EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Intelligent Games & Game Intelligence (IGGI)

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Computer Science

Abstract

The digital games industry has global revenues of $65bn (in 2011) predicted to grow to $82bn by 2017. The UK is a major player, whose position at third internationally (behind the US and Japan) is under threat from China, South Korea and Canada. The £3bn UK market for games far exceeds DVD and movie box office receipts and music sales. Driven by technology advances, the industry has to reinvent itself every five years with the advent of new software, interaction and device technologies. The influential 2011 Nesta "Next Gen" review of the skills needs of the UK Games and Visual Effects industry found that more than half (58%) of video games employers report difficulties in filling positions with recruits direct from education and recommended a substantial strengthening of games industry-university research collaboration. IGGI will create a sustainable centre which will provide the ideal mechanism to consolidate the scientific, technical, social, cultural and cognitive dimensions of gaming, ensuring that the industry benefits from a cohort of exceptional research-trained postgraduates and harnessing research-led innovation to ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of innovation in digital games. The injection of 55+ highly qualified PhD graduates and their associated research projects will transform the way the games industry works with the academic community in the UK.

IGGI will provide students with a deep grounding in the core technical and creative skills needed to design, develop and deliver a game, as well as training in the scientific, social, therapeutic and cultural possibilities offered by the study of games and games players. Throughout their PhDs the students will participate in practical industrial workshops, intensive game development challenges and a yearly industrialy-facing symposium. All students will undertake short- and longer-term placements with companies that develop and use games. These graduates will push the frontiers of research in ineraction, media, artificial intelligence (AI) and computational creativity, creating new game-themed research areas at the boundaries of computer science and economics, sociology, biology, education, robotics and other fields.

The two core themes of IGGI are:

Intelligent Games - increasing the flow of intelligence from research into digital games. We will use research advances to seed the creation of a new generation of more intelligent and engaging digital games, to underpin the distinctiveness and growth of the UK games industry. The study of intelligent games will be underpinned by new business models and research advances in data mining (game analytics) which can exploit vast volumes of gameplay data.

Game Intelligence - increasing the use of intelligence from games to achieve scientific and social goals. Analysis of gameplay data will allow us to understand individual behaviour and preference on a hitherto impossible scale, making games into a powerful new tool to achieve scientific and societal goals. We will work with user groups and the games industry to produce new genres of games which can yield therapeutic, educational and social benefits and use games to seed a new era of scientific experimentation into human behaviour, preference and interaction, in economics, sociology, psychology and human-computer-interaction.

The IGGI CDT will provide a major advance in an area of great importance to the UK economy and massive impact on society. It will provide training for the leaders of the next generation of researchers, developers and entrepreneurs in digital games, forging economic growth through a distinctly innovative and research-engaged UK games industry. IGGI will massively boost the notion of digital games as a tool for scientific research and societal good.

Planned Impact

The IGGI Centre for Doctoral Training will impact upon:

The Digital Games Industry: IGGI will inject a substantial cohort of 55+ PhD graduates and a wide range of academic research leaders with direct experience of research collaboration with the UK digital games industry. Although large, the UK games industry is fragmented and geographically dispersed, consisting primarily of SMEs. Increasing skill levels and injecting research advances in such a community is best achieved through employment of and engagement with creative and entrepreneurial PhD graduates with good communication skills, and through stable long-term government-funded collaborative projects which offer the opportunity for research engagement at a time to suit the business cycles of games industry partners. IGGI offers the opportunity for a step change, yielding increased profits through an internationally distinctive UK games industry which is technologically advanced and research-aware. The financial barriers to starting a company in this area are low and many IGGI graduates will start their own games businesses, mentored by experienced investors and entrepreneurs, significantly increasing their chances of creating a successful games enterprise. Data mining tools developed during IGGI will allow increased understanding of game players, which can increase profitability of mainstream games.

Parents, Game Players and Wider Society: Large and growing numbers of people are playing digital games with unprecedented enthusiasm. In a recent Forbes magazine article it was suggested that, by the age of 21, the typical child has played an average of 10,000 hours of digital games. Creating games which engage a wider range of players and which increase the social and scientific value obtained through playing games can have massive benefits: both economic ones and ones which harness the massive "cognitive surplus" implied by game players who are clocking up thousands of game hours. The potential benefits here are cultural (e.g. to raise awareness in important areas such as environmental change), scientific (e.g. to conduct experiments which use artificial economies to test economic theory), social (e.g. to educate children about science) and therapeutic (e.g. to use games to increase mobility in the elderly).

Scientists: Gameplay data can provide information about human behaviour and preference on a massive scale - this provides a major new experimental tool for researchers in Economics, Ecology/Biology, Computer Science, Psychology, Mathematics, Media and others. The very recent announcement (20th June) of a proposed call in the EU Horizon 2020 research funding programme on "Advanced digital gaming/gamification technologies" underlines how much the EU values this area and the opportunities for pan-European research in games and sustainability for IGGI.

IGGI Graduates and Supervisors: Digital games are already a major attractor to computer science and digital media courses. IGGI will provide a beacon for innovation in digital games, with heavy competition for PhD places allowing recruitment of top students. For each IGGI graduate, learning and conducting research alongside a strong cohort of students with related but different interests and expertise, with extensive interaction with industry, will give rise to a highly rounded and employable PhD graduate, who will be highly sought by both UK games industry and the growing games research community. Supervisors will gain knowledge at the cutting edge of games and gamification research.

Through the CDT, IGGI investigators, supervisors and students will become well versed in the issues and techniques of the digital games industry, developing a long-term understanding which will, we believe, result in a stronger digital games industry, a wealth of fascinating new research questions, and real benefits for wider society through the now-ubiquitous medium of digital games.

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