This is an archive of a previous Meaningful Play. View current Meaningful Play.

meaningful play 2008 travel


Meaningful Play 2008 includes thought-provoking presentations from leaders in academia and industry, peer-reviewed paper presentations, panel sessions (including academic and industry discussions), innovative workshops, roundtable discussions, and exhibitions of games.

Below is the detailed conference schedule. You can also view the abbreviated schedule.

Wednesday, October 8, 6:30p-9:00p

Early Registration in the lobby of the Marriott hotel

Thursday, October 9, 8:00a-9:00a

Registration and Continental Breakfast on the 2nd floor of the MSU Union

Thursday, October 9, 9:00a-9:15a

Conference Welcome

Thursday, October 9, 9:15a-10:15a

The Game Designer as Change Agent

Presenter(s)Richard HillemanRichard Hilleman, Chief Creative Officer for Electronic Arts, for the last 25 years has soldered cables, copied disks, built copy protection, mastered and manufactured more than 200 titles, installed and ran the first Ethernet and Internet in the business, and then he started making product. Starting with Chuck Yeager's Flight Simulator (1987), through a broad range of simulators and driving games on the 8 and 16 bit computers. Continuing with the first Genesis titles for EA, culminating in the first Madden and NHL. He was then the GM of organizations in San Mateo, Origin Systems and the UK. Finally, the last product line he worked on was Tiger Woods. Since 2000, Richard has been spending his time teaching master production classes inside of EA and contributing to university programs outside of EA. In 2008, he assumed the large shoes of Bing Gordon as the Chief Creative Director for the company.
DescriptionIn the last 25 years, the role of the game designer has changed fundamentally. In addition to the added complexity and refinement you would expect from any creative evolution, the ways game design can impact the way a company runs has been an accidental asset. Organizations can be aligned by the use of effective Scoreboards to play new games and lead organizations into the future...

Thursday, October 9, 10:15a-10:45a


Thursday, October 9, 10:45a-11:45p

From Experiment Gameplay to the Wonderful World of Goo

Presenter(s)Drew DavidsonDrew Davidson is the Director of the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University. He is a professor, producer and player of interactive media. His background spans academic, industry and professional worlds and he is interested in stories across texts, comics, games and other media. He completed his Ph.D. in Communication Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to that, he received a B.A. and M.A. in Communications Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He chaired Game Art & Design and Interactive Media Design at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and the Art Institute Online. Drew has taught and researched at several universities. Drew also consults for a variety of companies, institutions and organizations.
DescriptionWith this presentation, I will engage in an in-depth close reading of the game, World of Goo, in order to parse out various meanings I found in the experience of playing the game. I approach the experience from the perspective of how its narrative development and game design help a player learn how to play the game. Sequences in the game will be played and analyzed in detail in order to illustrate and interpret how these various components of the game come together to create a fulfilling playing experience that leads to a literacy and mastery of the gameplay mechanics. I'm currently editing a book with a group of authors performing similar analyses of various videogames. The goal of this book is to help develop and define a literacy of games as well as a sense of their value as an experience. Videogames are a complex medium that merits careful interpretation and insightful analysis.

Games and Physical Health

LocationParlor A
Paper 1

Eat M Up! Studying the Link between Game Experience and Eating Behaviour
By: Karolien Poels, Yvonne de Kort and Wijnand IJsselsteijn

Playing games is often associated with unhealthy eating habits like meal skipping and consuming high calorie snacks. Online players are repeatedly huddled behind their PC with soft drinks and snacks to help them through long sessions of game play. Social gaming often takes place with friends hanging on the couch while consuming beer, and eating chips. Related to this, researchers have proposed the "couch-potato" hypothesis that connects electronic media use with obesity and overweight. According to this hypothesis, both TV viewing and playing digital games replace active leisure time and facilitate a sedentary lifestyle leading to an increase in obesity and overweight. To date, most empirical evidence in this area is based on large scale surveys linking a media use variable (e.g. daily hours of gaming) to an eating (e.g. amount of snacks a day) or weight (e.g. BMI) related variable.

In the present study we examined the relation between playing digital games and eating behaviour in a lab setting. We specifically focused on the interplay between game experience or emotions evoked during game play and eating behaviour. The objectives were twofold. First, we wanted to investigate how having the possibility to eat contributes to the game experience. Second, we wanted to test how specific game experiences (e.g. pleasure, immersion, boredom) and specific game events (e.g. winning vs. losing) are related to eating behaviour.

Paper 2

Designing Meaningful Play: A case study involving Queen of Wheat and Elvis Pretzley
By: Kristin Hughes

Fitwits is a series of games and tools designed for clinicians, teachers, and parents that teach children ages 9-12 about food portions, nutrition and exercise using a positive behavioral approach. Fitwits innovative curriculum includes several interdependent settings for children and their families; it is divided into three specific phases: 1) Fitwits School Health Program, 2) Fitwits MD, and 3) Fitwits Community Game. The Fitwits model uses a community-based participatory approach whereby participants are involved in the design process, and on-going assessment, of all phases of the project.

The focus of this presentation is the front-end, qualitative design-research methods used to develop Fitwits School Health Program that is underway at several Pittsburgh Public Schools and Fitwits MD.

Paper 3

I like to see myself on screen: Effects of seeing oneself on screen and body image dissatisfaction on exercise experiences in playing an exercise video game
By: Hayeon Song, Wei Peng and Kwan Lee

With the recent communication technology development, it is now common to see the image of self not only in the mirror but also in many communication technological applications. For example, the image of self is available in the still picture, live camera, instant messenger, video conference, etc. Video games also start to use the image of self. In some recent applications of video games, self image has been used to represent self in virtual reality.

Despite the popular use of the image of self with new communication technology applications, research concerning the self images through new media is still not sufficient. This paper attempts to test the effect of seeing the image of self in an exercise video game. The context of exercise was chose for the research, because previous literatures in exercise psychology have found significant effects of seeing oneself on the mirror on exercise motivation and exercise experiences.

Emergent Gameplay

LocationGreen Room
Paper 1

The Significance of Jeep Tag: On Player-Imposed Rules in Video Games
By: Felan Parker

Video games, unlike traditional, non-digital games, are based on a combination of fixed rules which cannot be broken from the player position, and implied rules which are not enforced by the computer program. It is relatively common, however, for players to impose additional or alternative rules on video games, in order to refine or expand gameplay and to create new gaming experiences. This paper considers the implications of this phenomenon, dubbed "expansive gameplay," in context of video game studies and design. How does the existence of expansive gameplay help us to situate video games in relation to traditional games? To what extent is this phenomenon indicative of the ways in which players engage with video games? By theorizing expansive gameplay as a demonstrative example of the active, experimental and exploratory nature of gameplay more generally, this paper endeavours to open further discussion about the relationships between players and the rule-based systems which constitute video games.

Paper 2

Visualizing Game Mechanics and Emergent Gameplay
By: Joris Dormans

This paper aims to explore a method of visual notation based on UML (Unified Modelling Language) to help the game designer understand the dynamics of his or her game. This method is intended to extend and refine the iterative process of designing games. Board games are used as a case study because emergence in board games is often easier to study than in computer games. In order to understand emergence in games, some concepts from the science of complexity are discussed and applied to games. From this discussion a number of structures that contribute to emergence are used to inform the design of the UML for game design.

Paper 3

User Experiences of Game Idea Generation Games
By: Annakaisa Kultima, Johannes Niemel, Janne Paavilainen and Hannamari Saarenp

In this paper, we introduce three idea generation games designed for the use of game designers and discuss about the feedback they received while used in the authentic production settings. Three games designed especially for generating game ideas were developed in the GameSpace project that studies methods for design and evaluation of casual mobile multiplayer games. According to our experiences, games can be considered as successful devices for idea generation. Game-based idea generation techniques provide an easily facilitated, focused but playful setting for coming up with new ideas. We would like to share the feedback of our games in order to inspire others to create similar tools for generating innovative ideas in the field of games or other industries alike.

User-Created Content And Program-Modification In Video Games And Virtual Worlds

LocationParlor C
Presenter(s)Barbara Johnson, University of Minnesota Duluth
Beth King, University of Wisconsin - Madison
Ibrahim Yucel, Penn State University
Shree Durga, University of Wisconsin - Madison
DescriptionThis panel will discuss videogame modifications (modding) and user-created content as types of play, extending the affordances of a videogame or virtual world beyond its original design.Millions of hobbyists and fans create and share extensions and modifications of commercial, off-the-shelf games in their free time.This activity sometimes replaces designed game play with the hobby of game component creation or participation in user communities surrounding a particular game title.This unusual appropriation of videogames and virtual worlds as creative outlets has implication for education and for the videogame industry.

Creation as playful learning can lead to skill and content acquisition in context-rich environments. Panelists will share ways in which they use content-creation and videogame modification to facilitate learning of IT and other skills.Many videogame titles spark the formation of fan-communities - both company-sanctioned and fan-created.Examinations of these community spaces provide compelling evidence that sites support essential social relationships and are appropriated by niche-specific networks of practice. These are an essential component for many of the modders, especially female modders, as they learn to create content and perfect their craft. In this session, we discuss the affordances of these communities, highlighting the designed features and providing a synopsis of the socio-cultural factors "in the wild" through which players may develop an identity as a member of an informal learning community.This may help educators increase student motivation and retention of non-traditional learners (women and minorities), especially in science and technology fields.

The panelists are researching various populations in a wide variety of videogames and virtual worlds. Three of the panelists are members of research teams on projects funded through the MacArthur Digital Media & Learning, including CivWorld, TechSavvy Girls, and Pop Cosmopolitanism. Another panelist has been teaching programming to a large variety of students using game mods.

Thursday, October 9, 11:45p-1:15p

Lunch (on your own)

Thursday, October 9, 1:15p-2:15p

Turning Gamers to Soldiers: War Games in the Modern Military

Presenter(s)David Versaw, Chief Financial Officer and Director of Business Development at WILL Interactive, Inc., has over 20 years experience in new product development, program management, business development and strategic planning. His strong technology background includes broad-based computer proficiency and expertise in software development, enhanced by expertise in government contracting. As Director of Business Development of WILL Interactive David has managed and directed multiple Virtual Experience Immersive Learning Simulations (VEILS). His responsibilities include leadership of the business development group, supervision of personnel, and primary relationship manager for top-tier clientele. David Versaw received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Finance from University of Mary Washington.
DescriptionWar games have always been an integral part of soldier training in the United States Military, and for quite some time the entertainment industry. As war games have evolved and become mainstreamed, what has happened to actual war games within the military? Modern military simulations do not bear resemblance to the first person shooters that the video game industry makes us think of. Todays soldiers are more likely to face a difficult decision, with a need to weigh ethical and reciprocal concerns, than to fire round after round at clearly identified enemy soldiers. While entertainment based military games are still rooted in simply defeating the enemy, U.S. Military games focus on the subtle and ethical nuances of warfare.

Almost half of the U.S. Military is currently under the age of 25, meaning todays soldiers grew up playing video games. What better way to appeal and teach them than by using an interactive medium they can identify with? These gamers turned soldiers have exchanged their digital guns for live ammunition, but have not given up their video games.

Current serious game programs in use by the U.S. Military have proven to be successful, and their role in training has grown. From identifying insurgents among the local population and handling delicate cultural situations, to identifying an I.E.D., current military games prepare users for the realities of deployment.

For instance Gator Six, Outside the Wire, The Leader and A Day in the Bam are four of twelve Virtual Experience Immersive Learning Simulations used by the Army to train and educate hundreds of thousands of current and future leaders. Using lessons learned by veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to create the content, these programs provide an opportunity to explore the consequences of ones actions in a safe and virtual environment. By using live action and real actors, there is also an increased level of realism, which helps simulate the pressures of the situations.

The military is increasingly embracing new technologies and adjusting the traditional war game to fit an untraditional war, thereby reinforcing values such as ethics, leadership, and teamwork.These new training programs have been proven to be effective in behavior modification. War games may be fun, but it is more important they train, than entertain.

Designing Games for Health

LocationParlor A
Paper 1

Impacts of Narrative, Nurturing, and Game-Play on Health-Related Outcomes in an Action-Adventure Health Game (Top Paper Award)
By: Debra Lieberman

Narrative in digital interactive games, with engaging characters and dramatic stories, may serve many functions, such as increasing players' immersion and involvement in the game, boosting their attention and arousal, and enhancing learning and persuasion. How might the presence of a dramatic story line influence the appeal and health-related outcomes of an action-adventure health game? Likewise, how are players impacted when they nurture characters in the game who have health problems? And also, if narrative and nurturing are minimized in the game so that players focus on pure game-play instead, what are the strengths and weaknesses of this approach in achieving health-related outcomes? This paper reports findings from a study of the cancer education game, Re-Mission, which was modified into five versions with varying levels of narrative and nurturing. A randomized study of 488 young adults compared the impacts of the five game versions on health outcomes including players' cancer-related knowledge, attitudes, emotions, self-concepts, self-efficacy, information seeking, and intentions to prevent and treat cancer. The study found distinct strengths of narrative, nurturing, and pure game-play, and these findings provide useful evidence to guide the design of future health games.

Paper 2

The Social Construction Model of Interactive Gaming for Disabled Users: Benefits and Developmental Evaluation
By: John Richardson

Though some pragmatic thought has been put into making computer and video games as accessible to the disabled as such media as film and music, there has been a paucity of research and discourse on the social construction model as it applies to interactive games. With this model, such media impacts the self-identity, social spheres, and coping mechanisms of users with mobility, orientation, and/or neurological challenges. I explain how, on a high-level and conceptual basis, this model emerges out of the generative experiences and inherent feedback components of the interactive game medium, and attempt to frame both the importance of and challenges in implementing greater accessibility from a development perspective. The intent is not to merely state how the industry is overlooking an important demographic, but also to explain how interactive games can play a supportive role in the enrichment of the lives of those within it.

Paper 3

Press Play to Grow! Designing Video Games as Trojan Horses for Catalyzing Human Development
By: Moses Silbiger

This paper explores new and alternative video game designs to promote overall and healthy human development based on specific methodological frameworks related to the emergent fields of Integral Psychology and "Post-Piagetian" Developmental Psychology. In order to better investigate these aspects, a brief introduction of developmental concepts including Integral Psychology, Integral Life Practice (cross-disciplinary developmental training), and Integral Play Theory (which links human development & play) is also presented.

Analyzing and Understanding Games

LocationGreen Room
Paper 1

Beyond Choices: A Typology of Ethical Computer Game Designs (Top Paper Award)
By: Miguel Sicart

This paper presents a typology for classifying computer games designed to create ethical gameplay. Ethical gameplay is the outcome of playing a (computer) game in which the players' moral values are of relevance for the game experience. This paper explores the different types of designs that create these types of experiences, and how they are characterized. This paper provides an analytical framework for classifying games according to the experience they create and how they create it. This paper is informed by both game design theory and postphenomenological philosophy, and it is intended to provide a theoretical framework for the study of the design of ethical computer game experiences.

Paper 2

A Framework for the Analysis and Design of Meaningful Games
By: Russell Williams

A number of taxonomies have been presented for the the analysis and design of games. The primary focus in these structures has been on the creation of computer-based games. These structures also lack the detail necessary to fully analyze games, regardless of the medium in which they are created. This paper works from the structure of Mechanic, Dynamic and Aesthetic created by Marc Leblanc and used in a number of places for the teaching of computer-based game design. The framework presented here goes beyond LeBlanc's three parts of game design to introduce nine: Players, Mechanic, Dynamic, Hedonic, Schematic, Aesthetic, Didactic, Poetic and Implementation. Derived from research and the process of game design this framework of nine interrelated factors may prove valuable in the quest to understand games and their effects and inform the process of designing and developing meaningful games.

Paper 3

The Rhetoric of Serious Game Genres: Issues for Analysis and Design
By: Lee Sherlock

A number of frameworks based on the idea of serious game genres or categories have been developed to understand the range of purposes and actions that serious games engage with. While such frameworks attempt to describe the relationship between particular games and their "real-world" purposes, I argue that these genre definitions obscure both the co-construction and negotiation of meaning through the process of play and the "procedural rhetoric" (Bogost, 2007) involved in digital gameplay.

In response to this problem, I interrogate the status of serious game genres, evaluate the criteria used in constructing those genres, and consider the various "possibility spaces" (Sawyer & Smith, 2008) that players, designers, educators, and other groups might employ to articulate how serious games are experienced across a variety of purposes, disciplines, and contexts. The primary work informing this analysis is drawn from rhetorical genre studies, including work on genre ecologies (Spinuzzi & Zachry, 2000; Spinuzzi, 2003) and genre and play theory (Christensen, Cootey, & Moeller, 2007).

As part of this genre analysis, new connections between rhetorical genre studies and serious game design and play issues emerge. One implication is that we can develop new analytical models for understanding how gameplay extends outside the game itself to include other digital texts, forms of learning, and modes of social action. This presentation will also consider the game design implications that can be drawn out of genre-based critique, such as the possible application of "genre ecology diagrams" and "organic engineering" as heuristic tools (Spinuzzi & Zachry, 2000, p. 176). In drawing out these implications, the underlying argument is that the construction of serious game genres needs to be examined not only as a set of critical or analytical terms, but as a particular orientation or mode of thinking that is linked to particular design affordances and constraints.

Talent, Incentives, and Infrastructure: Growing the Game Industry in Michigan

LocationParlor C
Presenter(s)Gjon Camaj, CEO, Image Space, Inc.
Matt Toschlog, CEO, Reactor Zero
Tony Wenson, COO, Michigan Film Office
Brian Winn, Associate Professor, Michigan State University
DescriptionMichigan has long been known as the heart of the U.S. auto industry. Its fortunes are tied tightly to the ups and downs of this industry. In the last decade (or more), with rising fuel costs, outsourcing of autoworker jobs, and factories being moved overseas, the Michigan economy have suffered tremendously.

Recently there have been efforts to reinvigorate the Michigan economy by diversifying and growing new high-tech, health, and entertainment industries. The game industry is one such industry that Michigan hopes to foster within the state. But how can this be achieved? Does Michigan have the talent, infrastructure, and incentives necessary to attract and grow a local game industry? This dynamic panel of Michigan game industry veterans, state leaders, and academics will explore answers to these very questions.

Thursday, October 9, 2:15p-2:45p


Thursday, October 9, 2:45p-3:45p

Player-Centered Design for Instructional Games

Presenter(s)Robert Appelman, Indiana University
Sonny Kirkley, Information in Place, Inc.
DescriptionBy definition, meaningful play must end with meaning attained from the experience of play by someone. This also implies that there are goals for the experience and expectations of the outcome of play. Meaning itself may be defined widely depending upon the designer and the goals set forth by the development team. The continuum of meaning can stretch from the affective domain where the experience is challenging, fun, and even motivational, to the cognitive domain where the experience results in new insights, new knowledge and understanding. But, most important is the base assumption that the play experience must be meaningful in a predictable way for every player.

The focus of this presentation is the merging of two established design paths, Entertainment Game Design and Instructional Design, to achieve a meaningful learning experience that is engaging and meets the desired goals for and of each player thus necessitating a player-centered design. The merging of the two design paths requires an interdisciplinary collaborative design pipeline management focused on creating an engaging learning environment. It is the specific strategies for achieving this collaborative design within interdisciplinary arenas that we wish to illustrate through case studies and through sharing comparisons of the same interdisciplinary strategies found in Game Design curricula around the world.

Part 1: Cases in which the presenters have been involved serve as the basis for discussion:

Oceana (formerly referred to as Virtual Congress). A project funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, MacArthur Foundation and others to build a multiplayer role playing game about citizenship and democracy moved from being an MMO simulation of Congress to a fictional world to improve engagement and fun.

Virtual Astronaut Learning Platform. This National Science Foundation funded project teaches science and mathematics by immersing the players in a game environment set on Mars. This high fidelity environment is being built with the Unreal engine.

Hazmat Responder. A series of Flash-based mini games to teach skills/content related to response to hazardous materials incidents aimed at a corporate training environment.

Part 2: Dr. Appelman will use data from his study of the pedagogies and curricula applicable to this domain:

Film School Approach. This entails bringing together all of the art forms with the intent of creating a product that is superlative in every measure, and thus is the underlying goal of the school. (USC, Gotland U.)

Art School Approach. This focuses on creating innovative new forms in the game contexts that stimulate the senses and engage the player. (Aalborg U., Interactive Institute)

Design School Approach. All students in this paradigm are required to be exposed in the design and development process of all disciplines involved in game design prior to specialization in one or two. (Utrecht U. of Art Design)

Game Studies Approach. This approach is primarily analytical and reflective about how games are and how they are played instead of how to make them. Thus there is often a thrust to discuss and analyze games in terms of their theoretical base, which is especially true when serious games are the focus. (IT U. of Copenhagen)

Games to Change Brains

LocationParlor A
Paper 1

The Challenge of Challenge: Avoiding and Embracing Difficulty in a Memory Game
By: Carrie Heeter, Brian Winn, Jillian Winn and Andrea Bozoki

The central prescriptions for using brain games to improve brain health are progressive challenge and brain domain diversification. Exercising a range of cognitive domains is thought to help build a diverse "cognitive reserve." Games that are too easy for a player yield little benefit. Brain games as leisure activities need to be pleasant enough to play to attract and retain players. Designing the appropriate level of challenge is further complicated by vast differences in cognitive abilities between players of different ages and among individual players even if they are the same age.

Theories about mindset and motivation suggest that some individuals welcome hard challenges and others avoid challenge. Challenge avoidance has not been studied in the context of game play. We hypothesized that players who have a predilection toward avoiding challenge are likely to make choices that minimize the challenge in a brain game, reducing or eliminating the expected benefits.

Analysis of the game play data of players showed that about one fifth of players fit the profile of extreme challenge-seekers and another fifth fit the profile of extreme challenge-avoiders. The results reveal a natural tendency on the part of a subset of participants to choose modest challenges and to focus on one or a few brain domains that are easiest for them. The results also reveal a natural tendency on the part of a subset of participants to challenge themselves by selecting the hard difficulty setting and by pushing themselves to play quickly. They are most likely to receive the cognitive benefits that motivated them to play in the first place.

Paper 2

Video Games Change Your Brain
By: Jing Feng and Ian Spence

After more than three decades of development, video games are now increasingly used for purposes other than entertainment. These games play a role in fields as diverse as education, cognitive training, physical exercise, and rehabilitation. Developing a good game for meaningful purposes requires a comprehensive understanding of the critical characteristics that trigger the training benefits. In this paper, we present a comparative psychological analysis of the cognitive requirements of several different genres of computer game. We also review the experimental research that has focused on the cognitive and neuropsychological changes that game playing may induce in the brain. We discuss various fields of application for video games with serious purposes and suggest guidelines for designing such games based on psychological theory and experimental research in cognition and perception.

Paper 3

A Hard Day's Night: The Recovery Potential of Video and Computer Games
By: Leonard Reinecke

In an online survey with 1699 participants, the use of video and computer games for recovery purposes was investigated. The data indicate that computer games are systematically used after exposure to stressful situations and strain and that recovery experience is a significant facet of the gaming experience. Using structural equation modelling, the relations among work-related fatigue, daily hassles, social support, coping style, recovery experience and the use of computer games for recovery purposes were tested. Persons who associated stronger recovery experiences with game play used video and computer games more often after stressful and exhausting situations. Additionally, participants' level of work-related fatigue and exposure to daily hassles were both positively associated with the use of computer games for recovery. Furthermore, participants with emotion focussed coping style showed a higher tendency to use games for recovery than participants with problem focussed coping style. The relationship between work-related fatigue and game use for recovery purposes was moderated by social support: The stress buffering function of video and computer games was more important for participants receiving less social support. These participants showed a stronger relation between work-related fatigue and the use of games for recovery than participants receiving more social support.

Alternative platforms for learning games

LocationGreen Room
Paper 1

Diminutive Subjects, Design Strategy, and Driving Sales: Preschoolers and the Nintendo DS
By: J. Alison Bryant, Anna Akerman and Jordana Drell

The gaming industry is constantly evolving - new platforms, new mechanics, and new consumers. From a game creation standpoint, innovation is usually thought of as coming from a strictly creative/artistic place - the brain child of one or two tech-inspired folks who think of research (if they think of it at all) as an afterthought. We see this consistently in the video game market, where research on games is typically done in two places: 1) sometime close to the end of the product cycle in order to get feedback from consumers so that marketing can develop a strategy; and 2) at the very end of the product cycle to "fix bugs" in the game. While both of those types of research are important, neither tends to aid in the innovation process or to aid in designing games for new consumer markets.

In the spring of 2007, our game producers had a hunch that the Nintendo DS -- with its new features, such as the microphone; small size and portability; and its relatively low price point -- was ripe for creating games for preschoolers. There were a few games on the market at the time which had characters that appealed to the younger set; but our game producers did not think that the game mechanics were appropriate for preschoolers or beginning gamers. What exactly preschoolers could do with the system, however, was a bit of a mystery.

This will chronicles the research and design process that our preschool games group has developed over the past two years, discussing the roles of both exploratory and formative research in creating new titles for this youngest set. Moreover, in addition to a set of best practices from a process perspective, we also discuss our key findings and design tips when it comes to preschoolers and their cognitive abilities, motor skills, and design preferences. By understanding the unique needs of preschoolers, we can continue to improve the games that we create for them, and to better integrate educational and other "serious" content into games for them.

Paper 2

Learning via Gaming: An Immersive Environment for Teaching Kids Handwriting
By: Bruce Maxim and Nicholas Martineau

Immersive learning via animation, virtual experiments, and simulations is an attractive concept. As the complexity of educational content increases, its delivery methods and pedagogy must improve as well. While the efficacy of immersive environments for education and training is well established, their use with elementary and middle schools students is negligible. Hardware costs and long development times are two major factors impeding development of such environments for younger students. Computing technology, specifically tools for human machine interface development, has come a long way in the past few years. The authors are making use of this emerging technology to develop an immersive gaming environment for teaching handwriting to elementary school children using a tablet PC delivery system.

Paper 3

$12 TV-Computers as an Ultra-Affordable Platform for Computer-Aided Education
By: James Lomas

The Playpower Foundation ( is using a $12 computer as a platform for 8-bit learning games in order to improve educational access for millions of children around the world. Motivated by the availability of this radically affordable platform, our goal is to design and discover high-quality 8-bit learning games and make computer-aided learning affordable for people everywhere.

This paper outlines the general relevance of Computer-Aided Learning (CAL) to developing countries, sketches the historical background of our proposed platform, and proposes principles and methods to guide the future development of effective 8-bit content. We conclude by framing this project and its relevance in the context of a variety of contemporary cultural trends and research topics.

The Emerging Flash Game Industry and the Opportunities for Meaningful Play

LocationParlor C
Presenter(s)Jared RileyJared Riley is a graduate of Michigan State University and the founder of Hero Interactive, a South-western Michigan based online game studio. As part of Hero Interactive, he has been the lead designer and developer of some of the most popular and widespread flash based web games available today. Games such as Bubble Tanks, StormWinds, StarShine and LightSprites have been played millions of times all across the globe and have made the company one of the leaders in the online casual game community.
DescriptionA look into the developing online web game industry, in particular the sub-industry building up around sites such as,,, etc. that revolve around seemingly "free" content, and the opportunities this industry presents for meaningful play developers.

Thursday, October 9, 3:45p-4:00p


Thursday, October 9, 4:00p-5:00p

The Unknown Possibilities of Existence

Presenter(s)Ian BogostDr. Ian Bogost is a videogame designer, critic, and researcher. He is an Associate Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Founding Partner at Persuasive Games LLC. His research and writing considers videogames as an expressive medium, and his creative practice focuses on games about social and political issues. Bogost is author of Unit Operations: An Approach to Videogame Criticism (MIT Press 2006), recently listed among 50 books for everyone in the game industry, and of Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames (MIT Press 2007), along with several other books and many other writings. Bogost has recently co-authored (with Nick Montfort) Video Computer System: A Platform Study of the Atari 2600, which will be published this year. Bogosts videogames about social and political issues cover topics as varied as airport security, disaffected workers, the petroleum industry, suburban errands, and tort reform. His games have been played by millions of people and exhibited internationally.
DescriptionVideogames have come a long way, progressing from a plaything to purposeful medium with applications in disciplines as varied (and weighty) as medicine, education, and government. But, despite these victories, we have not yet reached the full potential of games, whether in the serious or entertainment domains.

Thursday, October 9, 5:00p-6:00p


Thursday, October 9, 6:00p-8:00p

Conference Reception, Game Exhibition, and Poster Session

LocationEast Lansing Technology Innovation Center
DescriptionCelebrate the end of the first successful day at Meaningful Play during the conference reception, featuring:
  • the latest research findings presented in the conference poster session
  • an exhibition of industry and academia created games
  • a great time to mix and mingle with your fellow conference attendees
Drinks and appetizers will be provided.

This event takes place in the newly minted East Lansing Technology Innovation Center, located on Grand River Avenue above the Barnes & Noble which is between the MSU Union and the Marriott Hotel.

This event is sponsored by the City of East Lansing.

Poster Presentations

Poster 1

Adopting a User-centered Design Process in order to Ensure Meaningful Play: the Sidewalk Saver Game Project
By: Jeroen Wauters, Frederik Windey and Veronika Anna Abeele vanden

It is well known that designing and developing games is no straightforward matter. It involves a creative design process, as well as software engineering processes. Many postmortems report on the tension between creative processes and large-scale programming concerns. When aiming at 'meaningful play', one more layer of difficulty is added. How can one ensure that besides entertaining, a game also affects the audience in the intended way? In this paper we report on the making of Sidewalk Saver, a game with the aim of sensitizing young adults about the accessibility of public spaces for people with disabilities. During the making of this game, we tried to reconcile a creative game design process, a software engineering process and a user-centered design approach. In this paper we report on the intricacies of reconciling these different approaches and the added value of including the stakeholder in the design process.

Poster 2

Creating Meaningful Education in a MMOG
By: Peter Smith, Clint Bowers and Jan Cannon-Bowers

Currently a startling 50% of entering freshman physics majors leave the discipline regardless of their GPA. That is, equal numbers of 4.0 students leave as 2.0 students, and the reason for this departure is commonly sited as an inability to envision themselves in the roll of a physicist. In an effort to combat this statistic the RETRO Lab setout to make an engaging Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) for physics education and make the content meaningful to the players, while providing a chance to practice being a physicist in a real world situation.

One of the biggest challenges was how to quickly and cheaply integrate educational content into the proposed MMO game. Designs based on deep integration of educational content and concepts proved to be difficult to design and create, and often "broke" the game design creating gameplay that didn't make sense or have much entertainment value. The main challenges were to not let the game content compromise the educational content nor the educational content compromise the game content.

This challenge led to the development of the hybrid game concept where the educational content is separated from the MMO game content. This separation is accomplished by placing it in an external Web 2.0 environment. With this approach, the educational content is kept rooted in traditional pedagogical methods, while allowing easy integration into the game with some creative story telling. Development of the game (MMO) and educational (Web 2.0) content then becomes a set of almost parallel tasks which accelerates development plus greatly simplifies the task of integration.

Poster 3

Designing a model for affective digital games to support the social-emotional development of teenagers diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder
By: Mitu Khandaker

Affective computing technologies refer to computationally 'recognising' emotions in a user, often through the use of multimodal affective sensors, including facial expressions, postural shifts, and physiological signals such as heart rate, skin conductivity, and EEG signals. More recently such work has been applied to social-emotional computing applications to support high-functioning individuals with autism spectrum disorders. This poster furthers this work by proposing a systemic model for games which use real-time multimodal affective recognition technologies as an input mechanism; this builds upon existing work on the benefit of games for therapeutic use although allows additional scope for emotion regulation. The resulting system is a cybernetic feedback loop; a model for games which has also been advocated by Salen and Zimmerman.

Poster 4

Designing War: Call of Duty 3 as a Straightjacket for Meaningful Historical Inquiry
By: Stephanie Fisher

This research investigates how history is packaged within a popular ommercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) first-person shooter (FPS) video game, Call of Duty 3. In light of the pedagogical potentials found within well-designed games, popular commercial war games that guarantee a faithful representation or experience are in a position to persuade players to adopt certain ways to view history. As a designed experience, these games contribute to the formation of historical frameworks that may influence how the player perceives the event, conducts historical inquiry, or even understands present international relations.

Using analytic frameworks developed by Frasca and Bogost, I analyze narrative and procedural rhetoric found in the representational elements and game mechanics of Call of Duty 3. Frasca offers three levels for analyzing where designers can convey meanings and ideology: narrative representation and events, game mechanics, and mandatory goal rules. Bogost's theory of 'procedural rhetoric' further explores Frasca's second and third levels, where meaning is created through user interaction with the game's algorithms.

Poster 5

Development of the Kids Game Experience Questionnaire: A self report instrument to assess digital game experiences in children
By: Karolien Poels, Wijnand IJsselsteijn and Yvonne de Kort

In this study we present the Kids Game Experience Questionnaire; a self report instrument to assess in-game experiences in children (i.e. 8-12 years). We aim for a self report measure that is sensitive, applicable over game genres and devices, and can be applied and filled out by children in a convenient, independent and time efficient way. The structure of the KidsGEQ is largely based on the Game Experience Questionnaire as developed earlier for an adult audience. The major challenge when developing a questionnaire for children is formulating items and anchor points that can be readily and easily interpreted. For the KidsGEQ, formulation of the items was based on an expert meeting with game developers experienced in designing for children and social scientists studying game experience in general, as well as on in depth interviewing and testing possible items with children who often play digital games. This resulted in a list of 49 items covering nine digital game experience dimensions. Besides the basic rationale and structure of the KidsGEQ, we present reliability of the items after use in a field experiment (n=31) with an outdoor digital game developed for young children.

Poster 6

Effects of Contingent and Non-Contingent Sound on Video Game Performance
By: John Baxa, Siu-Lan Tan and Matthew Spackman

As the video game industry has advanced, sound has come to play an increasingly integral role in games. The player can now take an active role with sound, using it as an aural guide to learn more about the virtual environment. The present study aims to investigate exactly what effects different levels of interaction with sound have on players' performance and experience of gaming in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Whether sound was contingent or not with players' actions and onscreen events was also of interest. We also wanted to examine the new playing experience offered by the new Nintendo Wii Console, and how its unique interface would impact game play. We predicted that players would perform better and experience higher levels of immersion in conditions in which sound is closer to normal playing conditions.

Poster 7

Enhancing the Museum Experience through Game Concepts and Technology
By: Christopher Ault

This poster describes an ongoing research and design project at the College of New Jersey. The project is a collaboration between me, the students of the College's Interactive Multimedia Program and the KidsBridge Tolerance Museum -- an on-campus museum dedicated to raising awareness of tolerance, diversity and similar social issues among local school children. Through my pilot undergraduate course in Interactive Exhibit Design, students and I explored new techniques and technologies to transform the aging museum into an immersive, interactive and personalized experience for children who have grown up with video games and the internet. Drawing from current research in user experience design, game design and museum design, as well as our own museum experiences and analyses, we emerged from the course with two primary proposals that capitalize on design trends and utilize new technology while furthering the museum's existing message.

Poster 8

Game Assessment for Higher Education Curricula: A Beginning
By: Elizabeth A. Evans and Laura Christopherson

This poster will describe preliminary efforts made at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) to design a method to evaluate games that can be used to educate college students. In spring 2008, a high school senior completed a short internship with the UNC Games4Learning initiative. He played 8 games available at no or low cost and wrote reviews of the games which begin to provide us with a better understanding of how students might react to these games. Simultaneously, the authors of this poster began a search to identify more systematic approaches to evaluate serious games to supplement the reviews. Surprisingly, the bulk of what they found was specific to simulations and mostly appeared in management literature. As a result, they began to create an assessment form to be completed when evaluating games to be integrated in a course or curriculum. The authors believe players' reviews combined with a systematic assessment to match faculty needs will lead to curricular game choices that are better able to meet learning objectives and to be an engaging experience for students. This is just the beginning of what the authors believe is needed to fully assess serious games. Future needs include well-designed studies to determine learning outcomes and longitudinal studies that look at long-term retention of content and continued demonstration of skills. Although there are many approaches the authors believe are important to assess these games, these two preliminary pieces--student reviews and a systematic evaluation--are a start.

Poster 9

Inside Outside: The interaction between immersive tendencies and sense of presence in changing risk-taking behavior via serious games
By: Carlos Godoy, John Christensen, Lynn Miller, Jennifer Talevich, Paul Robert Appleby, Charisse Corsbie-Massay and Stephen Read

Serious Games have great potential to optimize reduction in individual risky decision-making and behavior (Miller et al., in press). It's critical to know, however, what works when for whom. One key to their success may be that individuals may treat the virtual experience "as if" it is real life (Godoy, 2007). Individuals' experience of feeling immersed in the ongoing interaction may facilitate this. Such a propensity may be due to both measurable chronic individual differences (e.g., via the Immersive Tendencies Questionnaire (ITQ); Witmer & Singer, 1994) as well as induced changes due to the specific visual and narrative characteristics of the interactive media itself (e.g., as measured by the Presence Questionnaire Revised (PQR); Witmer & Singer, 1994). We predicted that chronic immersive tendencies and/or an induced "sense of presence", individually or in combination, would predict reduction in risky sexual decision-making in the 3-months following exposure to an HIV prevention serious game intervention. This poster presents the findings from this research. The findings suggest that, although presence may be a less important consideration for those low in immersive tendencies, those who have a natural propensity to become highly immersed are best served by serious games that maximize feelings of presence.

Poster 10

investiGaming: Gateway to research about gender, gaming, and computing
By: Carrie Heeter, Brian Winn, and Mary Stanish is an online gateway to research on gender, gaming, and computing for academics and game designers including 340 citations, 275 abstracts and "implications for game design" about selected research, funded by the National Science Foundation and developed by the serious game design group at Michigan State University.

Broadening the market of games to include more female players would be financially rewarding to the game industry and useful to society. Games matter because game play is believed to result in familiarity and comfort with as well as interest in computer technology and programming. Designing games to appeal to female and male players may seem elusive, but gender and gaming has been the focus of hundreds of research studies. Reaching game industry professionals with academic research findings about gender and games requires innovative ways to bridge vast divides between these disparate cultures. Tag clouds and "implications for game design" help make the research accessible to industry.

Poster 11

Player Productivity: Experiential Knowledge in a game modification forum
By: Chad O'Neil

This poster focuses on player discussion in a game modification forum. The modification, ORA2 is a player-developed extension to World of Warcraft. In the analysis of verbal data from the forum I explore the relationship between discussion of in game experience and modification development. In the poster I outline this relationship and possible connections to and extension of T. L. Taylor's critique of game developer conceptions of players. My initial findings seem to indicate that conceptions of players (as unskilled / unknowledgeable and/or rational and selfish actors) are also present in this particular forum even though it is player created and organized.

Poster 12

By: Charles Yust and Leanne Wagner

Re:Activism is a big-urban-game designed and launched for the Come Out and Play festival in New York City. The game revisits locations of historic protests and teaches game participants about the events and related social causes. In order to progress through the game, the participants raise awareness of protest events by creating present day interventions and public interactions. Teams of game-players race from location to location to complete challenges and use activist tactics to increase their score. The teams also use mobile phones to send and receive text messages as they progress through the game and completed challenges.

The poster will use information graphics to illustrate the three levels of learning that occurred during the iterative design process, development, and play of Re:Activism. This learning occurred for the game developers in researching protest history, for the players as they engaged in protest actions during game-play, and for the public through interaction with the game players. The poster will also include documentation from actual game-play.

Poster 13

Teaching Cultural Awareness with Serious Games
By: Monica Evans and Marge Zielke

One of the greatest challenges facing the citizens of the 21st century is an understanding of, and acclimation to, foreign cultures. In business, radically different customers and corporations must negotiate, transact, and sustain relationships from halfway around the globe. In medicine, nurses are faced with patients that won't admit to ailments in the presence of certain family members. In the military, soldiers put their lives on the line daily without understanding the civilian populations they are trying to protect. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said, "too many mistakes have been made over the years because our government and military did not understand - or even seek to understand - the countries or cultures we were dealing with."

Cultural understanding often comes best from total immersion within that culture - so what better way to teach cultural awareness than with immersive games? Using the structure of serious games and the technology behind the most successful commercial games, training simulations can be built that not only model the cognitive complexity and nuance of culture, but interactively assist trainees with decision-making strategies and habits that can save both dollars and lives in the field. Gaming structures also present the opportunity for experimentation and risk-taking in safe environments, and for students to fully experience the difficult or tragic ramifications of a single minor action.

At the University of Texas at Dallas, we have developed the 3-D ADAT Model (Asymmetric Domain Analysis and Training) for teaching soldiers the specifics of cultural awareness in rural and urban segments of Afghanistan, a model that can easily be adapted to other cultures and other fields. It is our belief that cultural awareness can be effectively and efficiently taught in immersive, virtual environments, and that this sort of teaching will only become more useful and prevalent as cultures and societies continue to interact on the global scale.

Poster 14

This Ain't Your Teachers' Old School
By: Lori Shyba

The term "Old School" has entered our lexicon as meaning an environment populated with a class of people committed to traditional values and practices. In this poster, Lori Shyba reflects on videogame design project case studies that were implemented into in Science, Math, and the Humanities curriculum at Willow Park Arts-Based Learning school in Calgary, Canada as a celebration of the remarkable teaching staff that might as well coin the term "New School."

Poster 15

Undercover UXO - A serious game to teach children to avoid landmines
By: Corey Bohil and Michael Jeffery

This poster presents the design challenges in creating Undercover UXO, a game designed to teach children in war-torn countries the warning signs of landmines and other unexploded ordnance. The game was created in a game design course (in MSU's Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies, & Media) for the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation (GWHF) - an organization dedicated to education and eradication of landmines and unexploded ordnance worldwide.

Exhibited Games

Game 1

Brain Powered Games
By: Brian Winn, Carrie Heeter, Jillian Winn, John Fisher, Lei Bao, Charles Roman, Deon Foster, Marie Lazar, Roy Dong

Brain Powered Games combines Michigan State University's expertise in game design and audience research with cognitive psychology to create a cognitive exercise platform designed specifically for individuals aged 45 to 65. A key premise is that engaging, interesting games will naturally result in more frequent play than boring physical therapy exercises. Brain Powered Games includes a suite of four games, each targeting different cognitive domains, including Sokoban (an executive processing, or strategic planning game), Keep It In Mind (a working memory game), PhotoFlaw (a visuospatial processing game), and Headline Clues (a verbal and semantic processing or word game).

Game 2

Crossroads Village
By: Brian Winn, Ziba Scott, Eric Pearson, Adam Rump, Gaston Rampersad, Peter Diaz, Marie Lazar, Mary Stanish, Joe Fitzgerald, John Quick, Chris Portrey, Nate Cooley, Vered Seidmann, Kacie Schaeffer, and Jennifer DeFore

Crossroads Village is a persuasive real time strategy game designed and developed in the Serious Game Design program at Michigan State University. Crossroads Village allows the player to take on the role of a relief organization in dealing with world hunger and other third world crises. In the game, the player manages the relief effort in a village after a disaster, acquiring resources, rebuilding infrastructure, and helping villagers learn new skills. The game is designed to inspire a sense of empathy, while educating the player of the issues and making them aware that they can make a difference. Ultimately the game hopes to promote altruism and action in the form of real-world monetary donations.

Game 3

Headline Clues
By: Carrie Heeter, Brian Winn, Jillian Winn, John Fisher, Lei Bao

Headline Clues is a new kind of word game. Word games like Bookworm and Scrabble challenge the player to generate or to recognize individual words. Crossword puzzles are more complex, involving words AND their meaning. Headline Clues is designed to exercise more advanced verbal and semantic thinking. The game challenges players to solve missing words in a headline.

Game 4

By: Jamie Antonisse, Devon Johnson, Chris Baily, Brittany Pirello, Joey Orton

Hush is an experimental game in which you play a young mother trying to calm her crying infant with a lullaby. The controls are straightforward: press keys in a gentle rhythm as letters emerge on the screen. The world beyond your window, however, is not so simple. You live in a Rwandan Tutsi community, and Hutu soldiers have come to raid your village. Continue singing, stay steady, and shield your child from the terrible events that surround you, and you both might survive the night.

Games typically immerse their players in fantasies of "empowerment"... in Hush, you will experience a horrific moment of "disempowerment" based on a historical event, the Rwandan genocide. As you play, you have very limited control over the world around you. You aren't viewing the situation from a distance and attempting to "solve the problem". You are immersed in the moment, experiencing the brutality of a Hutu raid.

Your only influence is over your child, and you must stay calm and focused in the face of terrifying violence if you want to protect him.

Game 5

Lunar Quest
By: RETRO Lab (at the University of Central Florida)

Lunar Quest is an NSF-funded project that seeks to examine the effectiveness of a massively multiplayer game for teaching introductory physics. It is our hypothesis such an educational tool will yield greater understanding of physics, which will improve their testing and classroom performance in the area of physics. It is our contention that in order to study how and why game play can be a serious tool for education, we must build a game bridging the gaps of entertainment and pedagogy. In Lunar Quest players take on the role of a new recruit who must undergo certification in physics and then put those skills to use to repair and maintain a Lunar Colony. Gameplay combines a conventional MMOG questing system with embedded Flash Mini-Games to deliver the physics content.

Game 6

Outside the Wire
By: Sharon Sloane of WILL Interactive Inc and Gayle Olszyk of The United States Army Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM)

Created using lessons learned by soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Outside the Wire provides Army officers the opportunity to experience difficult military situations in a realistic yet virtual environment before facing them in potentially life or death situations. Using the latest in computer-based simulation technology users “play it out before they live it out”, making difficult decisions and then experiencing the consequences of those choices. Outside the Wire covers the training of Forward Support Company Junior Officers during pre-deployment, deployment, combat, and sustainment support operations with learning objectives that include leadership, handling insubordination, improvisation, accountability, socializing, troop morale, managing family issues, setting standards, balancing priorities and cultural awareness.

Game 7

Pebble It
By: Charles Cusack, Andrew Foster, Jeff Largent, Kevin Browder, and Evan Peck

Pebble It is an online casual game which is an example of a revolutionary new type of game which we call human computing games--that is, games which use the insights of players to help solve meaningful problems.

Game 8

Polyglot Cubed
By: Lindsay Grace

Polyglot is an educational practice tool and game prototype for learning languages. It is designed to entertain while enforcing language comprehension. The highly modular system was designed at the University of Illinois, Chicago's Electronic Visualization Laboratory to aid in the retention of foreign language listening vocabulary. Polyglot can be used to improve comprehension of a variety of languages with minimal training.

Game 9

Resilient Planet
By: Filament Games, National Geographic’s The JASON Project

Resilient Planet is a 3D video game funded by the Kauffman Foundation and developed by Filament Games in support of The JASON Project's Operation: Resilient Planet ecology curriculum. In the game, students go on underwater expeditions to solve ecological problems identical to those being examined by real life researchers. They answer questions like, "is there a tiger shark infestation in the Hawaiian islands?" and "how can endangered whales be protected from shipping vessels off the coast of Boston?"

Game 10

By: Ben Medler, Joe Fitzgerald, Carrie Heeter, Brian Magerko

S.C.R.U.B. (Super Covert Removal of Unwanted Bacteria), is a serious game about understanding what happens, at a microscopic level, when someone washes their hands. This is the first game in a series of mini-games that will tackle the concepts of hygiene and understanding microbe transmission and evolution. These mini-games are part of a larger project to develop adaptive games for pedagogical purposes. Adaption within these games is achieved by combining a user’s game playing preferences with the learning style with which they learn best. The project is also looking for common design elements and strategies in order to apply these adaption practices to other serious games.

Game 11

Sidewalk Saver
By: Jeroen Wauters and Frederik Windey

A while ago, the accessibility board of the city of Louvain started a campaign to sensitize its inhabitants about disabilities -- and more specifically, the accessibility issues that are experienced on a day to day basis by people with disabilities. The aim was to teach people what simple steps they could take themselves to make life easier on people with disabilities, most notably visual impairments or paraplegia. Examples include keeping the sidewalk clear of carelessly placed garbage bags, not parking bicycles on guiding tiles for people with visual impairments, and so on. It quickly became apparent that people were not of ill will in this matter, but that they simply did not realize their actions were causing difficulties for people with impairments.

Therefore, a decision was made to explain these issues to the general public (and more specifically to the students constituting a large section of Louvain’s population) by means of a video game. The aim of this game would thus be to explain to people what issues there are, what countermeasures exist, and how they can be considerate themselves.

Enter Sidewalk Saver, a puzzle game with strategy elements. The basic premise of the game is to guide a group of disables people, called pawns, from a starting point in the city of Leuven to some end destination. There are two types of pawns, blind pawns and wheelchair pawns, each with limitations and skills comparable to those of real disabled people.

Game 12

Two Men and a Truck Game
By: Anthony DiFilippo, Jason Giroux, Sean Kavanagh, Stephanie Redmon, Charles Roman, Bryan Sandford, Jeff Selle, Jason Wengert

Many young children are not comfortable with moving from one house to another. The game aims help with the situations created by this transitional period by allowing kids to prepare to move houses in a fun and friendly game environment. These scenarios include packing up items in a bedroom, packing boxes into a moving truck, driving the truck to the new house, and even customizing an avatar and buying new toys.

Game 13

Undercover UXO
By: Mike Jeffery, Clay Boylan, Taufik Hidayat, Ryan Tackett, David Barnett, Steven Hamilton, Ben Chabala, Nick Lazaroff, Nick Topper

Undercover UXO is an educational game designed to teach children in wartorn countries to spot and avoid potential indicators of landmines and other unexploded ordnance (UXO). It is played on the One Laptop Per Child program's XO laptop. The game is purely graphical, with no text to read. All information is conveyed with photographic images and audio files that can be easily swapped by the project sponsor to accomodate different locales, languages, and lack of reading skills.

Friday, October 10, 8:00a-9:00a

Registration and Continental Breakfast on the 2nd floor of the MSU Union

Friday, October 10, 9:00a-10:00a

All Play is Meaningful

Presenter(s)Leigh Anne CappelloLeigh Anne Cappello is the Vice President and Play Futurist with the Future Now division of Hasbro. Leigh Anne has been at Hasbro for 20 years and during this time has had both product development and marketing roles of increasing responsibilities across multiple categories including Juvenile Products, Infant, Preschool, Girls, Boys, Creative Play, Candy and Licensed Properties. Most recently in this role she was the Marketing VP responsible for Preschool toys including areas such as Play-Doh, Tonka, Licensed Preschool and Juvenile Products. Prior to that she was the Business Unit VP leading the cross functional marketing and product development team on the Disney Film business. Currently, she is helping to lead a newly formed group within Hasbro called Future Now, a global team dedicated to both conceptualizing future play initiatives (2+ years out) for the organization and creating inspiration for the development teams working on near term projects. She received a BA from Providence College majoring in French (because it sounded fun and Dad wouldnt pay for art school), and minoring in Business (because Dad sad it is about more than just fun). After landing a job at Hasbro, her dream company, she realized Dad was right and went back to school. She received her Masters in Business Adminstration from PC in 1992, but it wasnt until she adopted her amazing daughter in December of 2003 that she received her PhD in fun, and has been learning (and playing) ever since.
DescriptionA peek into a day in the life of a Play Futurist. This talk will address some common myths in the toy and game industry, explain the role of a Play Futurist and it's importance in the industry, explore the meaning of 'fun' across consumer targets, and delve into the power of PLAY as it relates to all living beings.

Friday, October 10, 10:00a-10:30a


Friday, October 10, 10:30a-11:30a

Designing K-6 educational games from Playstation to PSP

Presenter(s)Dave Adams and Peter Rogan, PLATO Learning, Inc.
DescriptionWhy would an educational content publisher be interested in designing games?

  • Game devices are low cost technology that can be used by schools to expand access to technology. Schools still struggle with the student to computer ratio.
  • Game devices can be used by schools to broaden the type of technology students are exposed to for educational purposes kids today use cell phones, game devices, computers, iPods, etc.
  • Game devices can go home, connecting school and home and increasing family involvement.
Our goal as educators is to create a system for learning that enables the student to master basic skills, develop higher-order thinking skills, and apply the learning of these skills to their world. By their very nature, games provide essential components of an optimal learning environment: motivation, reinforcement, retention, and transfer.

In the 1990s, Achieve Now was introduced to teach reading / language arts skills and mathematics to children in grades K thru 6. It grew into 81 separate PlayStation titles.

It has been sold to hundreds of districts, along with Sony PlayStation hardware for classroom, after school, and at-home use. PLATO Learning recently partnered with Sony to bring our Achieve Now learning content to the Sony PSP.

We will focus on the challenges of game design from an educational perspective, then applying that design process to deployment on a mainstream gaming platform. We will discuss the effort to produce and maintain a learning tool like this on a gaming platform, including:
  • the constraints of the hardware
  • the ever-changing target of the gaming systems,
  • convincing schools that it is wise to invest in PlayStations, PSPs, DS or other such platforms to supplement the instructional tools they already have in the classroom.

Games for Learning

LocationParlor A
Paper 1

Understanding of science concepts through gameplay in a prototype game
By: Kermin Joel Martinez-Hernandez, Dustin S. Hillman, Gabriela C. Weaver and Carlos Rafael Morales

Even though the educational research community has promoted the use of video games for learning purposes and discussed their educational potential, others have criticized the lack of empirical research to support such claims. Therefore, a need exists for empirical, sound research in this area.

A prototype of a chemistry-based computer game using a mixed genre of a single player first-person game embedded with action-adventure and puzzle components was developed to determine if students' level of understanding of chemistry concepts changes after gameplay. A sample of 23 students from Purdue University participated in the study; they completed open-ended content surveys and a semi-structured interview to assess their understanding of chemistry concepts before and after the gameplay intervention. Elements of game design and gameplay were also evaluated during the semi-structured interview to consider them in future development and revision phases.

Preliminary analysis of our interview data suggests that students were able to understand most of the chemistry challenges presented in the game and the game served as a review for previously learned concepts as well as a way to apply such previous knowledge. To guarantee a better understanding of the chemistry concepts, additions such as debriefing and feedback about the content presented in the game seem to be needed. The use of visuals in the game to represent chemical processes, game genre, and game idea appear to be the game design elements that students like the most about the current prototype. This presentation will provide more detailed results and suggest ways of effectively presenting chemistry concepts in a game scenario.

Paper 2

The Ludenic MBA? Games and Simulations in Management Education: Lessons learned from a comparative, school-wide computerized online multi-game perspective
By: Sheizaf Rafaeli

The Ludenic MBA? Games and Simulations in Management Education: Lessons learned from a comparative, school-wide computerized online multi-game perspective

The purpose of this paper (just an abstract!) is to provide some comparative perspectives from the implementation of online games in management education. How well, if at all, do games mix with managerial and business education? While the setting of Business Schools is certainly among the most competitive, the constituents are probably among the most critical and demanding, and the atmosphere is probably one of the least laid back or forgiving. Is there room for meaningful play in the training of business decision makers?

This paper will attempt to outline lessons learned through quantitative reports and qualitative observations. Data to be reported here are based on the development process and the implementation experience of multiple class-sized iterations of over half a dozen games with the participation of over 1500 player-students in games and simulations used in business and managerial education.

Paper 3

Video Game Representations as Cues for Collaboration and Learning (Top Paper Award)
By: Matthew Sharritt and Daniel Suthers

Literature suggests that games can support learning in schools in several ways: by enabling creative problem solving, allowing dynamic resource allocation, and by providing a motivating, immersive activity. However, research is needed to examine how exactly games are utilized for learning. A descriptive, inductive study was carried out to identify how high school students in a school setting actually make use of the video game interface and its representations. Results demonstrate that specific cues grab attention, helping to focus efforts on new or underutilized game tasks. Also, consistent and well organized visualizations encourage learning and collaboration among students. In general, the design of game representations and behaviors can help guide student learning.

Social Play

LocationGreen Room
Paper 1

Online play, online connection: A Longitudinal Social Network Analysis of BZFlag
By: John Paolillo and Daniel Kutz

In this paper we investigate individual and collective activity patterns in BZFlag, an open-source, online, multi- player, 3D tank-battle game, with tens of thousands of active users worldwide. We present analysis of nearly two full years' worth of this data, sampled at five minute intervals. The results of this analysis reveal a highly-skewed distribution of activity among players, where the vast majority of players have relatively limited activity on the serv- ers. A distinct minority of players log a large number of playing hours, and exhibits a highly-structured pattern of interaction. In the aggregate picture, there is highly robust periodic activity on BZFlag at several levels. On the local scale, daily patterns predominate, with significant half-day, 2-hour and shorter periodic patterns. On the global scale, equally robust long-term periodic fluctuation is observable. Yearly patterns, clearly pertaining to the ebb and flow of the North American school year, are strongly evident. The results of this study underscore the im- portance of the time dimension in understanding patterns of social activity in online games, and in understanding social relationships more generally.

Paper 2

Using Recommendation Systems to Adapt Gameplay (Top Paper Award)
By: Ben Medler

Recommendation systems are key components in many web applications (Amazon, Netflix, eHarmony). Each system gathers user input and searches for patterns that exist in order to determine user preferences and tastes. These preferences are then used to recommend other content that a user may enjoy. Games on the other hand are often designed with a one-size-fits-all approach not taking player preferences into account. This paper examines how current web application recommendation systems compare to current games that adapt their gameplay to specific users. The results from this comparison show that games have not to date used certain types of recommendation approaches. Design suggestions for how game developers may exploit the utility of these recommendation features are discussed and examined.

Suitable for all ages: Game design for the 60+ demographic

LocationParlor C
Presenter(s)Bob De Schutter, Group T Engineering School, Catholic University of Louvain
Vero Vandenabeele, Group T Engineering School, Catholic University of Louvain
Gerrit Vos, CUO-IBBT, Catholic University of Louvain
Jan-Henk Annema, CUO-IBBT, Catholic University of Louvain
Mieke Van Gils, CUO-IBBT, Catholic University of Louvain
Jan Derboven, CUO-IBBT, Catholic University of Louvain
Yorick Poels, CUO-IBBT, Catholic University of Louvain
Henk Herman Nap, Technical University of Eindhoven
Wijnand IJsselsteijn, Eindhoven University of Technology
Yvonne de Kort, Eindhoven University of Technology
Leyla Dogruel, FU Berlin
Sven Joeckel, TU Ilmenau
Yvonne Woldberg, Universiteit Utrecht, EPN - Platform for the Information Society
DescriptionAlthough digital games have the potential to improve the social, mental and physical well-being of elderly people, little is known about the problems seniors face in adopting, using and enjoying digital games. The presenters in this panel discuss the challenge of designing games for an elderly audience. The session starts with a brief summary of the physical, social, psychological and cognitive context of elderly users. Next, the potential adopters are discussed; an empirical test of a game acceptance model for elderly users reveals the most important influence factors for the acceptance of games among the elderly. Afterwards, existing users of games among seniors are discussed; the playing habits and preferences of senior gamers are explored by means of an internet survey and semi-structured interviews. After discussing both adopters and users, the focus of the panel shifts towards the usability, likeability and content requirements of digital games with regards to the 60+ demographic. The needs and motivations of elderly gamers are analysed using contextual inquiries and focus group interviews. Furthermore, the panel assesses the commercial brain games (such as Dr. Kawashimas Brain Training for Nintendo DS) that are often targeted towards an ageing audience. Finally, theory is put to practice during the presentation of the e-Treasure research project, in which a serious game was developed using user-centred design methods in order to foster intergenerational play and facilitate the exchange of knowledge between grandparents and grandchildren. In conclusion, the session outlines various design recommendations which are vital to designing meaningful play experiences for an older audience.

Friday, October 10, 11:30a-1:00p

Lunch (on your own)

Friday, October 10, 1:00p-2:00p

Making an Impact: Serious Issues in Non-Serious Games

Presenter(s)Monica EvansMonica Evans is an Assistant Professor of Computer Game Design at the University of Texas at Dallas. She received her Ph.D. from the Arts and Technology program at UTD in 2007 and has served as a writer and designer on experimental and educational game projects with numerous university partners, including the Dallas Museum of Art, Alcatel, Samsung, U.S. Army Training Doctrine and Command (TRADOC), and Joint Forces Command (JFCOM). She is a member of both the Mobile Innovation Lab and the Virtual Worlds Lab at UTD. Currently she teaches courses in game design, serious games and simulation, and interactive narrative structure, and coordinates both the ATEC Game Production Lab and the UT Dallas Computer Gaming Entrepreneurship Competition, sponsored by Hughes Ventures.
DescriptionFrom September 12th to Hush, PeaceMaker to Dying for Darfur, serious games are tackling some of the biggest issues facing societies across the globe. But how can these games reach a population that is currently playing Bioshock, Grand Theft Auto IV, and Spore?

While the hard-core or even casual gaming population isn't necessarily the key target for serious games, these developers still have a difficulty: that their games may reach only those who are already aware of the issue and agree with the message of the game - in effect, they may be preaching to the choir.

Serious issues aren't the sole responsibility of serious games. Many games that are marketed solely as entertainment contain a great deal of social or political commentary, educational benefit, or the higher humanitarian ideals we expect from the "serious" development community. Looking at titles like Sim City Societies, Beyond Good and Evil, and the Ratchet and Clank series, we can begin to see how some game developers are subverting entertainment, focusing on meaningful issues within what seems to be fun and simple content. But how effective are these games when compared to their serious counterparts? How do we measure whether their messages are reaching the population at large, or are lost within the simple, "play for fun" attitude that most people bring to commercial games?

This talk will address some of the serious issues covered in commercial games, the methods by which "subvertainment" can present both a clear message and a compelling game, and how serious and non-serious game developers can benefit from each other in presenting meaningful ideals with the computer gaming medium.

Game Design and Development

LocationParlor A
Paper 1

SimDialog: A Visual Game Dialog Editor
By: Charles Owen, Frank Biocca, Corey Bohil and Jason Conley

SimDialog is a visual editor for dialog in computer games. This paper presents the design of SimDialog, illustrating how script writers and non-programmers can easily create dialog for video games with complex branching structures and dynamic response characteristics. The system creates dialog as a directed graph. This allows for play using the dialog with a statebased cause and effect system that controls selection of non-player character responses and can provide a basic scoring mechanism for games.

Paper 2

Iterations of an Open-Source 3D Game Engine: Multiplayer Environments for Learners
By: Brett Shelton, Marco Alvarez, Michael Capell, Chad Coats, Jon Scoresby and Tim Stowell

As virtual 3D environments become more common in education, it is important to pay attention to and learn from the experiences that take place during the development of these environments. A team made up of graduate, undergraduate, and recently graduated students, took a conglomeration of open- source libraries and glued them together to create 3D simulation called HEAT (Hazard Emergency and Accident Training). The development team has gone through many iterations during the development of HEAT, while learning what it takes to build a fully functional simulation and 3D engine. We discuss the experiences and some of the processes the development team has gone through to create HEAT, the 3D engine, and the separation of the two for a more general use for other simulations. We discuss some of the benefits and challenges recognized during this experience.

Paper 3

Games as Texts: Semiotic Relationships Between Gameplay and Cutscenes
By: Dave Jones

Research into the textualities and presentations of games lacks a theoretical exploration of the semiotic structure(s) within games and the roles of such structures in mediating a gaming experience into a potentially meaningful one. In focusing on potential narrativity, theoretical discussions have thus far only skimmed other discussions of representation and the relationship between gameplay, cinematics, and experience.

This paper seeks to understand this semiotic relationship, particularly between diegetic actions, nondiegetic actions, and cutscenes through an analysis of three primary examples: Grand Theft Auto IV (2008), Metal Gear Solid 4 (2008), and Heavenly Sword (2007). Each game utilizes cinematic presentations with different experiential results, all three respectively articulating very different presentations by connecting cutscenes with gameplay through radically different interactive structures. Within these interactive structures, we can identify semiotic strands that establish continually varying levels of immersion by privileging one form gaming experience over another: gameplay, cinematic narrativity, or a balance of the two.

MMORPGs and Virtual Worlds

LocationGreen Room
Paper 1

The Play's the Thing: The Arden 'Failure' and the Future of the Educational Games Movement
By: Elizabeth Losh

This paper looks at a self-described "failure" in the educational videogames movement and what the principal investigator has characterized as a fundamental conflict between the game's pedagogical objectives and "fun." It argues that the learning vs. fun dichotomy is only one way to think about the basic questions about game design raised by Arden: The World of William Shakespeare and by educational videogames more generally. In recent years, other development teams have also attempted to translate Shakespeare into videogame formats, but have failed to execute a game that has been deemed a success by the public and by educators. This paper explores the ongoing thought experiment about how Shakespeare's works could be used to construct rule sets that represent Shakespeare's aesthetics, ethics, epistemology, or phenomenology. It also considers how the procedural rhetoric of videogame genres relate to issues about adaptation and performance. This paper suggests that Arden was not so much a failure as a missed opportunity to engage with the full range of possibilities implied by taking computer games seriously and treating the medium as deserving the gravitas traditionally given to the dramatic arts.

Paper 2

Green Reading, Green Gaming: The Future of Ecocriticsm, Storytelling, and Environmental Ethics in Virtual Worlds
By: Matthew Kaplan

The aim of this essay is to point to a forward thrust in the acceptance of new technologies--in particular, virtual game worlds such as those found in MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role playing games)--in the discipline of ecocriticism. Moreover, I will illustrate how evolving concepts of the utility of virtual environments can assist ecocritics in branching out both their analyses and dialog with the public. In particular, I will point to how a study of virtual environments as embodying narratives of environmental ethics bridges important gaps in present cultural studies.

This is not an essay written primarily for ecocritics, although a basic familiarity with the past aims of literary ecocriticism may aid the reader in acknowledging the importance of technological scholarship. Nor is the subject matter at hand primarily the domain of game theorists: If nothing else, I hope to show that our evolving game worlds and "second lives" offer vital spaces for expanding the stories told between academic, designer, and player with regard to our natural world. By the end of the day, we must positively change the way people interact with their environments. And to that end, we must change the way we play and think while playing.

Paper 3

Gamestar Mechanic: Reflections on the Design (Research) of a Game about Game Design
By: Ivan Games

This paper presents a design study on the research and development of Gamestar Mechanic, a game-based learning project where children learn 21st century language and literacy practices in the context of learning key principles of game design. Using a design research methodology for the overall project, and a case study methodology for individual testing and theory refinement iterations of the research, this paper presents a detailed account of the first two years of research and design of the game, in hopes of providing researchers, educators and instructional designers with some insights on the development and assessment of 21st century learning environments.

Game Face(book): The Intersection of Games and Social Network Sites

LocationParlor C
Presenter(s)Cliff Lampe, Michigan State University
Kurt DeMaagd, Michigan State University
Nicole Ellison, Michigan State University
Jon Monberg, Michigan State University
DescriptionSocial Network Sites not only embed games as applications for their users, but also incorporate many game mechanisms in their overall design. Incentivizing users, creating a sense of other "players", and offering measurable rewards are only some ways in which SNS may behave like games. This panel will discuss the possibilities for a learning interaction between the principles of meaningful games and social network sites.

Friday, October 10, 2:00p-2:30p


Friday, October 10, 2:30p-3:30p

Researching Spore: A New Approach to Player Testing

Presenter(s)Nate BoltNate Bolt, El Presidente of Bolt | Peters, Inc., is fascinated by the personal, social, and cultural role of technology, and how research and design can transform those roles. After pioneering and directing the User Experience department at Clear Ink in 1999, which included the construction of Natural Environment and Remote Observation laboratories, Nate co-founded Bolt | Peters. He now serves as president and CEO where he has overseen hundreds of user research studies for Hallmark, Oracle, Time Warner, Levi's, Restoration Hardware, and others. Beginning in 2003, he led the creation of the first moderated remote user research software, Ethnio, which is being used around the world to recruit live participants for research on web sites and applications.

Nate regularly gives presentations on native environment research methods in both commercial and academic settings. Working with faculty at the University of California, San Diego, he created a degree titled "Digital Technology and Society," which focused on the intersection of technology and mass population usage. He also completed a year of communications studies at the Sorbonne in Paris, where he was jailed briefly for playing drums in public without a license.
DescriptionIn researching the player experience of Spore for EA, Bolt | Peters set out to challenge the traditional focus group method of game research. Combining a simulated native environment with new observational technology and the PENS (Player Experience of Need Satisfaction) evaluation model, we captured a more accurate reading of the user's mood and comfort level.

We'll talk about using remote voice chat to moderate multiple gamers simultaneously, removing the disruptive physical presence of the moderator, relaying 18 streams of live video, and other benefits and methodological pitfalls of this approach as applied to Spore.

Games and Culture

LocationParlor A
Paper 1

Teens, Video Games, and Civics
By: Jessica Vitak, Pew Internet & American Life Project

Video games provide a diverse set of experiences and related activities and are part of the lives of almost all teens in America. To date, most video game research has focused on how games impact academic and social outcomes (particularly aggression). There has also been some exploration of the relationship between games and civic outcomes, but as of yet there has been no large-scale quantitative research. This survey provides the first nationally representative study of teen video game play and of teen video gaming and civic engagement. The survey looks at which teens are playing games, the games and equipment they are using, the social context of their play, and the role of parents and parental monitoring. Though arguments have been made about the civic potential of video gaming, this is the first large-scale study to examine the relationship between specific gaming experiences and teens' civic activities and commitments.

Paper 2

The International Edition and National Exoticism
By: Stephen Mandiberg

This paper analyzes the current group of locally released and consumed Japanese "International Edition" video games. It considers the meaning of internationalism, nationalism, language and translation/localization within the context of these video game special editions in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. By understanding the International Edition as linked to trends of both self-exoticism and self-orientalism within Japanese history the paper seeks to understand alternate meanings to the video games beyond simple commercial ventures, and how language and translation bring about these alternate meanings.

When Will Games Grow Up?: Handling Adult Topics In Video Games

LocationGreen Room
Presenter(s)Damon BrownDamon Brown writes about sex, technology, music and video games for Playboy, New York Post and Family Circle, and is the tech columnist for AARP Online and PlanetOut. He is the author of several books, most recently Porn & Pong: How Grand Theft Auto, Tomb Raider and Other Sexy Games Changed Our Culture.

DescriptionIn the past three decades mainstream video games have become a multibillion dollar entertainment industry, yet the medium itself rarely reaches the emotional depth currently achieved by books, movies or even graphic novels. The issue becomes abundantly clear when game designers attempt to tackle anything outside of mindless violence, treasure hunting or sports simulators. Personal relationships between characters are often glossed over, if created at all, and sexuality is depicted in clichd virility shorthand: Large breasts, chiseled muscles and big guns.

Today, new games are attempting to mature the medium. Bioware's Mass Effect (Microsoft, 2007) depicted perhaps the first mature sexual relationship, while titles such as The Sims series (EA) and World of Warcraft (Blizzard, 2004) explore human dynamics in alternative settings. The Electronic Software Association pegs the average gamer as a 35-year-old male, the same man who likely grew up with video games in the eighties. Will the graying of the video game audience create a better array of mature games or will deeper topics remain untouched or mishandled?

I would love to moderate a MSU Meaningful Play Roundtable Discussion Session, "When Will Games Grow Up?: Handling Adult Topics In Video Games". We will talk about how mature topics have been handled in the past, what to expect from the next generation of games and ways designers can better tackle adult-oriented ideas such as sex, interpersonal relationships and marriage. It should be a fun, stimulating conversation.

Playing with Public Policy: Games to involve and inform the public

LocationParlor C
Presenter(s)Alex Quinn, Executive Director, Games for Change (
Ian Bogost, Assistant Professor, Georgia Tech University and CEO, Persuasive Games (
Nick Fortugno, Co-founder and President, Rebel Monkey (
Tracy Fullerton, Associate Professor in the Interactive Media Division of the USC School of Cinematics Arts and Director of the Electronic Arts Game Innovation Lab (
Scott Traylor, CEO, 360Kid (
DescriptionFour innovative, award winning game designers from academia and industry discuss the potential role games can play in public policy, drawing examples from their own diverse work and imagining how games and policy might intersect 5 or 10 years from now.

Friday, October 10, 3:30p-3:45p


Friday, October 10, 3:45p-4:45p

Serious Gaming: Assumptions and Realities

Presenter(s)Ute RitterfeldUte Ritterfeld, Professor for Media Psychology, received her education in the Health Sciences (Academy of Rehabilitation in Heidelberg) and in Psychology (University of Heidelberg), completed her Ph.D. in Psychology (Technical University in Berlin), and habilitated at the University of Magdeburg, Germany. She was Assistant Professor at the University of Magdeburg, Adjunct Professor at the Universities of Berlin (Humboldt) and Hannover, and Associate Professor at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, Annenberg School for Communication. At USC, Ritterfeld directed an interdisciplinary research team devoted to the studies of digital games and hosted the inaugural academic conference on serious games. In 2007, Ritterfeld joined the faculty of Psychology and Education at the VU University Amsterdam and co-founded the Center for Advanced Media Research Amsterdam (CAMeRA@VU) where she serves as director of interdisciplinary research. Ritterfeld co-edits the Journal of Media Psychology (Hogrefe) and is leading editor of Serious Games: Mechanisms and Effects, published by Routledge, Taylor and Francis in fall 2008.

DescriptionWhen the video games industry began decades ago, few would have predicted its' phenomenal success in profits and size. Even fewer would have anticipated that digital games would one day be seen as a new educational tool designed to fundamentally change learning, teaching, and training for the upcoming generations. Interest in using games to educate, motivate, and change behaviour (here called: serious games) has grown tremendously in a brief period of time, and is supported by a truly international group of practitioners, civic leaders, health and human rights advocates, educators, gamers, and researchers. Serious games are building on the entertainment value of digital games, but they also add value through an educational component. In this respect, they represent a genre that was purposefully designed to be more than "just" fun.

In the beginning, the focus was primarily on skill practice, and the entertainment value diminished substantially during exposure. The more recent serious games initiatives, however, refocused on deeper learning in the context of an enjoyable experience and on broader educational issues outside the school setting. The claim for meaningful gaming experiences is based on the assumption that the gaming activity itself is intrinsically motivating by providing fun and hereby facilitating deliberate selection and persistence of playing, as well as a high likelihood of repetitive usage. Consequently, besides practicing skills necessary for gaming, the embedded content is thoroughly processed, impasses are overcome, and problems solved - at least, these are our hopes.

However, empirical evidence displays a more complex picture: Not every game that is designed to teach, educate, or train, does in fact reveal positive effects. Some have no effects or no better effects than traditional pedagogical materials; others have limited effects on some subgroups of users or only in some specific user contexts. Selected examples of game studies in science education will be presented to discuss possible mechanisms at work and illustrate the necessity for adjusting our hopes about serious games' effectiveness to realities.

Friday, October 10, 5:00p-7:00p

Happy Hour Gathering

LocationHarper's Restaurant & Brew Pub
DescriptionWind down from the day with a refreshing beverage and tasty appetizers as you socialize with your fellow Meaningful Play attendees.

This informal gathering takes place at Harpers Restaurant and Brew Pub located at 131 Albert Ave., just one block from the MSU Union, near the East Lansing Marriott.

This reception is sponsored by Serious Game Design @ MSU and

Saturday, October 11, 8:00a-9:00a

Registration and Continental Breakfast on the 2nd floor of the MSU Union

Saturday, October 11, 9:00a-10:00a

The Play of Persuasion: Why "Serious" Isn't the Opposite of Fun

Presenter(s)Nick FortugnoNick Fortugno is a co-founder and President of Rebel Monkey, a NYC-based casual game studio. Before Rebel Monkey, Fortugno was the Director of Game Design at gameLab, where he was a designer, writer and project manager on dozens of commercial and serious games, and served as lead designer on the downloadable blockbuster Diner Dash and the award-winning serious game Ayiti: The Cost of Life. Nick teaches game design and interactive narrative design at Parsons The New School of Design, and has participated in the construction of the school's game design curiculuum. Nick is also a co-founder of the Come Out and Play street games festival hosted in New York City and Amsterdam.
DescriptionThe current term for games that aim at promoting a message or educating a player are "serious" games, and there is an active debate in the persuasive game community about whether games have to be fun. But don't we want games to be fun? Why does the act of persuasion, even about a serious political or ethic topic, have to be mutual exclusive with a fun game? This talk looks at how political or educational persuasion has been used in a variety of entertainment media, and how the nature of games lends itself to a kind of emergent learning that has been used from novels to TV, where users learn without realizing it. Examples of current games in both the "serious" and not-"serious" genres show us how this hidden persuasion is at work today, and how we can more effectively harness it in the future.

Saturday, October 11, 10:00a-10:15a


Saturday, October 11, 10:15a-11:15a

Creating Crossover Learning Products

Presenter(s)Scott TraylorScott Traylor is the Chief KID, CEO, and founder of 360KID, a kid-focused content and technology company dedicated to creating a love for learning through products that educate as well as entertain. 360KID provides turnkey development services to the education, broadcast, and toy industries.

Scott started his business over 17 years ago. His company has emerged as a recognized leader in the development of fun and engaging learning products. His clients include Pokemon, Girl Scouts, Sesame Workshop, LeapFrog, Discovery Channel, Hasbro, Highlights for Children, PBSkids, Nickelodeon, and many others. 360KID is a multi-award winning and three-time Emmy nominated company.
DescriptionCreating a successful video game is hard work. Creating successful learning games that strike the right balance between obtainable learning goals, engaging game play, quality content and repeat playability is a hard fought, heavily negotiated battle between a product's many stakeholders.

In this session, Scott Traylor, founder of the learning games company 360KID, will discuss the challenges and successes of developing real world learning game products that are sold to schools as well as developing consumer learning products that find their way onto the shelves of Wal-Mart and Toys R Us. Scott will discuss his company's involvement with the creation of the Pokemon Learning League, a multi award winning learning product for students as well as handheld and online learning games with other broadcast, toy and and educational publishing companies. Real world examples and best practices will be shared with the products discussed in this presentation.

Player Involvement

LocationParlor A
Paper 1

Play and Embodied Media
By: Andrew Bucksbarg

This paper explores play and embodied media by looking at play in new media through the lenses of situated or embodied cognition and multi-sensory perception in both mass scale media and the creative work of artists and experimenters. This will be accomplished with a focus on new media created to assist in physical and cognitive health and therapy, the support for disabilities and education across all ages.

Paper 2

Rules of Engagement: Influence of Co-Player Presence on Player Involvement in Digital Games (Top Paper Award)
By: Brian Gajadhar, Yvonne de Kort and Wijnand IJsselsteijn

Our research focuses on measurable differences in player experience between solitary and social play, and explores experiences of playing digital games together. The role of co-player presence in player experience is still largely unknown. Recent studies indicate that social components enrich player enjoyment, yet at the same time several scholars consider social presence a threat to player involvement. The current paper presents an empirical study of social presence as a determinant of player experience. In particular it reports effects on player involvement. Results showed players' involvement was maintained and even increased with mediated or co-located co-players as compared to solitary play. We conclude that co-players do not break the spell of a game, but become part of the magic circle.

Paper 3

Volunteer Computing Games: Merging Online Casual Gaming with Volunteer Computing
By: Charles Cusack, Evan Peck and Maria Riolo

We describe volunteer computing games, a new paradigm for computing which merges volunteer computing and online casual games. In volunteer computing, the main goal is to harness the computational power of many users' computers to solve a large computational problem. Unfortunately, participants in volunteer computing come from a very limited demographic--primarily middle-aged male computer experts. Since casual games have an almost universal appeal and, consequentially, a broad player base, we argue that volunteer computing games will significantly impact volunteer computing efforts by attracting and retaining more users.

We describe one framework for implementing volunteer computing games to solve problems whose solution space can be modeled as a search tree. Using our prototype game as an example, we discuss general design principles that are of particular importance with volunteer computing games. We argue that the full power of volunteer computing games occurs when human computation is added to the mix. An ideal volunteer computing game will attract men and women of all ages and harness the computing power of both the users and their computers. We conclude with a very brief discussion of volunteer computing within Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs).

From the Keyboard to the Game Board - Part 1

LocationGreen Room
Session OverviewNon-digital tabletop games have been an entertainment and education medium for millennia. In recent years, non-digital tabletop games of all varieties (including designer board games, pen & paper role playing games, collectible miniature games, and collectible card games) have seen a drastic increase in Western popularity among traditional digital game playing communities as well as non-gamers alike. Without the distraction of high-end graphics, new user interfaces and 3D audio found in modern digital games, tabletop games rely on innovative design, solid & amazingly well refined game mechanics, storytelling, and the players' imaginations in order to create an enjoyable, immersive, and compelling experience. As such, they represent a game experience that is somewhat distinct from that found in digital games, and are worthy of study and exploration. It is within this context that this session will present a variety of current work which explores the scope, character, and direction of non-digital tabletop game studies. While the immediate goal of the session is to highlight current work in the area, the ultimate goal is to create a locus in which a formative dialog about the future of non-digital tabletop game studies can take place.
Paper 1

A Transmedia Comparison of Digital and Tabletop Board Games
By: Brian Magerko

This paper will present the research goals of the Digital Tabletop research group, which are to: a) identify the key game mechanics in board games that make them engaging or entertaining and then b) identify how those mechanics relate to current or hypothetical digital games. Rather than simply explore how board games can be adopted to digital counterparts, we are interested in how understanding the underlying mechanics can be used to influence design innovation in the digital realm. A secondary interest is in exploring the opposite relationship by studying digital games that have been adapted as board games (e.g. Doom or Starcraft). This paper will go through several case studies of analyzing modern board games, present our findings, and point to a generalized approach to conducting this type of transmedia analysis. We will review: Munchkin, a card-based game that is a humorous take on traditional RPG games; Ra, an auction-based board game that presents incredibly complex odds calculations for players; Starcraft, a board game adaptation of the famous digital game; Settlers of Catan, a famous tile-based board game; and Lost Cities, a card game based on chance and exploration.

We anticipate that this work will lead towards a contribution to the larger question of building a taxonomy of game mechanics, such as the one currently under development by Zagal and Mateas. Having a common language and set of references across games, digital and analog, is key in being able to constructively discuss, compare, and analyze the mechanics of games. This paper will look towards this future work and describe a methodology of surveying games with a specific mechanic in mind (e.g. cooperative play) to contribute to such a taxonomy.

Paper 2

Contrasting Player Conflicts in Digital Games and Board Games
By: Ben Medler

Reviewing the differences between board games and digital games, this paper will explore how conflict theory and mediation play a role in these two game mediums. The affordances and limitations that face-to-face board games offer, when compared to digital games, will be discussed along with how information presentation and the game's medium each play a role in a game's conflicts. Discussing and exploring these differences may lead to a better understanding of how digital game conflicts can take advantage of realistic face-to-face conflicts.

Paper 3

Pigs in the Poke: The Dynamics of Traditional Village Life, Games of Chance and Strategy
By: Brian Hayden

The social, economic, and political realities of traditional (tribal) village life are completely foreign to people raised in Industrial societies. Yet understanding such lifestyles is critical to understanding third world cultures today, as well as to comprehending the basic themes of anthropology (cultures of the present) and archaeology (cultures of the past). On the basis of my research in tribal villages in Southeast Asia over the last 15 years, I have put together a board game that captures the essential dynamics of traditional village life, with a Southeast Asia flavor. While Monopoly teaches the principles of capitalist investment, competition, and losses, Pigs in the Poke uses the same format to teach about subsistence economics and village social life with its many liabilities and risks. This game has been played by numerous classes of students with great enjoyment and a good deal of laughter at the unexpected situations and considerations that they are confronted with. The various elements of the game combine synergistically to provide deep new insights into traditional cultures and a much deeper understanding of what it is like to live in such cultures. Players become empathetic members of communities that must contend with circumstances not usually encountered in Industrial societies.

Approaches to Language Learning as Meaningful Play

LocationParlor C
Presenter(s)Dongping Zheng, Michigan State University
Ruhui Ni, Michigan State University
Ken Dirkin, Michigan State University
Yi Ma, Michigan State University
D. Matthew Boyer, Michigan State University
DescriptionIn this panel, we will demonstrate three innovative projects that involve language learning as meaningful play from genres of text/animation-adventures, massively multiplayer online role-playing games, and metaverse games (e.g., Second Life). Although all three projects, Chinese Your Way, ZON, and Second Life Chinese School are originated and funded by Confucius Institute at Michigan State University, and design frameworks are varied and constrained by the affordances of different media environments, such as,CD-ROM, Flash-based, and fully-rendered 3D virtual worlds. Theoretical and pedagogical orientation also played a significant role in design principles and prototypes. However, central to the projects is the psychology of design that supports sociocultural interactions in meaningful contexts, to the degree which learners are enacted in responsibility, engagement and play.

In each of the presentations, we will showcase one product live, and present the theoretical orientations, design frameworks, iterative developing processes ,and lessons learned from respective datasets.

Chinese Your Way: Meaningful Vocabulary Learning In Fantasy Narratives
Chun Lai, Dongping Zheng, Yong Zhao

Travel logs in both text and flash-based animation immerse learners in the fantasy fairy tales and folklores of Chinese history, philosophy, and customs. Through rich and deep cultural content, learners become players in figuring out Chinese vocabulary. This approach is predominantly different from the tradition approaches of memorization, and drill and kill.

Second Life Chinese School: Caring as the Fuel for Collaboration
Dongping Zheng, Ken Dirkin, Yong Zhao

Regardless of the popularity of educational institutions finding their own niches in Second Life, Chinese Island has retained its uniqueness in terms of its theoretical approaches to design and learning. SL promotes itself to be a game engine for individual players to construct their own game worlds, which creates a challenge for educators to use it as a serious distance learning tool. With an ecological and social psychology perspective, quests are designed to solicitate language use in realistic interactions. In Co-questing sessions, players demonstrated a special attribute that has been rarely studied in literature, caring, which will be explored in this study.

ZON: Massively Co-Inhabitation of Massively Role-playing and Mini Games
Ruhui Ni, Ken Dirkin, Matthew Boyer

Focusing on issues in game design, this presentation will introduce ZON, an on-going project aimed at providing an MMORPG environment for Chinese language learning and Chinese culture experience aimed at English speakers. Based on the demonstration of the beta version of ZON, the rationale of the design, including the construction of game narrative and game play, the sociability of the game, the affordances of language and culture learning opportunities, and the instructional context considerations, will be explored.How these design principles are implemented in game will be presented and discussed.

Saturday, October 11, 11:15a-11:30a


Saturday, October 11, 11:30a-12:30p

Bringing Tangential Learning to Games

Presenter(s)James PortnowJames Portnow, formerly of Activision, is the CCO and founder of Divide by Zero Games. Besides his work as a designer, James Portnow is a recognized design theorist and prominent industry journalist, having been published worldwide and being a regular columnist for such sites as Edge-Online and Game Career Guide.
DescriptionWinston Churchill once said: "I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught."

We have known for some time that games are an effective learning tool. The problem is that most of the games we create explicitly for learning attempt to teach rather than allow the player to learn.

This talk will address 'tangential learning', the concept of exposing players to knowledge rather than actively trying to teach them.

Player Motivation

LocationParlor A
Paper 1

Girls Playing Games: The Effect of Gender Stereotypes on Video Game Playing Motivation and Performance
By: Elaine Chan

Research on gender and video game playing has long been interested in the question of why females play fewer video games and play video games less frequently than males do. The present dissertation examines the immediate impacts of a negative gender stereotype on females' motivation for and performance in playing a racing video game. Exposure to a negative gender stereotype about video game playing was expected to decrease competence beliefs and motivation to play the game, as well as worsened performance. Results were in the hypothesized directions, although no statistically significant differences were found. Implications for theories of video game playing and achievement motivation are discussed.

Paper 2

Game Design and the Challenge-Avoiding Impression Manager Player Type (Top Paper Award)
By: Carrie Heeter, Brian Magerko, Ben Medler and Joe Fitzgerald

In this manuscript we propose that Challenge-avoiders, also referred to as Impression Managers, are a heretofore ignored but commonly occurring player type. We consider whether and how eight very different modern games accommodate Explorers, Challenge-seekers, and Challenge-avoiders and discuss implications for entertainment and learning game design.

Paper 3

Inspiring Stories through Content
By: Caitlin Kelleher

Through user testing of Storytelling Alice, we found that users' ability to find and develop story ideas was important in maintaining their engagement with programming in the system. In this paper, we describe the design process behind creating a gallery of characters and scenery that helps Storytelling Alice users to find and develop story ideas as well as lessons learned about successful and unsuccessful strategies for scaffolding the process of finding story ideas through content. We analyze thirty-six stories created with Storytelling Alice and examine the relationship between story complexity, users' attitudes towards Storytelling Alice, and their programming behavior.

From the Keyboard to the Game Board - Part 2

LocationGreen Room
Paper 1

Lessons Learned From Building Board Games
By: Francisco Ortega-Grimaldo

Back in 2001, when I created my first board game I approached it naively, using Game and Play Theories by instinct and dragging from my early memories all the knowledge and feelings I gathered as a child related to games and reflected them in my board game. For my dissertation, six years later after the creation of that first game, I explored those same topics with a keen mind, fully aware of the capacity within my art pieces and eager to apply their social potential. In the process, I learned to dissect games and understand its parts and how they related to culture, education and the potential that board games have to influence society. In this essay I described the elements that I faced and applied while creating new board games and some of the outcomes that came from participants who played my games when I was in the process of gathering information for my dissertation. I conclude with my vision of what can games can accomplish if they where introduced as a common practice in schools.

Paper 2

The Ethnography of Collectible Miniature Game Storyworlds
By: Ethan Watrall and Patrick Shaw

In many of today's popular entertainment franchises (especially speculative fiction & fantasy), stories and characters unfold across multiple media channels and products. As Jenkins notes, the strength of transmedia storytelling lies in the fact that multiple texts are integrated into an overall narrative so large that it cannot be contained within a single medium. In its ideal form, a transmedia story speaks to the strengths of each individual media platform.

The inevitable question that must be asked is whether story products (video games, novels, movies, comics, etc.) that exist within a rich and compelling storyworld provide greater enjoyment for the audience than story products that do not. Is the creation of a storyworld (a process that both time consuming to create and to manage) a wise investment for storytellers (game designers, novelists, comic writers, etc.)? It is within the context of this question that the study presented herein was designed to explore the interaction (or lack thereof) that a player/reader/user has with the meta-storyworld in which the storytelling media that they are consuming is embedded.

Over the course of the research, the authors of this paper engaged in an ethnographic study of HeroClix players, a tabletop miniature role playing game. The game itself, which is published by WizKids Games, draws its gameplay mechanic, characters/miniatures, and gameplay scenarios primarily from the Marvel and DC comic book universes. As such, it provides an excellent opportunity to explore the impact (if any) that a rich and compelling storyworld, a hallmark of comic books (especially those highlighted in the HeroClix game itself), has on a player's entertainment experience.

Paper 3

Games in Libraries: Past, Present, and Future
By: Scott Nicholson

The goal of this presentation is to explore the past, present, and possible futures of games in libraries. As gaming has evolved, so has the library's support of gaming activities. Over 80% of U.S. public libraries now allow users to play Web-based games on library computers. Digital games, including music-based games like Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero, have become very popular additions to library gaming programs alongside tabletop games. Gaming programs have the potential to draw in groups of new users to the library by providing services relevant to their needs. In addition, they can help the library to be a safe and non-commercial space where members of a local community who may never cross paths otherwise may meet. Given the popularity of the Internet as a way to meet people from around the globe, opportunities to meet people that live nearby are decreasing. Gaming programs in libraries are bringing together people of different ages and demographic groups in social activities. What long-term impacts could this have, both on the library itself and on the community in which the library is engaged? These issues will be presented, supported by data from several surveys designed to understand the ways in which libraries have integrated gaming as a service.

Paper 4

The Anti-Immersive Theatre of Role-Playing Games
By: Michael Ryan Skolnik

This paper examines anti-immersive theatrical aesthetics (Brechtian epic theatre, Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed) in relation to the game play experience of tabletop role-playing games. In contrast to claims that immersion is the basis for a meaningful experience of interactive narrative in an interactive entertainment medium, this paper argues that a role-playing game aesthetic based on anti-immersive defamiliarization offers role-players a meaningful game play experience with additional critical possibilities and more favorable ideological implications.

Saturday, October 11, 12:30p-1:00p

Lunch (provided in ballroom)

Saturday, October 11, 1:00p-2:00p

The Great White Whale of Meaningful Play

Presenter(s)Tracy FullertonTracy Fullerton, M.F.A., is a game designer, educator and writer with fifteen years of professional experience. She is currently an Associate Professor in the Interactive Media Division of the USC School of Cinematic Arts where she is Director of the Electronic Arts Game Innovation Lab. Tracy is the author of Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games, a design textbook in use at game programs worldwide. Recent credits include faculty advisor for the award-winning student games Cloud, flOw and The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom and game designer for The Night Journey a unique game/art project with artist Bill Viola. Prior to joining USC, she was president and founder of the interactive television game developer, Spiderdance, Inc. Spiderdance's games included NBC's Weakest Link, MTV's webRIOT, The WB's No Boundaries, History Channel's History IQ, Sony Game Show Network's Inquizition and TBS's Cyber Bond. Before starting Spiderdance, Tracy was a founding member of the New York design firm R/GA Interactive, Creative Director at the interactive film studio Interfilm and a designer at Robert Abel's early interactive company Synapse. Notable projects include Sony's Multiplayer Jeopardy! and Multiplayer Wheel of Fortune and MSN's NetWits, the first multiplayer casual game. Tracy's work has received numerous industry honors including an Emmy nomination for interactive television and Time Magazine's Best of the Web.
DescriptionIn Moby Dick, Hermann Melville exhorts readers and potential writers that, "to produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme." Experimental and serious game designers, in their own way, have taken this advice to heart: exploring themes and subject matter in their games that are significant, topical and complex; while commercial game designers like Will Wright have taken on nothing less than the simulation of a universe. And yet, for the most part, designers and players agree that we can do better -- especially in the arena of serious games -- that we have not ultimately caught the essence of what it means to explore a mighty theme through meaningful play. This talk addresses the relationship between meaningfulness, game mechanics and the potential we wish to realize for playful experiences to address serious subject matter, inspire activism, promote learning, reinforce values, and transmit ideas.

Saturday, October 11, 2:00p-2:30p

Conference Closing and Game Awards