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dorkbot YEG 2014 – FREE event!

The 99th St Ribbons of History project

Graduate Researcher Aiden In helped the Strathcona Community League in Edmonton, Alberta to focus on their history and their art, while encouraging walking, thanks to GRAND. The 99th St Ribbons of History project lined ten blocks of 99th Street with sculptures on decorative poles. Aiden In helped connect the art to the community’s history through QR codes attached to bark-like panels at the pedestrian’s level. The QR codes help the community to work towards its goal of connecting both sides of this divisive and controversial street. Aiden In is a first year MA student in Humanities Computing. For more information see:

The project connects both sides of 99th street with history, art, the neighborhood’s history (both natural and social), and encouragement to engage. Passersby are invited to enjoy the locally made art art and to walk along 99th Street, access our community league’s mobile pages through the QR codes, or to later read about the history on the League’s website.

Some pictures from the event include:

The Opening Ceremony

A QR code for artwork

SFU-UofA Exchange

In early November the University of Alberta Play-PR group hosted Vicki Moulder from Simon Fraser University for two days of workshops and project planning. Vicki and Shannon Lucky from the University of Alberta attended the day long GRAND: Catch Canada’s Digital Wave workshop where they connected with many of Alberta’s gaming industry and funding agencies as well as researchers from across the university. The second day focused on a series of meetings introducing the fAR-PLAY game development platform and the U Alberta GRAND/Play-PR group’s various research projects. At these meetings the Play-PR representatives discussed the potential for collaborating on several projects and plan to continue working together in the following ways:

  • fAR-PLAY Developer David Holms will create a tutorial video that will demonstrate how to build a geo-locative game using the U Alberta developed fAR-Play game design platform. The U Alberta group will make the design platform available to SFU and other partners as a free prototyping space for artists to design story-narratives that are composed of a series of location-based micro-narratives. Vicki will present the tutorial video to Radix theatre in Vancouver to gage interest in this tool within that creative community.
  • PLAYPR Nation-wide Survey on Location-based games It would be of benefit to the entire group to compile a survey of all of the PLAY-PR partner’s location-based game platforms (both original designs and commercial products used). This data could be used to identify design patterns and outline the characteristics of this multi-scaled research space and/or produce a guide that compares the way story-narrative can be adapted in this specific type of game.

The group also plans to create a comprehensive literature review regarding ARGs (Alternate Reality Games) beginning with the University of Alberta’s Zotero collection of references. Hopefully this would serve as a useful reference for the entire group as well as a way to find common threads between existing projects to support future collaboration. The University Alberta will continue this successful partnership by sending a GRAND researcher to Simon Fraser University in early 2013.

Solar Sound at Burning Man

Another successful Burn for Professor Scott Smallwood (me), who attended the Burning Man Festival as part of the theme camp First Transdimensional Bank and Church.

This year, in addition to running our theme camp and it’s 24-hour Karmic Teller Machine, and afternoon Full Solar Salvation Music Jam on solar-powered instruments, I also brought to the deep playa two sound installations.

The first, Black Box, which also appeared last year, was a success and survived the entire festival. The second piece, Arcade Bells (pictured below), was, sadly, destroyed by an art car early in the event. This was due to its small profile, and inadequate lighting. Lesson learned!

The event, in general, was yet again a wonderful display of interactive arts of all kinds, and amazing burn events (including the symbolic burning of Wall Street). I was happy to see the Saskatchewan CORE brought a piece again this year: a lovely wooden sculpture of a buffalo, which burned on Thursday night.

I will discuss my experience this year at the Burn in our first interactives meeting of the semester, to be scheduled soon…

GRAND Play-PR Group Presents at Congress 2012

The University of Alberta node of the GRAND/Play-PR research group recently presented a joint panel about our gaming research at Congress 2012 in Waterloo Ont on May 29th for both the Society for Digital Humanities and the Canadian Game Studies Association.

Games are not designed in a day, nor does one learn to design effective games in one try. As with any uncertain occupation, iteration is one way to improve, innovate, test and assess. The panel iterated over a series experiments in serious game design and related issues and focused on the following threads:

Iterative design. Designing games has, not surprisingly, turned out to be harder that we expected especially when dealing with new and uncertain genres like locative games.  It takes experience to do it well and to get experience one needs to do it over and over.

Iterative testing. We discovered early on that games never work as we expected. Locative game technology, especially the smart-phone-based technologies we depend on, are still in their infancy. For this reason we have developed protocols for iterative testing which we will discuss with some examples.

Involve partners. One way to design games is to involve partners who have a stake in the development. We have made this part of our practice as it means that we get content experts who have a stake in the outcome and bring interesting assets to the design table. Some of the partners we are working with include a science centre, a community business organization, other academics, and a historical park.

Iterative assessment. There is relatively little written about the assessment of serious games though there is a wealth of methods for assessing instructional methods. We discuss some of the lightweight assessment techniques we have been adapting to help us test the value of games.

Experiment with different platforms. It is always tempting to build a technology and then try to make a game fit in it. Needless to say you then get something that is more about the technology than the game. For this reason we have been both adapting our own game technologies like fAR-Play and we have been developing locative games with other technologies.

Alternative genres of play. While a major thrust of our research is around using locative games for learning we have been also experimenting with other types of games as the pedagogical situation arises. We have adapted a first-person shooter to health education, we have developed a gamification experience, and we have been experimenting with card/board games.

The papers that were presented on this panel were:

Return of the Magic: Designing a Locative Game – Shane Riczu
Return of the Magic is a geo-locative game conceptualized to meet the needs of our research team as well as those of our community partners. This paper discused why SCVNGR was chosen as the game development platform, challenges faced in the execution of the game, and what we have learned about the motivations of players of these local, geo-locative games.

The Writing Game: Gamification for Learning – Matt Bouchard
The Writing Game (TWG) was developed to gamify writing.  Users of TWG can start writing projects, set milestones, set tasks within the milestones, complete writing towards these tasks and even compete against others. The system uses simple analytics and voluntary self-assessment to track users in their game of writing. This paper demonstrated TWG and talk about the design scenarios used to develop it.

The CATHeTR Project: Partnerships and Assessment – Michael Burden
CatHETR is a game for teaching health and medical students about privacy and patient safety using a first-person shooter genre of play. This paper briefly demonstrated the game, discussed how we adapted the FPS genre for interdisciplinary learning, and then concentrate on the assessments conducted with health students.

Game Design Games: Playing at Ideation – Patrick von hauff & David Holmes
Drawing inspiration from playful ideation strategies we have developed a game design workshop that give players ideation practice and encourages discussion of game ideas. Central to the workshop is a simple card game in which small teams of game designers are challenged to generate rough game concepts in a short period of time. The design of the card game and the surrounding workshop has been iteratively refined as we use it in different contexts across disciplines. Inpresentation briefly demonstrated the game, then discussed the iterative development of the game, and showed the associated web site where you can generate your deck of cards to suit your context.

fAR-Play: Authoring Serious Locative Games – David Holmes
fAR-Play (for Augmented Reality Play) was developed by an interdisciplinary team at the University of Alberta, and came out of an earlier interdisciplinary experiment. It gives authors a web interface with which to make a simple “treasure-hunt” style of game suitable for locative history games. This presentation demonstrated the authoring environment, talked about the authoring affordances, and described games developed with fAR-Play.

Assessment Methods for Geo Locative Games – Shannon Lucky
In this paper we discussed a range of assessment methods employed by the GRAND/Play-PR research group in the design and implementation of our geo-locative game projects. We described the assessment methods used in these projects and how successful they were in supporting our research goals. We also discussed important elements of game play that have been difficult to effectively study, such as ‘fun-ness’ and player motivation, and proposed improvements to our assessment strategies that will be applied to future projects.

Designing with Partners – Joyce Yu
As part of our iterative development practice we decided to expand our development beyond the University campus and began to collaborate with community partners. While working with our collaborators, we have been journaling the advantages of working with our partners, the common challenges and best practices during the development process. This paper discussed the challenges and opportunities at the crossroads of partnership collaboration.

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