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Games and Play Research Seminar #6

On Tuesday March 22 the Centre for the Study of Digital Games and Play (GAP) will host its sixth seminar at Muntstraat 2a, room 1.11 from 15:00-17:00 with drinks afterwards. The aim of these regular meet-ups is to create a physical space for game scholars and excellent students to present research, to provide room for game-related discussions, and to expand our academic and professional network. This meeting, we will share three game-related projects from national and international game scholars that focus on inclusive design for serious games. First, Ingrid Hoofd (Utrecht University), will reflect on the moral concerns and ethical implications of serious gaming aesthetics, practices, and discourses. Then, Fares Kayali (Vienna University) shares his research in designing a game for cultural diversity and social interaction. Lastly, Paola Monarchesi (Utrecht University) will present a playable prototype for planning and negotiating urban space in mega-cities such as Mumbai.

The Ambiguous Ethics of Serious Games: Towards a Critique of the Game Apparatus
Ingrid Hoofd, Utrecht University, Department of media and culture Studies

This presentation focuses on the larger ethical implications of serious gaming. It foregrounds the relationship between global and local injustices, and serious gaming aesthetics, practices, and discourses. The presentation will start from the premise that the very quest for instantaneity that research around digital media has displayed through the development of interactive technologies for education – a quest that also implicitly informs the current development of serious games – is itself already by no means a neutral affair. The ethical issue with serious games is therefore not simply one of game content, or of the problematic stereotypical representations in such games. Rather, the main moral issue lies in how serious games, as at base a technology of distancing, militarisation, and archiving, lead to what the presentation will call a ‘double objectification’ through its formal aesthetics, in favour of a neoliberal ‘speed elite’.

A Serious Game to Further Cultural Diversity
Fares Kayali, Vienna University of Technology, Human computer interaction group

This talk explores how game design can shape social interaction using the serious game ›YourTurn! The Video-Game‹ YourTurn is a social impact game about creating video mash-ups with other players to foster social interaction and the reflection of cultural identity among juvenile minority groups in Vienna, Austria.

You place it! A geo-game for planning and negotiation in mega-cities
Paola Monachesi, Utrecht University, Department of languages, literature, and communication

This is an interactive presentation of a web-based urban planning game. The prototype is designed for Dharavi, a low-income area of Mumbai. The presentation will focus on the design challenges in making a multiplayer version of the game and adding a language component to support the negotiation process. Furthermore, we will play test the prototype and collect feedback for further development.

Date: Tuesday March 22, 2016
Time: 15:00 – 17:00 + drinks
Location: Muntstraat 2a, room 1.11
Registration: Please register via e-mail
More information: GAP: Center for the Study of Digital games and Play

Games and Play Research Seminar #5

On Tuesday February 2 the Centre for the Study of Digital Games and Play (GAP) will host its fifth seminar at Muntstraat 2a, room 1.11 from 15:00-17:00 with drinks afterwards. The aim of these regular meet-ups is to create a physical space for game scholars and excellent students to present research, to provide room for game-related discussions, and to expand our academic and professional network. This meeting, we will share three game-related projects from Utrecht University dealing with: the politics of playful cartography, identity and identity in digital games, and intergenerational game design.

Casual Power: Understanding User Interfaces through Quantification
Alex Gekker, Utrecht University, Department of Media and Culture Studies.
This presentation examines the interrelations of digital maps, power, technology and interfaces, asking how is power (or attempts of it) being exerted through mutable reconfiguration of geographical signs on screens and the databases behind them.

Identity and Gender in Game Avatars
Gui Wei, Utrecht University, Department of Media and Culture Studies.
In my dissertation I approach the game avatar as research object. From the perspective of embodiment, I explore concepts of corporeality, sex, and gender in online digital games. I introduce the concept of synchronicity as “missing link” between theories on virtual/real, human/machine, and the body in the physical/digital world.

Exploring the possibilities of intergenerational digital game design

Eugène Loos, Utrecht University, School of Governance; Monique Simons, Geosciences; Teresa de la Hera, Department of Media and Culture Studies.
This explorative study aims to shed light on intergenerational digital game design patterns. The question is how intergenerational gaming between older and younger individuals (e.g. grandparents and grandchildren) can be designed and used to promote their mental, physical and social wellbeing/bonding.

Date: Tuesday February 2, 2016
Time: 15:00 – 17:00 + drinks
Location: Muntstraat 2a, room 1.11
Registration: Please register via e-mail

Refugees in Utrecht explore the city through selfie-treasure hunt

On Tuesday December 1, a group of refugees from the Utrecht refugee center played a selfie-treasure hunt to playfully explore the city. This is the second time the game has been played with refugees. The selfie-treasure hunt is developed by GAP PhD candidates Stephanie de Smale and Sjors Martens, and research master students Nico Lopez Coombs and Arash Ghajarjazi. The main objective of the game was to create a safe and playful way for this vulnerable group to explore the city.

The neighbourhood as playground

The first play test took place in Lombok, since the refugees were staying in the Beatrix building in the Jaarbeurs. However, the present group is staying in Kanaleneiland, so this time the game’s location was Park Transwijk. Tokens were hidden in the park and hints were given via a photomap. The objective was to collect as many team selfies with the tokens, using their own phones. Points were allocated to the selfies, and the team with the most points won the game.


Selfies as digital memory
During the game, players are experiencing the neighbourhood through the lens of play. It provides the opportunity for this vulnerable group to explore the city while at the same time having fun. After the game, players still have the selfies stored in their phones, making these pictures a digital souvenir of a positive memory.


Playing in other cities
This is the second time this selfie-treasure hunt was played, and 32 refugees have participated so far. In 2016, the game will be played in Belgium in collaboration with the University of Liège. However, the researchers hope to play the game in other cities as well.

If you have suggestions for other locations to play the selfie-treasure hunt, or want to join the next run, please contact Stephanie de Smale.

€150,000 Proof-of-Concept Grant Awarded for LBS Game for Higher Ed

ERC project Charting the Digital has just been awarded a €150,000 proof-of-concept (PoC) grant for making a location based game for teaching and instructing students on the intricacies of field-work, in an engaging an playful manner. The project is based in Warwick University, UK and Utrecht. The development will be carried out starting February 2016, with GAP-members (faculty and students) participating in the design, play-testing and subsequent trial deployment as part of the ongoing Go-Go-Gozo project.

For this Proof of Concept we (the Charting the Digital research team) will develop a prototype of a location-based game that can be used for teaching fieldwork in a Higher Education (HE) setting. The rationale behind it is that location-based games are promising educational tools. The game will be designed to facilitate, enhance and structure fieldwork for university courses in the areas of geography, development studies, architecture, history, archaeology and anthropology. The game we intend to prototype will offer an innovative cost-effective package for HE institutions to organize informal learning and team-building experiences. The societal benefits are related to creating an innovative teaching platform for informal learning, thus helping to develop new kinds of teaching for HE that are beneficial to our knowledge society. Such new teaching methods can stimulate a different cultural and social engagement with environments, one that brings learners much closer to lived experiences and contemporary issues on a local scale. Importantly, this approach also sees action and intervention as key elements of reflexive and sensitive fieldwork practice, challenging the existing division between academic student projects undertaken for grades, and their more complex real-world subject matter.

As a result, the approach developed in this Proof of Concept seeks to change set paradigms in higher education, offering young adults more creative, relevant and useful means and methods to gain knowledge about and engage with environments and people.

More about the Charting the digital:
Contact person for inquiries: Alex Gekker,

Games and Play Research Seminar #4

On Thursday November 5 the Centre for the Study of Digital Games and Play (GAP) will host its fourth seminar at Muntstraat 2a, room 1.11 from 15:00-17:00 with drinks afterwards. The aim of these regular meet-ups is to create a physical space for game scholars and excellent students to present research, to provide room for game-related discussions, and to expand our academic and professional network. This meeting, we will share three game-related projects from Utrecht University and research fellow Pierre-Yves Hurel from Université de Liège will present the state of the art in French game research.

Game Studies Across the Boundaries: – Pierre-Yves Hurel (Université de Liège)
This presentation focuses on main contributions from French and Belgium researchers. Who are the authors? What are they doing? With which institutions?

The Preservation of Digital Games as Dutch Cultural Heritage – Dr. René Glas & Jasper van Vught (UU)
The research project sets up the first unified effort between game research, cultural heritage institutions and the Dutch game industry to define, preserve, archive and exhibit the history of Dutch digital games and game development. Beeld en Geluid, the institute dedicated to the preservation of Dutch audio visual heritage, forms the key partner.

Bridging the Gap between Game Design and Policy-Making: Analytical Game Design and Participatory Scenario Development – Dr. Stefan Werning (UU)
The project explores (participatory) scenario planning as a still understudied context for serious games and analytical game design as a method to inform the creation and application of scenario planning games. For that purpose, a sample game will be iteratively modified as well as extended through digital augmentations in cooperation with dr. Joost Vervoort and the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University.

The Playful City – Dr. Michiel de Lange (UU)
The Playful City is a project that investigates how games and play can be used to foster a smarter civic engagement for specific complex urban issues, and how can we design gaming tools to accomplish this. The project seeks to connect research and development in the up to now largely separate sectors of smart city policy and design, and game research and design. It combines the most recent insights from these fields into a new agenda for smart city making through games and play, which will strengthen interdisciplinary collaborations, and increase academic impact.

Date: Thursday November 5, 2015
Time: 15:00 – 17:00 + drinks
Location: Muntstraat 2a, room 1.11
Registration: Please register via e-mail.

Joost Raessens travels to China to establish connections among possible partners in the field of serious gaming

Joost Raessens recently visited Beijing (China) in order to establish connections among possible partners in the domain of creative industries (universities, academies, companies), particularly in the field of serious gaming.


The initial reason for this trip was the Chinese-Dutch Joint Scientific Thematic Research Programme (JSTP), an NWO research programme that enables bilateral collaboration between research groups within the field of the creative industries. A delegation of Dutch academics, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Beijing visited, among others, Tsinghua University (Academy of Arts & Design), the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), and several fashion and gaming companies. As part of the Beijing Design Week 2015, Prof. Dr Anneke Smelik (Radboud University Nijmegen), Prof. Dr Eric Postma (Tilburg University) and Prof. Dr Joost Raessens (Utrecht University) presented their research on fashion, artificial intelligence and persuasive gaming at The Nurturing House, a creative industries hub sponsored by the Dutch Embassy.


The creative industries are booming in China. Especially media (digital media, including games, film and television), art (museums, photography and cultural heritage) and design (fashion, architecture and urban environment) are important clusters within China’s growing cultural industries. According to the Beijing Official Guide, the creative industries are Beijing’s second economic pillar industry, just after the finance sector. Because of China’s growing youth culture, (online) games take up a prominent position. Serious games can help solve China’s urgent problems in the areas of, for example, healthcare, (future) food, energy, sustainability, and urbanization.

Persuasive Gaming GAP research project at Control Conference 2015

The Persuasive Gaming in Context project, in which GAP researchers Joost Raessens and Teresa de la Hera are involved, was one of the five projects selected to be pitched at the Research Showcase of the Control Conference 2015, Holland’s premier game development event, organised by game dev publication Control. The Research Showcase is a session that aims to facilitate collaboration between game researchers and the game industry and give visibility to game research studies out of the academic environment.


Furthermore, Teresa de la Hera was invited to talk at the conference about the challenges of finding a good balance between fun and efficiency in persuasive games. In a 30 minutes talk De la Hera went through 5 useful tips that were thought to help persuasive game designers to prevent common and easy avoidable mistakes by facilitating the integration of communication strategies within fun games.

Games and Play Research seminar # 3

On Monday June 8, the research focus area Game Research will host its third Games and Play Research seminar. The aim of these regular meet-ups is to create a physical space for game scholars and excellent students to present research, to provide room for game-related discussions, and to expand our academic and professional network. On the programme for this meeting are four game-related presentations.

The Hackable City – Michiel de Lange (UU) & Martijn de Waal (UvA/HvA)

Foto 1 Lange

In the hackable city, new media technologies are used to open up urban institutions and infrastructures to systemic change in the public interest. It combines top-down smart-city technologies with bottom-up “smart citizen” initiatives. Playful hacker mentality and practices play an important role in making the city hackable, a place in which citizens can be agents of change and shapers of their own environments and experiences.


Body Travel: Zooming into Games in Healthcare with Microscopic Vision – Stephanie de Smale (RMA Media and Performance Studies)

Foto 2 Smale

Studying the early reception and invention of medical media visualises a recurring pattern of fantasy and pleasure in discovering new corporeal realities. Examining claims about serious games in healthcare as a starting point, this presentation uses the microscope as a media-archaeological case study. It illustrates that the act of visualising the invisible is a powerful imaginative trope used in medical culture and ludic practices.
Ludic Selfies: Playing with Mobile Phones in Grand Theft Auto V – René Glas (UU) & Imar de Vries (UU)
The ability of the selfie as both a communicational and representational tool has already attracted some academic attention. In this presentation, Glas and De Vries extend the existing body of work by building upon notions of mobile phones as playful devices and investigating the selfie as a manifestation of playful cultural practices. They will do so by focussing on the gameworld of Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar North 2013).

From Game Studies to Studies of Play in Society – Joost Raessens (UU)

Foto 3 Glas Vries

Recent years have been a period of changes both in game cultures as well as in the study of games and play. Such changes include transfer of focus in the subject matters, methodologies, theory frameworks as well as in the institutional placement and allegiances of game studies. Joost Raessens will discuss the changes in the focus areas of academic game studies and the possible ongoing transformations in how play informs and shapes culture and society.


Start date and time: 8 June 2015 10:00
End date and time: 8 June 2015 12:00
Location: Muntstraat 2a, room 1.11

Game companies and researchers see potential of serious games

On 22 May, a Friday afternoon, the Nest, the cradle of entrepreneurship at the Heidelberglaan, was crowded. In a ‘Science Meets Business’ seminar researchers from the focus area Game Research (Utrecht University) and various market participants gathered to discuss game research and how they could cooperate in this field. Present were large serious game companies from the Netherlands and researchers Joost Raessens, Remco Veltkamp, Stefan Werning, and Robbert Jan Beun.


There are several target groups for serious games. Think of games for education, government and organization, games for health, sustainability, smart cities, conflicts and safety. The Netherlands is globally renowned for its production of and research into serious games, as argued by Christel van Grinsven (Dutch Game Garden) and Joost Raessens in the recently published book Video Games Around the World (MIT Press, 2015). In the world of academia, serious games are called persuasive games, i.e. games aiming to change attitudes and behaviour.

Research into the functioning of persuasive games

One of the most important questions is: do these games really work? If that can be ascertained, reliable quality assessments can be made. This would be useful, for instance, with regard to education games and apps for (primary) schools, many of which are already operational. A school would then be able to make grounded decisions.
To clarify whether and how persuasive games and apps function, Utrecht University cooperates with companies. Within the NWO-research programme ‘Persuasive Gaming’, researchers such as Joost Raessens chart best practices and produce models that can predict the success of newly developed games.

Applications in various disciplines

Research into persuasive games finds interest in many different disciplines. Stefan Werning, assistant professor on game research, for instance looks at educational infrastructures. ICT, psychology, sociology and communication also increasingly address persuasive games.

Self-Help Therapy

Robbert Jan Beun works with persuasive apps with a particular focus on interaction technology. He researches opportunities for personalised self-help therapy for sleep difficulties using mobile technology. A troubled sleeper himself, through his research he develops an app for fellow sufferers, collaborating with TU Delft and Philips.
Remco Veltkamp (UU) en Michaël Bas (Ranj, serious game-bedrijf)
Michaël Bas (Ranj, serious game company) and Remco Veltkamp (UU)


The afternoon was concluded with a lively discussion. Representatives of game companies argued they would benefit from research taking up shorter cycles: “We want interim results every two months, not after four years.” Next to that, creative designers desire predictability, i.e. research into whether the apps or games really work. For the researchers it is preferable if companies present demands collectively. What does the market actually require and how can researchers meet that demand?
It is striking that considerable fragmentation exists among both parties (game companies and researchers). Closer cooperation is required within and between universities. On that note, the focus area Game Research at Utrecht University fulfils a pioneering role. Contrariwise, the landscape of media companies is too dispersed for many researchers to work with. Many small parties exist, each with their own area of expertise. This makes it hard to determine who to appeal to for what. The ultimate conclusion that it would be better if both sides cooperated more is shared by all. It is easier to apply for EU2020-projects in unison but also when approaching larger market participants such as ING, Shell, Alliander and, for instance, Philips. These are after all companies that do not only come with concrete demands, but also do have the funds to finance research.

‘Science Meets Business’ seminar 22 May: “Persuasiveness in app and game technology”

15.00 – 15.10 Welcome and Opening: drs. Mirko Lukács
15.10 – 15.45 Persuasieve communication, gaming and apps in UU research (prof. dr. Joost Raessens)
15.45 – 16.15 Apps as persuasive technologies in culture and education (dr. Stefan Werning)
16.20 – 16.50 Case ‘Persuasiveness in the SleepCare App’ (dr. Robbert Jan Beun)

From the ‘science’ perspective are present, apart from the speakers: Fiemke Griffioen and Thomas Dohmenfrom Informatica and Martin Kempen and Jeanette Verstappen from Utrecht Holdings.

From the ‘business’ the following participants will be present:

– DGG (Christel van Grinsven)
– RANJ Serious Games (Michael Bas)
– Little Chicken (Tomas Sala)
– Ijsfontein
– G4 (Monique van Rijen)
– Boldmindz (Rowan van ‘t Hoogt)
– QLVR (Jaap Gerretsen)
– VICTAS/GBGGZ Utrecht (Mirjam Simons)
– Vrije Ruimte/Stichting Volte (Henk van Zeijts)
– Expertisecentrum Beroepsonderwijs (Pieter Baay)
– SOON/RABO NEST (Suze Klaverstijn)