VERUS: Virtual Environments Real User Study
This will be the first study to access substantial groups of real-world users around the world and follow their play in virtual-world contexts using complementary quantitative and qualitative methods. The research will allow the team to meaningfully trace associations between the ‘real’ and the ‘virtual’, in order to predict real-world identities from online avatar characteristics, relations, and behaviours.
In a series of laboratory experiments conducted in North America, Mexico, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, data will be collected on gamers’ real- and virtual-world characteristics and activities. Behavioural and neurophysiological data will be collected (e.g., gamer characteristics, group interactions, eye movements, currency-handling behaviour) in several virtual worlds; this experimental data will be closely integrated with a range of complementary studies, including structured, videotaped interviews with gamers and observational sessions. The results will be examined using actor network theory, a detailed and powerful sociological framework that will allow the researchers to carefully and rigorously map the complex relationships between users’ real-world characteristics, their virtual world practices, and the, affordances and constraints of the virtual worlds they engage in.
Suzanne de Castell
Play in Computer Environments Studio (Play:CES)
Since 2003, Jen Jenson’s Play:CES lab has served as an educational game design, development and play-testing studio.
The best way to understand the educational benefits of digital games is to make them — and to test them out with target learners. We have provided extensive work experience and peer mentoring for numerous Seneca College and York University students, and we have worked with summer camps and local schools in hosting play-testing and usability sessions, giving students invaluable ‘on the ground’ involvement in small-scale, independent and innovative educational game design projects.
Feminists in Games (FIG)
Feminists in Games is funded by a Canadian SSHRC Partnership Grant and is an endeavour created with the purpose of assumebling an international research association of digital media researchers from a full range of salient disciplines to begin building ‘connective tissue’ between and among them, so as to (a) better understand the origins and consequences of this gendered digital divide, and (b) intervene in its reproduction.
1) 2, 3-day Gender and Digital Games Research Symposia (Toronto/Vancouver)
2) Using the collective critical consideration and feedback from the aforementioned meetings to build an association in which academic partners will engage industry partners in the subsequent conduct of the research, including an industry-side implementation and evaluation of the research findings. See Dames Making Games (Toronto), Pixelles (Montreal) and XX game jam (Bristol, UK).
3) Creating knowledge transfer between academy and industry in the form of a web 2.0 interactive database for gender-focused research for the games industry.
(Free/Available in the iTunes app store for iPad)
Compareware is an iPad game targeted at ages 5-8, both readers and non-readers (there is voiceover support for those who can’t read), and is meant to scaffold and support players as they analyze two object for similarities and differences.
AMD/York University Kids Game Development Camp 2011-2013
In the areas surrounding York University, low income and recently-immigrated students continue to radically underachieve in schools. These students are labelled as at-risk by their teachers, who anticipate that they may not graduate secondary school if left to their own devices. At-risk students are typically disengagd and disenfranchised from school and find little support in community efforts. The Play:CES lab at York University (run by Dr. Jennifer Jenson, Faculty of Education), is committed to advancing educational technology knowledge and best practices, with a focus on providing opportunities for marginalized youth to literally get their hands on the technologies that are typically taken-for-granted as being ubiquitously available to 21st century students.
Using funds generously provided by AMD Inc. and AMD Changing the Game Foundation, the AMD-York U Kids Game Development Camp (hereby referred to as KGDC) gave kids the opportunity to create their own digital games in a safe, supportive environment and access a variety technologies, for free. KGDC assists in re-engaging students with learning by having them develop a myriad of “real world” skills through game development, including:
· basic computing and technical skills (e.g. using hot-keys, transferring files,);
· creativity through generating art and level design (e.g. drawing sprites, modding);
· critical and systems thinking (e.g. relations and interactions between objects)
· STEM skills (e.g. math, physics, programming concepts);
· problem solving and persistence (e.g. iterative design process, troubleshooting).
Prove it to me
This study seeks to contribute to knowledge about the ways in which, and the processes by which, digital games do (and can further) support educationally worthwhile forms of learning, identifying and explaining the epistemic affordances of a range of ludic forms—for of course these are not all the same. There are three parts of the study: playing with educational games, playing with popular digital games, and creating digital games. Teachers and students can select which parts of the study they wish to participate in.
· How do knowledge and skills transfer from one situation to the other?
· What best supports that transference?
· How might we measure that? And does such measured change identify deep learning that is sustained over time, rather than just temporary effects?
The research questions for the digital game design and development part of the study focus on the ways in which students use digital games to communicate and demonstrate their knowledge:
· How, and in what ways, does school-based knowledge change when delivered through a game in comparison to traditional, text-based forms of communication?
· How might this knowledge be evaluated/assessed?
· How does game development impact students’ orientations towards and skills in science, technology engineering, and mathematics (STEM)?
Smarter Than She Looks (STSL) 2009-2012
As more and more digital technologies are brought into classrooms and homes and recruited as educational resources with curricular relevance, the widely-recognized gender gap in access to and mastery of these digital tools threatens to become an increasingly significant barrier to educational equity both in and outside the classroom.
‘Smarter Than She Looks’ allows students the opportunity to “seriously play,” and provides equitable opportunities to girls as well as boys to “skill up” in the kinds of digital technology-based literacies that are becoming increasingly important to a globalized, digitally-mediated society (Kellner, 2004; Kress, 2003; Lotherington, 2005; New London Group, 1996). As well, by providing as level a playing field as possible (albeit in a localized and small-scale way) for the cultivation of digitally-mediated literacies and skills, this study attempts to shake loose the widely-accepted assumption that boys are “naturally” more disposed, more interested, and better at games, and at digital technologies in general, than girls.
Suzanne de Castell
Education Gender and Gaming (EGG) 2005-2008
This SSHRC-funded program of research on Education, Gaming and Gender draws on and weaves together market-based play style research into what “girls like best” with recent feminist theorizations of both gender and play.
Suzanne de Castell
Ethical and Legal Studies in Education (ELSE)
Ethics and Legal Studies in Education (ELSE) is an online tutorial.
Contagion is a Flash-based adventure game.
Epidemic is an online resource that challenges players to protect themselves in the face of virulent diseases.
Tafelmusik: The Quest for Arundo Donax (2009)
This Flash-based online adventure game is set in Europe in 1704.
Relying on an international community of musicians, players travel with Frances and Edward to Italy, where Antonio Vivaldi instructs them in the elements of the Baroque orchestra; to Germany, where they must learn Baroque musical notation from J.S. Bach; and finally, to the French court, where they must dance their way into the Sun King’s favor. Along the way, players have the opportunity to discover Baroque instruments, learn more about famous Baroque composers and monarchs, and enjoy music played by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra.