Performance and Audience in Movement-Based Digital Games: An International Research Network

Lead Research Organisation: University of Lincoln
Department Name: College of Sciences

Abstract

The emergence of movement-based interfaces, and context-aware mobile platforms, has profoundly changed the types of experiences which game designers are able to create. Game play mechanics can now be expressed using naturalistic body movements and behaviours, blurring the barriers between game worlds and the physical world. The scope for innovation in game development on this technological frontier is apparent, but presents a new challenge for commercial developers.

We will directly address this challenge using the perspective of performing arts research and practice. Bringing together games developers, researchers, and performance practitioners, this network will explore new concepts in the design and creation of movement-based games. We will enable performance practitioners and researchers to participate directly with the game development process, creating a bi-directional framework within which developers will help researchers to ask and answer new questions, and researchers will help developers to explore game play designs. Furthermore, within this context we will explore the concept of "user trajectories", previously employed successfully to analyse mixed reality user experiences, as a methodological tool for designing commercial games.

Our main events will be three inter-disciplinary workshops, within which researchers and performers will work with developers to prototype new collaborative game ideas. These sessions will be based around our three core themes: performance, audience, and user trajectories. Some academic research has already begun to explore performance and the role of audience, in digital games, primarily through work on bespoke mixed reality platforms. Additionally, academics and artists in fields such as drama and dance are starting to explore how games technologies can be used as a medium for performance. From this point, we will ask the questions: How can we use concepts of expression through performance (from theatre and dance) to create new and engaging game play mechanics in commercial games? How can we capture aspects of performance and its documentation in game design? How can the role of audience create playful interactions and be used to generate competitive and collaborative play? In addition, the network will explore the emerging theme of documentation and performance: using a dedicated interactive website, participants will work collaboratively online, form working groups, and collate design work and assets. The website will be open and accessible, and be used to co-create and curate network outputs.

Our network brings a strong international dimension. With our project partners, Arts Queensland, we will explore cultural constructions of performance, particularly in relation to narrative and community (audience), and use these to establish new frameworks for expression and interaction. In the context of game development, we ask the question: How can different cultural interpretations of performance inform new designs for performance based games? We will address this question in a workshop to be held in Brisbane under the theme "Cultural aspects of performance".

Network outputs will comprise game designs, conceptual work, and other related media, hosted on our website, as well as working designs which will feed into commercial products. We will also produce academic outputs in the form of two Journal papers targeting the arts and humanities research communities, and conference papers targeting the games design and technical development communities.

Planned Impact

Pathways to the Games Industry:

Commercial organisations participating directly in the network will be able to exploit designs which they have co-created during workshops sessions, in three ways:
1. SMEs will actively explore funding streams including industry-academia collaborative sources such as Technology Strategy Board sources (e.g. through Creative Industries Knowledge Transfer Network), and Knowledge Transfer Partnership schemes. We will run a grant development session at the end of the network to help participants to access these.
2. In some cases, further research-driven funding may be appropriate to support development of more experimental design ideas, which require further research over a longer period. In this case, academic partners will lead applications for funding.
3. Larger organisations may fund further work independently, including collaboration with researchers.

The wider games development community will benefit from design ideas generated by the network. We will disseminate designs, prototypes, and actively promote engagement:
1. Participants will showcase design ideas, prototypes, and self-documentation, using the network's online channels.
2. We will work with TIGA to promote outcomes to a wider audience of developers.
3. We will disseminate outcomes through the specialist games industry media, including Gamasutra, Develop magazine, the Digital Games Research Association (DIGRA), and the International Games Developers Association (IGDA).
4. We will work with other networks and share dissemination routes and activities.
5. We will engage the development community through academic conferences. We will hold a workshop session at GAMEON 2014 (in Lincoln) and we will present papers through the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2015/16).

Pathways to Performing Arts:

We will link performing arts with games development in a two-way process. Many performers are already experimenting with technology and games hardware/software: by involving performers and researchers directly in the process of making games, they will engage with new ways of thinking about movement, play, and audience. We will therefore disseminate project outcomes more widely to this community:
1. We will use the network's online presence to disseminate media, prototypes and designs oriented towards performers, targeting organisations such as Dance-tech, Dance Digital, Dance4 (East Midlands), and regional theatre networks, to achieve this.
2. We will hold a performance-based dissemination event at Lincoln.

Pathways to International Collaboration:

Our network establishes a new collaboration between the participating UK based institutions and Arts Queensland. Performers based in the UK will benefit from direct collaborations with game developers, and researchers, in Queensland, and vice-versa. Arts Queensland will take the lead in dissemination and management in Australia. Groups of organisations in Queensland who could collaborate with UK partners include:

1. Performers and practitioners: Arts Queensland will connect with the local community of performance artists through existing established dissemination routes including publications, reviews, strategic policy documents and case studies.
2. Game developers: these will be targeted partly through Art Queensland's existing network, and partly using international game industry routes (Gamasutra, DIGRA, IGDA Brisbane, and the GDA of Australia).
3. We will identify sources of funding to support further collaborative work between UK organisations and institutions, and those in Queensland.

Resources:
The University of Lincoln will host a bespoke social networking service dedicated to the project.
This will enable participants to create groups, exchange ideas, self-document ideas, create external engagements and outputs.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description This project is now completed. We have held a number of workshops and other events in which academics, practitioners, and participants from industry have discussed and developed project ideas for interdisciplinary work on video game design and development work. This has so far resulted in a number of collaborations and spin-out projects with various outcomes. A number of publications have now materialised from the work presented in the workshops, an active collaboration between the University of Lincoln and Griffith University Queenlsand has emerged, and a research project from the network ahsd featured at a number of high-profile puiblic-facing game shows.
Exploitation Route As this is a network, I anticipate that there are/will be lots of opportunities for the project outcomes to be taken forward by different participants in the network. These opportunities are still emerging.
Sectors Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://performance-games.lincoln.ac.uk/
 
Description Innovate UK, Innovation in Location-based services
Amount £702,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 46982 - 328322 
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2015 
End 10/2016
 
Description Griffith University Visiting Research Fellowship 
Organisation Griffith University
Country Australia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Dr. John Shearer is visiting Griffith University as a Visiting Research Fellow to collaborate on an active project.
Collaborator Contribution Fellowship of AUD$4650 to cover travel and costs
Impact Not started yet
Start Year 2016
 
Description Project Swift 
Organisation RNF Digital Innovation
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We have jointly submitted and secured a funding proposal through Innovate UK. This project has not started yet.
Collaborator Contribution We have jointly submitted and secured a funding proposal through Innovate UK. This project has not started yet.
Impact This project has not started yet.
Start Year 2014
 
Description AMAZE Festival 2015, Berlin, Germany. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Demonstration of Taphobos, a coffin-based game: members of the public were able to play this game.
http://taphobos.com/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://taphobos.com/
 
Description Brisbane Writers Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Participants from the network were involved delivering a keynote, and panel participation, at the Story+ section of the Brisbane Writers Festival.

Enabled dialogue with multiple stakeholders in the Queensland region, with possible future collaborations emerging.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Game City 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We presented work from the network's workshops at the Game City festival in Nottingham 2014.

Members of the public were able to see and engage with the netowrk
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://gamecity.org
 
Description Leftfield Collection @ EGX Rezzed 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Demonstration of Taphobos, a coffin-based game: members of the public were able to play this game.
http://taphobos.com/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://taphobos.com/
 
Description London Anime and Gaming Con 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Demonstration of Taphobos, a coffin-based game: members of the public were able to play this game.
http://taphobos.com/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://taphobos.com/
 
Description Southampton Gamefest, Southampton, UK. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Demonstration of Taphobos, a coffin-based game: members of the public were able to play this game.
http://taphobos.com/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://taphobos.com/
 
Description TEXTure Festival, Brisbane, Australia. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Demonstration of Taphobos, a coffin-based game: members of the public were able to play this game.
http://taphobos.com/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://taphobos.com/
 
Description two5six Festival, New York, USA. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Demonstration of Taphobos, a coffin-based game: members of the public were able to play this game.
http://taphobos.com/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://taphobos.com/