalization of gameful applications. He earned his M.Sc. in Computer Science and his B.Sc. in Information Systems from the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), Brazil. His recent publications include works on player and user motivations in games and gameful applications, as well as frameworks and approaches to designing personalized gameful applications and serious games. He periodically blogs about gamification for the HCI Games Group, the ACM XRDS magazine, and on his personal blog, Gameful Bits. Before coming to Canada, Gustavo worked for several years as a Software Engineer in Brazil. Gustavo is also a Logosophy researcher affiliated to the Logosophical Foundation of Brazil and North America.

Jennie Heo

Master's Student and UX Researcher

Jennie Heo recently completed her Master of Digital Experience Innovation program at the University of Waterloo. With her background in BA English and M.Ed in Applied Psychology & Human Development, she is passionate about conducting user research throughout the end-to-end process of delivering human-centric products through storytelling. Jennie completed her Master's capstone project with IBM Watson on implementing artificial intelligence tool to improve university students' social and emotional engagement on campus. As part of her research, she explored different features that might engage various aspects of games to increase the quality of overall user experience.

Julia Brich

Visiting Ph.D. Student, Game Development for Human Emotions

Julia Brich is a Ph.D. student from Ulm University, Germany. In her work, she focuses on the effects that various game mechanics like highscore systems, achievements, or non-player character design have on player motivation. The goal of her thesis is to facilitate motivation-adaptive games that can change their characteristics during run time to present a continually motivating experience to players. Her work is largely interdisciplinary with aspects from both psychology research and applied computer science.

Kai Bornemann

Visiting Master's Student, Unity Development

Kai is doing his Master's in Computer Science at the Otto von Guericke University in Magdeburg (Germany). There he focuses on realtime applications, visualization, AR/VR and game development. He's also a member of Acagamics, a students game developer club and a research assistant at STIMULATE where he develops medical technology applications.

Karina Arrambide

Ph.D. Student, Games User Research

Karina is a Ph.D. student pursuing a degree in Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo, under the supervision of Dr. Lennart Nacke. She holds an MSc in Information Technology with Business and Management from the University of Sussex in the UK, and a BSc in Information Technology from the University of Monterrey in Mexico. Her main interests include understanding player's behaviors and emotions by applying diverse games user research methodologies, specifically biometrics such as electromyography and galvanic skin response. She is also interested in the research of new methodologies and technologies that can help improve player's experience.

Katja Rogers

Visiting Ph.D. Student, Audio and VR games

Katja Rogers is a Computer Science PhD student from the Institute of Media Informatics at Ulm University, Germany. As a visiting researcher within Dr. Lennart Nacke's research group, her current project at the HCI Games Group focuses on the effects of audio on player experience in a VR horror game. Her previous projects involved topics such as NPC design, evolutionary algorithms, persuasive and pervasive games, as well as augmented reality.

Lisa Freiman Cormier

Master's Student and UX Researcher

Lisa is a Master’s student in the Digital Experience Innovation program at the University of Waterloo, Stratford Campus. With a background in French Studies and English, and a M.Ed. in Language and Literacies Education, she has recently worked as a sessional instructor at the English department at Université de Moncton in New Brunswick and as a French translation QA specialist at a career development software company. She is volunteering in the HCI Games Group for various UX research projects including the development of an online language learning game.

Lukas Schabler

Visiting Master's Student, Unity Development

Lukas is a Master’s student in Computer Science at University of Technology Graz, Austria. His B.Sc. thesis focused on real-time object classification. He worked as test engineer in microchip development and is currently employed as software engineer in the area of autonomous cars, focusing on radar simulation. His main interests include new technologies and algorithms in games as well as game development, but he is always looking to expand his knowledge in other areas. He is contributing to several projects at HCI Games Group during the summer.

Marim Ganaba

Master's Student and UX Researcher

Marim is currently pursing a Master’s in digital media experience innovation (MDEI) at the University of Waterloo. She has great interest in UX, visual and interaction designs. With her background in science and artistic abilities, she seeks ways to simplify complex tasks into delightful and intuitive designs and experiences. She is currently working as a user interface and graphic designer at the HCI games and helping her fellow coworkers with their projects.

Rina Wehbe

Ph.D. Student, Errors, Perception of AI, Health Games

Rina R. Wehbe is currently working on her Ph.D. Her research focuses on understanding difficulty and learning in games and productivity applications. Currently, she is co-supervised by Dr. Lennart Nacke and Dr. Edward Lank of the University of Waterloo. She recently completed an internship at Bloomberg in New York City. Rina earned her M.Sc. in Computer Science at UOIT; her thesis was titled "Evaluating social and cognitive effects of video games using electroencephalography". She received her B.Sc. Honours Psychology from York University. Her undergraduate honours thesis focused on Autism and Cortical Connectivity. In her undergrad, she gained experience in different labs, including the neuroscience lab at Milton and Ethel Harris Research Initiative (MEHRI), the Fallah-Jordan lab at the Centre for Vision Research (CVR), and as an intern at InteraXon as part of the ADD/ADHD neurofeedback team. Rina currently holds a Dean's Scholarship and OGS 2014-2015.

Ruth Castillo

Visiting Ph.D. Student, Educational Games

Ruth is an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. student with a concentration in Computer Science and Curriculum & Instruction at New Mexico State University (NMSU), USA under the supervision of Dr. Zachary O. Toups and Dr. Karin Wiburg, and a visiting researcher at the HCI Games Group. She holds a Master in Management of Information Technologies from Instituto Tecnologico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM), Mexico and she is a Computer Engineer from the Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez (UACJ), Mexico. Her main research interests are game design theories and game development of serious, educational and learning games that enhance critical thinking and problem solving skills. She worked for several years as a software developer and as part time faculty of UACJ. She visited Universidad de Quilmes, Argentina as part of an administrative staff exchange when working in the International Office of exchange affairs at UACJ.

Sultan Alharthi

Visiting Ph.D Student, Planning Interfaces

Sultan is a Ph.D. student at New Mexico State University, USA, under the supervision of Dr. Zachary O. Toups and Dr. Igor Dolgov. He holds a M.Sc. in Computer Science from California Lutheran University. His main interests include serious games for training, augmented and virtual reality games, wearable computers, and idle games. His thesis centers around applying Activity Theory to analyze Urban Search & Rescue teams’ planning and sensemaking practices to inform the design of training games. He worked for several years as a lecturer in the Department of Information Systems in the College of Computer Science at Jeddah University, Saudi Arabia.

Undergraduate Students

AC Atienza

Undergraduate Researcher, Game Design

AC Atienza is an undergraduate of the Rhetoric and Professional Writing program at the University of Waterloo. Translating visual and narrative design principles into effective game design is their primary focus. AC has drawn and written for a multitude of games, and in their spare time, enjoys rock climbing and swimming.

Alvin Lee

Undergraduate Researcher, Game Development

Alvin Lee is a soon to be graduate of the Computer Science Co-op program at the University of Waterloo. He is passionate about game development, especially game design, and has a multitude of game development experience in a variety of roles. In his spare time, in addition to playing games, Alvin enjoys playing soccer, watching movies and working on side projects.

Arda Kizilcay

Undergraduate Researcher, Resident Game Designer

Arda is a fourth year Liberal Arts student with a passion for design in digital media. He is currently in pursuit of videography as his specialization going forward. Through his Digital Art Communication minor and personal hobbies, he is also involved in and other digital media creation including video game design, photography and graphic design. With the Games Institute, he hopes to further his understanding of the practical design elements found in digital media, including games.

Basim Sahaf

Undergraduate Researcher, Unity Development

Basim is an undergraduate at the University of Waterloo, majoring in Computer Science. He has immense interest in coding and has been on it for over a year now. He loves to create useful web applications and is trying his hand at data science now, along with getting better at computer science fundamentals. If you love attending hackathons and creating cool things which are useful, you might want to get in touch with Basim.

Colin Whaley

Undergraduate Researcher, Biomedical Sciences, Older Adults and Technology

Colin is a fourth year Biomedical Sciences student with a Minor in Chemistry with the Faculty of Science. He is joining the Games Institute as part of his Honours Thesis work investigating the efficiency and comfort of seniors with sensory pathologies when using computer peripherals. He is working under Dr. Kelly Grindrod of the School of Pharmacy and Dr. Lennart Nacke at the HCI Games Institute. Colin also has a strong interest in human physiology and biochemistry and their impact on mental health. Colin likes to spend his spare time with his friends and his dog, Sherlock.

Ethan Li

Undergraduate Researcher, Unity Development

Ethan Li is an undergraduate student at the University of Waterloo majoring in Computer Science. He has extensive software development experiences and he is passionate about game development. He likes to combine his technical programming expertise and game design skills to create interesting games and projects. He joined the HCI Games Group to improve and expand his game design and development skills.

Joseph Tu

Undergraduate Researcher, Game Design

Joseph is a student at the University of Waterloo and was a previous game tester for; Dota2 (Valve), Maplestory (Nexon), Blade&Soul (Ncsoft) and GunZ : The Duel (Mailet). He has immense interests in UX and UI interfaces. With his background in Digital Arts Communication (DAC), he seeks to explore the different dimensions of wireframes and paper prototypes that can be useful in game designs. Joseph is deeply involved with the Duke of Edinburgh program (Gold Status), and enjoys shooting digital cinematography on his free time. He is working with Andrew towards creating the “best board game” ever produced under the supervision of Dr. Lennart E. Nacke.

Kenny Fung

Undergraduate Researcher, Unity and Angular Development

Kenny is a recent MBA graduate at Wilfrid Laurier University and has a B.A. Honours Psychology from the University of Waterloo. He is currently interested in the field of computer science and is actively contributing to various projects at the HCI Games Group.

Mahir Hoque

Undergraduate Researcher, UX Design

Mahir Hoque is a third year student at the University of Waterloo, majoring in Fine Arts and minoring in Computer Science and Digital Art Communication. He is interested in merging arts and technology through digital media projects in fields such as games, videos, movies etc. He is currently working as a user experience researcher at the HCI Games.

Michelle Poon

Undergraduate Researcher, Language Learning Games

Michelle is a University of Waterloo undergraduate studying Joint Honours in Speech Communication and Peace and Conflict Studies with a minor in Digital Arts Communication. She is currently working under the supervision of Dr. Lennart E. Nacke in contributing to UX/UI design projects within the HCI Games Group. She is interested in user research and interactions between humans and computers, specifically concepts within UX Design for Educational Learning.

Mitchell Loewen

Undergraduate Researcher, Psychology

Mitchell Loewen is a 4th year Knowledge Integration and Psychology Joint Honours student with a Collaborative Design Specialization at the University of Waterloo. Under the supervision of Lennart Nacke and Chris Burris, Mitchell is currently working on his undergraduate Psychology thesis investigating the relationship between the self and avatar creation norms in video games. Mitchell is also very passionate about game design, and is currently working with some fellow undergraduate students to publish a game they designed during Lennart Nacke’s Introduction to Game Design course. In his spare time Mitchell enjoys cooking, playing music, and learning new things.


Albert Bushara
Undergraduate Research Assistant, Summer 2012
Amanda Leo
Lab Assistant
Anda Chitescu
Undergraduate Researcher
Brandon Hope
Web Wizard, Database Director, and Code Wrangler
Daniel Stepchenko
Capstone Project: Magic Sensor Game
Dominic Elm
Visiting Master's Student
Albert "Eddie" Shearer
Lab Man of Mystery
Elisa Mekler
Post Doctoral Fellow
Henk-Jan de Groot
Lab Intern, Server Magician, and Specialist of Nontraditional Time Zones
James Robb
Master’s Student, Player Experience
Jasper van Vught
External Ph.D. Student at University of Waikato, Videogame Classification
João Costa
Ph.D. Student, Novel Game Interaction Technologies and Immersive Game Design
John Gregory
Capstone Project: Magic Sensor Game
Jose Rodriguez
Master's Student
Lina Marmol
Health Worker
Matthias Klauser
Ph.D. Student, Winter 2012
Melissa Stocco
Undergraduate Researcher
Mike Schäkermann
Master's Student
Mirza Beig
Web and Social Media Content Developer
Monika Brumar
Web Developer
Naeem Moosajee
Master's Student in Games User Research, Digital Wizard
Pedro Nogueira
External Ph.D. Student at University of Porto, Portugal
Pejman Mirza-Babaei
Affiliated Faculty
Raphaël Marczak
External Ph.D. Student at University of Waikato, Signal Processing to Support Player Experience Assessment
Rita Orji
Post Doctoral Fellow, Persuasive Games
Rylan Koroluk
Undergraduate Researcher
Samantha Stahlke
Lab Assistant, Charlatan of Doom, Official Comma Wrangler of the HCI Games Group
Sedona Parnham
Lab Artist
Shadi Davarian
Master's Student