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News

Game changing research networks for the Video game industry

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Date: 28/11/2013

Six new networks funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council will help shape the future of innovation in the video game industry.  The projects will bring new insights, creativity and knowledge to the video games industry with results of value to both the arts and humanities research community and the video games sector. One of the key themes throughout these projects is the focus on artistic creation, and how this is critically important to producing media with a genuine social benefit.

Dr Dan Pinchbeck, Creative Director of The Chinese Room and researcher at the University of Portsmouth comments: “The AHRC’s new Video Games Research Networking call is hugely significant to the industry. The AHRC has really pushed itself into what’s traditionally been seen as a difficult new medium, and it’s done so very quickly, already producing clear results. The projects are really exciting.  Looking at the next generation of AHRC-funded research networks, there’s going to be some very exciting links been academia and industry which is what we’re all looking for, and it’s great to see this sort of support happening.”

The projects include:

  • Creative Territories: Exploring Innovation in Indie Game Production Contexts and Connections led by Patrick Crogan, at the University West of England

The number of micro and SME businesses has grown post-recession. This network will bring together leading international and UK scholars, indie games developers and creative industry stakeholders to examine this transformation of the young but highly significant video games industry to identify how it makes possible new kinds of cultural production, collaboration and creativity. The research aims to formulate and 'map forward' the key processes and connections that represent commercially viable, creatively sustainable and culturally valuable pathways for the development of this sector so that it lives beyond its early 'bubble' and makes a significant difference in video game production as both economically and culturally valuable form.

  • Games and social change: In-between screens, places and communities led by Scott Gaule, at Manchester Metropolitan University.

This network will explore the burgeoning 'Games for change' movement that has emerged in the last decade, which has appropriated to engage people beyond entertainment. A growing number of artists, educationalists and activities are developing games that contend with personal, social and political subject matter, e.g. poverty, immigration, fiscal crisis, with the explicit intention of altering or affecting player opinion outside of the game world. The network will also focus on games which allow immersive and interactive storytelling experiences to play out across a range of trans-media platforms, such as Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) and Urban Games, which engage with social justice, community and humanitarian issues.

  • Performance and Audience in Movement-Based Digital Games: An International Research Network led by Patrick Dickinson at University of Lincoln             

This network will explore new concepts in the design and development of movement-based games to create a framework enabling performance practitioners and researchers to participate directly in the development of a game. Partnering with Arts Queensland to explore cultural constructions of performance, particularly in relation to narrative and audience, and use these to establish new frameworks for expression and interaction.

  • Guitar Heroes in Music Education? Music-based video-games and their potential for musical and performative creativity led by David Roesner at the University of Kent

The network seeks to investigate the impact of music-games on how we define music-making, creativity and identity and what opportunities this provides for artist and teachers. In order to do so, the network will connect relevant arts and humanities academics with both game designers and musicians, who have embraced the soft- and hardwares of gaming for creating new ways of composing and performing. The network also seeks to explore the creative potential and influence these games will have on future game design and how these could be implemented in music education.

  • Developing videogames and play for hospitalised children led by Elizabeth Wood at University of Sheffield

For children in Hospital play tends to be based on 'traditional' toys and games, with limited opportunities for playing with digital devices or tools. There is considerable scope for development in the video games industry to utilise the expertise from arts and humanities researchers to co-create digital play opportunities that respond to the specific needs of hospitalised children, to stimulate their play experiences, imaginations and creativity when confined to medical and recovery spaces. This network brings together academics, videogames designers and hospital play specialists using arts-based methods to explore different perpsectives. Areas such as physical and digital space, tactile and imagined play, friendship and isolation will be informed through physical participation in graphic novel illustration, performance, and sculpture which will be facilitated by professional artists in these fields.

  • Video Games in the Museum led by Gregor White at University of Abertay Dundee

Video games have become one of the most important design phenomena of our times, incorporating animation, architecture, cinematography, costume and product design, scriptwriting and many more disciplines. Yet little effort has been made to preserve this history-in-the-making. Games developers have shown little interest in archiving their own work and with the exception of few the museums and archive sector has disengaged, perhaps seeing this as a form popular culture that lies outside its remit. This research network aims to fill this gap, to ensure that video games of today will be part of the cultural heritage of the future.

The AHRC networks are the result of the European Games Workshop jointly organised by the AHRC, the Science and Innovation Network France, the Technology Strategy Board’s  Creative Industries and Communications Technology Knowledge Transfer Networks, TIGA (Trade Association for Games Industry),  with the support of Nesta. This event sought to directly address one of the main recommendations of the Nesta Next Gen (opens in new window)  by bringing together arts and humanities researchers and video games developers to explore current research challenges and opportunities for the industry, to promote interdisciplinary approaches and combine academic approaches with commercial industry expertise.

Dr Pinchbeck commented that “Once these projects are up-and-running, it’s going to be very hard for people to look at the games industry and say there’s still a huge divide between academia and industry. From someone who comes from both fields, when we first started there were only a handful of us who worked in both worlds  and now it feels like there’s a much more fluid crossover,  a lot more mutual respect, and a lot more dialogue -  and that can only be a good thing.”

For further information, please contact:

Danielle Moore-Chick, AHRC: 01793 416021 d.moore-chick@ahrc.ac.uk

Notes for Editors

  • The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK.  www.ahrc.ac.uk