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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.

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.

Teresa de la Hera receives Spanish award for her PhD thesis “Persuasive Structures in Advergames”


The PhD thesis Persuasive Structures in Advergames by our own Teresa de la Hera has been awarded as the best academic work by a Spanish scholar in the field of audiovisual communication. The prize was awarded by the Consell de l’Audiovisual de Catalunya, a Spanish organisation committed to promoting research in the audiovisual sector. The jury was composed of renowned professors in the field of media studies.
De la Hera’s thesis aims at broadening the understanding of how advertising messages can be embedded within digital games. In recent years marketers have shown a keen interest in using digital games for advertising purposes. Digital games specifically designed for a brand with the aim of conveying an advertising message, are known as advergames. In the thesis an interdisciplinary framework is used in order to outline a theoretical model aiming to structure the existing knowledge to help explain how persuasive communication works within digital games.

Teresa de la Hera currently works as a postdoc researcher in the NWO-funded project ‘Persuasive gaming‘, a collaboration between Utrecht University, Erasmus University Rotterdam and the University of Technology Eindhoven.