EAPRIL 2014 Conference: Seeing Sound

Posted by steven on Friday December 5th 2014 at 21:14

Our arrival at the EAPRIL conference on November 26th did not go unnoticed, though this was exclusively due to the fact that the Barcelona football team, who played their Champions League game against Apoel Nicosia that evening, was staying in the conference hotel. Excitement!

Needless to say, this degree of sensation would not be equaled in the days that followed, even though many conference presenters (including myself) did the best they could to turn their sessions into interactive and audioviosual experiences. Most presentations we attended were highly academic: solidly rooted in educational theory and with presentation of sound research methodology. This contributed to a high overall quality of the conference, and I returned home with tons of fresh ideas for teaching techniques I can use in my classes.

Initially I was a bit concerned that the predominantly academic crowd would be only moderately interested in the practical workshop I was organising, which was based on the creative workshop format used in the Seeing Sound course module (and research project). Luckily a good number of very motivated participants attended the workshop, and this produced some cool results!

The goal of the workshop was simple: participants had to create a moodboard for a short movie, just like our students have to do in the Seeing Sound course. We suspected this would be the best way to make our audience experience what it means to adopt a truly interdisciplinary approach in a course module. All participants, mostly educators and literature scientists, admitted that having to think in terms of music and images entailed a huge step away from their confort zone. As such they were literally confronted with the challenges our students face in the Seeing Sound module: composers are asked to think in terms of visuals and animation film makers are asked to think in terms of audio. This enabled us to demonstrate the educational techniques we use in the Seeing Sound module, and to explain that a creative workshop is a very useful format to integrate different teaching strategies.

All in all this was a very insightful experience. The storyboard/score documents our participants created can further be used as research material in our search for a jargon-neutral language to describe the flow of a movie in the conceptual stage.

SXSW 2013: On Serious Game Realism

Posted by steven on Monday April 29th 2013 at 16:49

Founded more than 20 years ago as an international meeting for the music industry, in the past decade the South-By-Southwest (SXSW) conference has evolved into a global meeting for the entertainment industries, and today it also includes comprehensive tracks on Film and Interactive Media and Art (of which videogames are a considerable part). Compared to the Game Developers Conference (GDC) the SXSW gaming track is still in its infancy, but compared to all other meetings of the game industry I have ever visited, it is no less than impressive. All big gaming companies are there to present new titles, innovations and technologies, and at any point there are at least 3 simultaneous presentations that feature practical experiences of designers and artists. In no way an easy job to select which sessions to attend (and which not)!

While we witnessed several fascinating accounts of developers disclosing their secrets, regarding how to hit the Chinese market as an indie developer, to create interactive drama, or use NASA technology to build entertainment robots (!), it was in particular the serious gaming presentations that were interesting to us as researchers. We remember among others sessions on the zombie-themed exergame Zombies, Run!, on designing a meta-meta(!)-game to teach game design, or on Globaloria, the e-learning platform that enables kids (from 9th grade on) to design their own games – often with impressive results!


Logically, our own session (featuring fltr Bob De Schutter, myself, Rick Van Eck and Amy Adcock) was also a part of the serious gaming program. As we were the only all-academic panel at the entire gaming track, in the weeks before the conference our nerves had become quite uptight. We weren’t going to be able to do what we usually do: talk about theory, methdology, some more theory and provide in-depth analyses of data (usually followed by some more theory)! This time we’d have to be short, witty, to-the-point and above all, relevant to the practitioner. Our first testing ground, an online guest lecture we did at the end of February in Rick Van Eck’s class on game-based learning, demonstrated we had a lot of work to do (read: theory to cut away) before we would be able to do a condensed business session! During the guest lecture we had talked for more than 2 hours – for the SXSW presentation this would have to be cut back to 45 minutes! No easy assignment, especially because our topic, game realism, was a very philosophic one, about which an enormous amount of theory exists.

In the end I managed to bring back my part to less than 10 minutes: briefly discuss the model of perceived game realism that I have developed together with Wannes Ribbens, and illustrate by making references to America’s Army (and a number of other serious games). Thanks to roaring nerves (also due to the fact that our session was packed to full capacity!) I managed to say it all in 7 minutes (discussion afterwards not counted), buying time for Rick and Amy to explain the educational implications of what I’d been saying. As a result, the discussion at the end, where we debated the degrees of realism of a number of Belgian serious games (among which two games developed as part of the GameHub project), could be done in a more relaxed fashion, and was arguably the highlight of the presentation.

Reading the review Minicore Studios wrote of our session, I am glad that our approach had apparently paid off, and that we did not come across as dull academics! Also thanks to Bob’s great design job on our slides of course!

Bob has a blog online, where he has edited the slides to the podcast of our session, so that everyone can re-live the experience!

XODOX: disrupt my doc!

Posted by veerle on Thursday March 8th 2012 at 10:43

Come to the XODOX ‘DOCJAM’ Creative LAB at Docville 2012! 1 may 2012, Leuven, Belgium

Come to the world’s first ‘DOC JAM’ Creative LAB where documentary ideas are developed, disrupted and expanded. See what happens when factual ideas become multiplatform, interactive, playful and networked.

Are you a documentary producer, director, game developer, game designer or interactive with a dox interest, who want to explore the creative and commercial potential for developing new types of interactive factual content?

Do you want to gain an understanding of the different skills required to produce transmedia projects?

Do you want to learn how telling stories across multiple platforms, integrating social networking, games and interactivity can grow audiences in today’s crowded media environment?

This is not a conference! This is a jam! Be prepared to disrupt your doc!

For more information see

Vice City Virtue: Moral Issues in Digital Game Play

Posted by steven on Tuesday November 15th 2011 at 12:30

Karolien Poels and I have a book out, titled ‘Vice City Virtue: Moral Issues in Digital Game Play’. The book can be ordered at Acco and Amazon.

In the book we collect essays and research papers by scholars with backgrounds in philosophy, theology, psychology, cultural studies and communication science. We address questions like ‘under which circumstances is it morally wrong to engage in virtual violence?’ or ‘can games like Fallout 3 or Heavy Rain have a positive effect on our ethical reasoning?’. These and many others! We did not want to restrict ourselves to the ‘games-and-violence’ debate because we are convinced that games are about a lot more than violence and pornography. We think the different chapters together make a good case for considering games as a mature and versatile medium (or art form).

Check it out!

DIGRA 2011 meeting: Think, Design, Play

Posted by steven on Tuesday November 15th 2011 at 12:10

DiGRA meetings are a guarantee for meeting up with different types of people and exchanging ideas with researchers from completely different backgrounds. This year’s meeting, under the motto ‘Think, Design, Play‘, was no exception to this. We saw presentations on in-game advertising (among others a study by Laura Herrewijn) next to lectures on the use of UML-style modelling techniques to automatise the balancing of resources in games (Joris Dormans on his fascinating ‘Machinations Framework‘) or on game involvement (Gordon Calleja digging deeper into the notion of incorporation) – spiced with a lot of entertaining keynotes on game design (Mary Flanegan, Eric Zimmerman, Reiner Knizia). Due to the large amount of parallel sessions I even had to miss Katia Aerts’ presentation on the GameHub project (sorry for that!).

I had two presentations myself – both scheduled on Friday – the second day of the conference. During the morning I presented a paper I co-wrote with Thomas Laureyssens, discussing the main results of last year’s ‘Play’ module. We focused on the design challenges one faces while developing games to be used on the workfloor – including the fact that one is targeting a very a-typical gaming public, that one has to consider emplyer-employee relationships (and more specific, the fact that a worker feels uncomfortable being caught playing at work), and that games have to be integrated in a specific public context. I introduced the design philosophy of Streetwize VZW, which is very well suited to address these challenges, given the importance it attributes to aspects such as a low learning treshold. Finally I described the four games that were developed in the context of the module, and pointed out which were the main design desicions made by our students. I include our presentation as an attachment to this post. The session was about ‘designing games for work’, and I was co-hosting the session with Finnish researcher Perttu Heino. His work targeted a similar research goal, as he is in the process of developing games that may enhance the abilities of engineers in a large professional country. During debate, which was structured as a meta-game in order to increase audience participation, it appeared that we could both learn a lot from one another’s results – even though we had been working in completely different contexts. A lot of parrallel sessions were going on at the same time, but nevertheless the room was pretty crowded during our presentation. I had a good session.

Friday afternoon I was chairing a panel session, along with Karolien Poels, on morality in digital game play. The session was structured around our book, ‘Vice City Virtue: Moral Issues in Digital Game Play‘ (Acco Academic, 2011). We had quite an impressive lineup of speakers, with Tilo Hartmann, Garry Young and Monica Whitty discussing the subject from a physchological point of view and presenting a number of highly relevant research results, and with Jose Zagal and myself (I’ll leave in the middle how impressive that is!) addressing the subject from a cultural point of view. We had a heavily loaded session, with discussions regarding matters such as ‘rational vs. experiential processing of virtual violence’ or ‘the ethical dilemma’s contained in such games as Manhunt or Deus Ex’. It was very fun (and interesting!) to see those people in person and hear them reconstruct their arguments!


Attach: Malliet Laureyssens DiGRA 2011




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