DIS:E Symposium, EICC, Edinburgh, 12th August

After EIF08 had finished I attended the DIS:E Symposium (I don’t understand why this was a separate event – politics?), which had a rather different, more academic feel.

First on was Richard Bartle (University of Essex) with ‘Games and Academia: A rant’.

He’s a writer and game researcher, co-author of MUD the first multiuser dungeon and is one of the pioneers of the MMOG industry.

His talk was about the divide between academia and the gaming industry, especially how the top games courses in the UK were run at ‘modern’ universities, ie former polytechnics, rather than old universities.

He went on to say that this is a problem because although this means there are plenty of trained people, there are too few ‘educated’ people. Hmm, not too sure what that means exactly! Anyway, the old established universities don’t regard computer games as an academically respectable subject because there are no ‘first class’ games specific journals and also there’s no money in games research.

I wasn’t completely convinced by everything said in this talk, but it was certainly a bit of a rant as billed!

Professor Austin Tate (University of Edinburgh) Innovative Education using Virtual Worlds

Austin is Director of AIAI (Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute) in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. I’m really interested in the emergence of virtual worlds, especially as they’re getting more specialist and applied to learning and simulation from art galleries to healthcare. The following notes are a bit lean, but I hope the links help you find more…

Timeline for virtual worlds
* 1978 onwards – multi-user dungeon & domain via early chat / IM
* 1990 onwards – MOO – MUD object orientated
* 1990 onwards – MMORPG
* Now – multi-user virtual environments and virtual worlds (MUVE/VW)
* Next – external content management and links to web services

The Virtual University of Edinburgh VUE, has a campus in Second Life. Its looking at new methods of teaching and new ways to do things – a bit more fun, more effective ways of doing things.

The VUE virtual campus has a building reminiscent of the college buildings and also features local Edinburgh buildings. It has art installations – they have a gallery open in Second Life that will also open soon in real life.

iRoom: a room for intelligent interaction related to virtual collaboration work. For example there’s a Paternoster tasting room – people have their own whisky tasting kits at home, but join in an educational and social experience online.

Other virtual worlds include Kaneva, Lively and Wonderland (which I’ve blogged about before here: .

There are some professionally licensed and private virtual worlds such as ProtoSphere – which is aimed at companies as well as educational establishments: http://www.protonmedia.com

Forterra Olive is also licensed and quite expensive as it comes with lots of applications and specialist worlds in areas such as refugee, medical and military: http://www.forterrainc.com/

Twinity allows closed walls and systems. It allows the user to let selected people into their areas: http://twinity.com/en

Anyway, there’s a lot of virtual worlds now – but they’ll almost certainly thin out as some survive and some don’t. Privately managed regions and controlled areas are becoming popular, especially for simulation for medical, government and military. It’s all extremely interestingšŸ™‚

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Gianna Cassidy from the Psychology of Music Research Group, talked about the relationship between music and games, here’s some notes from her slides.

Videogame play presents a valuable yet relatively untapped platform for musical experience:
* Exposure to symphonic scores eg Halo
* Increasing customisability of soundtracks eg GTA series
* Boom in music performance and creation games eg Rock Band

How music plays a fundamental role in videogame experience
* Forms a channel of communication, interaction and direction
* Enriches the game world – aiding the creation of context, setting the scene and semantic inference about protagonists
* Assist the player in navigation of the play space – directing the player through the sequence of game play and providing functional reference and feedback
* Developed from underscoring the characters actions and functional feedback from the environment to enriching, maintaining and manipulating the emotional context of the game world – aiming to create a seamless impression of gameplay.
* Music acts as an emotional glue between the player and the game – symbiotic communication of induced and expressed cultural. emotional and social content.

She went on to tell us about some research into gamers response to certain types of music in games – how it affects the rate of player activity, player physiology and emotional state – they used Wii Sports, Wii Star Wars and WiiFit games. As you might imagine self selected tracks had the highest arousal results.

Summary
* Music is a powerful tool to elucidate social emotional and cognitive processed and outcomes of our gameplay experience – an emotional glue and channel of information between the game and player.
* Music is a tool to regulate our social, cognitive and emotional interaction with games – it has both positive effects on accuracy, efficiency, judgement, attention, motivation, enjoyment, mood state, liking and evaluation of the game – mediated by preference, perceived control, contextual specificity and liking.

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