Current Projects

Affective Evaluation of Games & Interactive Media

Evaluating user experience with affective measures is a field of growing importance in the human factors domain, because the emotional effects of engaging technology, such as movies, mobile networked devices, games and new media, are not well understood. Within this research theme, we are developing and validating robust new methods for physiological evaluation of user engagement components in digital games and new media. In the past, Dr. Nacke has worked in-depth on psychophysiological methods for evaluating player experience, such as brain waves, muscular and skin responses, cardiovascular measures, respiration, eye gaze paths, and pupil dilation. In addition to measuring physiological responses, we are also using full body motion tracking, facial tracking and recognition, behavioral logging techniques, video observation, and subjective responses.

Applied Game Design for Non-Entertainment Systems

In the last couple of years, we have seen a rapid explosion of mass-market consumer software that takes deep inspiration from video games, especially from game design. This phenomenon has been called “gamification” and this game design trend connects existing concepts and research in human-computer interaction, psychology, and game studies, especially serious games, pervasive games, alternate reality games, and playful design. Using game design elements, such as reward or punishment systems, in non-game contexts to motivate user activity has rapidly gained traction in interaction design. This has spawned an intense debate within the professional game development community as well as the development of numerous “gamified” applications – ranging from productivity to finance, health, sustainability, news, user-generated content (UGC), and tutorials. Our goal in this research is to identify what game design elements are especially suitable to motivate behaviour in what areas of non-entertainment products.

Creating an Adaptive Gamified Online Service for Older Adults

The HCI Games Group collaborated with Erin Billowits, founder and owner of Vintage Fitness, a Toronto based health and wellness company catering to the fitness training needs of adults of age 50 years and older. Vintage Fitness aimed to engage older adults in daily exercise routines by catering to the specialized needs of the demographic and tailoring fitness routines based on health conditions of older adults. The HCI Games Group studied the motivations of older adults to engage in physical activities through empirical research focused on their intrinsic and extrinsic motivations to participate in physical activities. This project was also made possible through the NSERC ENGAGE Grant.

Games User Research

Games User Research (GUR) is a burgeoning field building upon evaluation methods from Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and psychology. GUR aims to improve the gameplay experience by conducting usability and user experience (UX) evaluation often referred to as playtesting. Playtesting can be conducted by third parties or by an internal team as part of the same development studio. The HCI Games Group has been one of the leading researchers in this promissing new field in the recent years, having helped define and advance the field. More recently, the HCI Games Group with the INTEGUR Lab at UOIT are collaborating with Execution Labs (XL) to assist independant gaming studios with their playtesting needs. Not all independent developers could afford to hire a full-time internal user research team for their project or pay for third party consultancy fees. The challenge for small studios is to utilize the benefits of GUR while maintaining a strict budget, avoiding unneeded costs, resources, and tools. For this, an effective testing method at the lowest possible cost will need to be investigated. With this goal in mind, an effective user testing approach for indie studios should be delivered in a timely, accessible and, economical fashion. Thus the collaboration with XL to explore effective playtesting methods and tools specifically targeted at improving independent sized games.

Gamification of Social Recruitment Applications

The HCI Games Group is collaborating with the Canadian company Klujo to build gamified social recruitment applications. Currently, potential employees are finding the job search difficult and convoluted in many cases; consequently, employers face many challenges in locating suitable recruits. Applications and websites matching employees and employers can help to mitigate this problem; however, these services are not a complete solution. Often, a lack of user motivation and system clarity cause difficulties that impede the process of online recruitment. We are investigating gamification, or the integration of game elements in non-gaming tasks, as a solution to this problem. Therefore, we are designing Klujo, an application which will gamify the recruitment process. The strength of this application stems from an interdisciplinary approach using concepts from computer science, game studies, psychology, and business. This project is funded by an NSERC ENGAGE Grant.

Health and Fitness Gaming

In most industrialized countries, a large percentage of adults is obese or overweight because they are physically inactive. This leads to problems, such as decreasing the life quality of individuals and increasing health care costs, especially in North America. The millennial technology-centered lifestyle has brought about unhealthy habits, such as eating more processed food and less physical activity at home. Video games have risen in popularity over the past decades and some have blamed increased game playing habits for an unhealthy lifestyle change. This project investigates whether it is possible to motivate people for a healthy lifestyle and for maintaining increased physical activity by using video games. We are especially interested in exploring game design elements and psychological reward balancing that leads to increased exercise motivation and maintaining healthy eating habits. We are using physiological measures and behaviour tracking to analyse and study habit formation in physically interactive gaming environments.

Interactive and Multi-Modal Experience Research Syndicate (IMMERSe)

IMMERSe– The Interactive and Multi-Modal Experience Research Syndicate-will bring together researchers from a range of games-related fields whose work touches on questions of game experience and immersion. By integrating this research, the IMMERSe Partnership project will lead to new insights into player experience and new strategies for improving it. Our network will bring the research practices and perspectives of numerous disciplines to the understanding of these issues, and combine those practices to build a continually growing body of research, published in journals and books, online, at conferences and at public events. Gaming domains under investigation will include social media and virtual worlds, gambling, “gamification” (the process of introducing gameplay elements into other areas of life), serious games (including simulation, training and educational games), and the full panoply of entertainment gaming. On May 25, 2012, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Image of a video game controller, click on the image to see IMMERSe project themes (SSHRC) announced the awarding of a SSHRC Partnership Grant to the Games Institute to establish a research network for the study of games. As covered by the Kitchener Record, this network joins together six universities and six industry partners to conduct a wide range of studies in player immersion and behaviour in games.

Physiological Computing

Physiological Computing (PC) is a term used to describe any computing system that uses real-time quantitative physiological data as an input stream to control a user interface. The most basic sort of PC is one that records a biosignal and displays it to the user via a screen. Other systems, such as Brain Control Interfaces (BCI), take a stream of physiological data and convert it into input control at the interface level. PC also includes computer systems that simply monitor physiology in order to assess psychological states, which are used to trigger real-time adaptation. For example, if the system detects high blood pressure, it may assume the user is experiencing high frustration and offer emotionally-supportive help cues.

Ended Projects