Games

Over the years I have been involved in the design and development of a number of serious games and gamified applications. My main area of work usually has been on the conceptual and usability aspects. More recent work has explored the problem of ethics, privacy and trust within serious games. The projects ranged from augmented reality games in Cologne through the serious games in museums and gamified mobility applications. Within the publications section of my blog you can find papers relating to the games explained below.

TimeWarp Cologne

TimeWarp was a game created to explore the emerging area of mixed reality gaming. The objective was to travel in time in the Rhein area of Cologne using augmented reality. While playing the game players could visit different time periods and as if by magic the then newish technology of augmented realty would add in graphical and visual augmentations. Players could interact with the elves, known as Heinzelmännchen which are a famous part of the history of Cologne.

The first version of the game was developed and tested in 2007 and was a single player game where the player had to solve a series of quests. I was involved in the extensive user tests of the game that summer which explore usability as well as sense of place and presence. Work on this won a best paper award at The ACM Mobile HCI 2008 Conference. The game was designed and developed by Iris Herbst and Anne-Kathrin Braun.

Developed at Fraunhofer FIT as part of the IPCity project.

Timewarp II 2009-2010

Following on from the first set of users tests of TimeWarp the game was redesigned.  Work on re-designing the game was carried out along with my colleagues Johannes Loschner and Richard Wetzel. We looked at how to address a number of the issues flagged up in the earlier prototype and made a range of key improvements. We explored how to improve the social experience of the game and made it into a two person collaborative experience. Instead of one player with a ultra-mobile PC (an early tablet) we gave each player a role which encouraged them to discuss and solve problems together. We also added more emotional aspects to the experience such as forcing the players to decide whether they would be good or evil. Also we decided not to seek reality and instead went for cartoon like “cute” Heinzelmänchen characters and provided them with a backstory to encourage players to become more emotionally attached. The game tasks and problems the players had to solve were also improved along with the basic user interaction techniques.

The revised version of TimeWarp received significant media coverage on German TV and even appeared in the German edition of Playboy Magazine.

Developed at Fraunhofer FIT as part of the IPCity project.

LeaveNow

Traffic is a major problem in Luxembourg and within the I-GEAR project we are exploring how gamification can be used as a means to reduce it. LeaveNow is one such IOS gamified mobility application which is designed to explore different player dynamics to see what impact they have on changing leaving time each day. This is primarily a research driven gamified application and the study results will be announced later this year. I am the project leader I-GEAR so played a key role in its design. More screen shots and information will be made available when the study is complete as releasing the information now could compromise the results.

Related work in this area is my co-supervision of Martin Kracheel who is currently working on a set of other game concepts to reduce traffic congestion. This game is under development and will be released as part of the I-GEAR project shortly.

Museum Cultural Experiences

Within the EC LiveCity project we developed a game platform which connects two museums together via interactive video (like Skype) and multitouch tables featuring a number of simple games. As the emphasis in the project was on the video-to-video interaction part we looked for novel ways to use video within gaming experiences. A number of main approaches were used, a more passive method where people can talk about the gaming experience as they play against each other remotely (just like watching  the other team face to face). Other methods included embedding live video in the games themselves to finally using video as a key part of the gaming experience. We faced a number of design challenges here, firstly we cannot be sure people are available in each location to play, so we had to have single location games. Also the games have to be easy enough to walk up and use and above all also be quick to play – as the museums would prefer people to spend time actually walking round the museum! My main role in this was the concept creation of the games along with user testing. The actual development and some game concept elements were also undertaken by Saeed Afshari, Andrei Popleteev, Tom Kamarauskas and Tigran Avanesov.

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The multitouch table platform in Luxembourg with a number of game options and the video screen. A similar set-up is also installed in Athens.

This work was well received and was subsequently taken up by POST Luxembourg who funded it as part of the TELME project. 

Mixed Reality Training Games for Police

Through a recently funded EC Horizon 2020 project we are about to start the requirements capture phase which will look at developing serious games for training police officers. The primary emphasis is effective training through the use of serious games which also includes aspects of easy scenario development, assessment and monitoring. My main work in this project will be requirements capture, conceptual design, interaction design and evaluation of user experience. We will be working extensively with police training organisations across Europe.

Related work

I have c0-supervised a number of MSc student projects which have covered the topic of gaming. A recent example was Saeed Afshari’s MSc which looked at magnetic interaction within mobile games. Another thesis in this area was undertaken by Fan Gao who explored the impact of gamification  on data sharing by users within social networks. The clip below shows the results of the magnetic interaction work, for more information please visit Saeed Afshari’s blog.