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Externally funded

NWO Topsector Creative Industries: Persuasive Gaming - From Theory-based Design to Validation and Back (2013-2016) 

The research in this project is concerned with the characteristics, design principles, and effectiveness of persuasive gaming. We study gaming practices that combine the dissemination of information with attempts to engage players in particular behaviors and attitudes. A unique feature of the project is the collaboration with partners in the Dutch game industry enabling us to immediately relate and apply our knowledge drawn from Game Studies, Media Studies, validation research and research on Game Design to practical demands of the industry. Theoretically, we develop the innovative approach of a constant and intense interaction between what is drawn from theory with the actual design of game experiences. The subsequent merger between design and validation research provides a crucial testing ground to assess and validate the value of the knowledge we aim to produce. The process of persuasion is approached from a humanities perspective focusing on the interplay of different persuasive dimensions, including storytelling and playful interaction. The cases extend beyond traditional videogames incorporating also transmedia storytelling platforms and ambient games creating play experiences closely integrated in the context of e.g. city life, therapy or education. The ultimate goal is the construction of a dynamic model for persuasive game development and implementation that is accessible for the industry as well as the research community. We are confident that this close collaboration between the industry and the academic world will contribute to improving the international competitive position of the Dutch game industry.

Research headed by: Prof Dr. Joost Raessens (Utrecht University), Prof. Dr. Jeroen Jansz (Erasmus University Rotterdam), Prof Dr. Ben Schouten (Eindhoven University of Technology), 1 Postdoc and 2 PhDs tba. 
Funding: NWO
Website: coming soon (full project details here)

ERC Starting Grant: Charting the Digital - Digital Mapping Practices as New Media Cultures (2011-2016)

The key objective of this research programme is to investigate to what extent and how digital maps can be considered as new techno-cultural phenomena that have altered our way of being in and moving through our spatial environments. Digital maps allow a greater degree of interaction between users and mapping interfaces than analogue maps do. Instead of just reading maps, users have far more influence on how maps look. Whether a navigation device that adjusts its route-display according to where the driver chooses to go, or a map in a computer-game that is partly created by players, maps have become more interactive and are now co-produced by their users.

Part of this extensive research project investigates how digital maps are related to play. It focusses on a two-fold cultural paradigm shift that occurred since the emergence of digital maps and a parallel process of cultural ludification. Theses two shifts come together in a myriad of playful mapping practices that people nowadays engage with and that will be examined in this project.

Researchers: Dr. Sybille Lammes, Dr. Nanna Verhoeff, Alex Gekker, Sam Hind, Clancy Wilmott
Funding: European Research Council

GATE: Knowledge Transfer Project - Mobile Learning (2010-2012)

To use mobile applications and games for learning purposes an appropriate use of design principles for story-telling, spatial indication and social networks is indispensable. To improve learning results, stories have to be aptly integrated in game-play, maps have to be properly incorporated in the game and must be open for development by players, and social networks have to facilitate a sharing of learning results and processes. In this Knowledge Transfer Project (KTP) we want to use and apply the knowledge that has been gained in GATE work package 4.2, Design Rules for Learning through Simulated World (see below), about these three areas in order to improve and evaluate the learning results of mobile applications and games that are developed by 7scenes. This KTP will also function as a practical benchmark to further substantiate the design principles that Utrecht University has developed in work package 4.2. The project runs from 2010 till 2012 and involves Utrecht University/GAP and 7scenes as main partners, with further involvement from the MIT Scheller Teacher Education Program, Parsons' The New School for Design and Waag Society. More info...

Researchers: Prof. dr. Joost Raessens, Dr. Sybille Lammes, Dr. René Glas, Teun Dubbelman
Partners: Waag Society, 7scenes 
Funders: ICT Regie/NWO
Project description (pdf.)

GATE: Game Research for Training and Entertainment (2006-2012)

Serious games can enable players to acquire and improve domain specific knowledge and sharpen cognitive skills such as spatial abilities, media literacy, decision making and problem solving. New models have been developed that can help game designers and developers to discuss and improve the design and learning effects of educational games. Although serious games have become a very popular medium, developers still require theoretical models that can help them to improve the design and thereby the learning results of serious games. This research wants to fulfill this need by focusing on three specific topics: how meanings are made through games and game play, how narrative structures can be designed to improve learning processes, and how rhetorical strategies can be designed to convince players of certain perspectives (e.g. political games), or behavioural changes (e.g. health games). With the insights gained from this research, we will formulate specific design rules for game-based learning. More info...

Researchers: Prof. dr. Joost Raessens, Prof. dr. William Uricchio, Prof. dr. Paul Kirschner, Dr. Chiel Kattenbelt, Dr. Sybille Lammes, Dr. René Glas, Valentina Rao, Teun Dubbelman
Funders: ICT Regie/NWO
Project description (pdf.)

NWO Research Project Playful Identities: From Narrative to Ludic Self-Construction (2006-2010)

The aim of this interdisciplinary (conceptual-philosophical, media-theoretical, and qualitative-empirical) program is to investigate if, and if so, to what extent and in what way, digital information and communication technologies are transforming the (construction of) personal and cultural identity. To that end we will develop a theory of ludic identity that critically elaborates on Ricoeur's theory of narrative identity. In this theory play and games are not only appropriate metaphors for human identity, but they are also conceived of as means by which people reflexively construct their identity.

The theory of ludic identity, the outlines of which have been sketched in some of the principal applicants previous publications, will be further developed and critically evaluated in three case studies (three PhD projects) focusing on (the domestication of) three different media, respectively: 1. mobile phones, 2. websites, and 3. computer games. Each case study will examine the way the medium-specific characteristics shape and are being shaped by the participation of the user, and on the implications of this for the reflexive construction of personal and cultural identities. By way of dialectical counterpoint, in each of the case studies the practice of reflexive identity construction will be confronted with a specific development that threatens to subject this reflexive self-construction to the logic of an external system (respectively processes of commercialization, globalization and homogenization). The applicants will not only act as the supervisors of the PhD projects, but will also write a synthetic monograph in which the results of the case studies will be integrated and situated in a wider context of historical and philosophical approaches to culture. More info...

Researchers: Prof. dr. Jos de Mul, Prof. dr. Valerie Frissen, Prof. dr. Joost Raessens, Dr. Sybille Lammes, Dr. Michiel de Lange, Dr. Jeroen Timmermans
Partners: Erasmus University, TNO
Funders: NWO
Project description (pdf.)

NWO Research Project Postcolonial Playgrounds: A Study of the Cultural Meanings of Computer Games that Centre around the Colonisation and Mapping of Landscapes (2004-2009)

Since computer games have become an important part of contemporary popular culture, a wide variety of games have emerged that invite players to colonize, conquer and map new territories, along the way increasing their resources and technological knowledge. Such games refer to a past when the exploration and mastery of new lands and resources was intrinsic to western power politics. At the same time such games rework this past. They are contemporary and postcolonial means of expressions that revisit and re-mould the past in order to make sense of the present.

This research project investigates how such games “handle” history, colonialism, mapping and the gaining of capital and techno-scientific knowledge. How can they be understood as postcolonial expressions? How do they relate to the past and how do they rework notions of expansionism, exploration, travelling and knowledge? Through an ethnographic analysis of the games, as well as of subcultures and fan-cultures that have materialized around them, more insight will be gained in these questions.

Researcher (PI): Dr. Sybille Lammes
Funders: NWO Innovational Research Incentives Schema, VENI