Current Projects

The Value of Play for Young Neurodivergent People

The project aims to explore how young neurodivergent people engage with digital games through participatory exploration of play and game design. The project will ask player-centred questions around the design of game interfaces, mechanics, and choice of genre, and it will explore wider questions around the inclusive qualities that games can have to enable young neurodivergent people to participate in play. Through examination of the interplay between cognitive player abilities and their engagement with games, the project will not only contribute to game accessibility research and support work of researchers and designers in this space, but also benefit neurodivergent players and foster our inclusion in wider society through play. — with Kathrin Gerling (KU Leuven) & Fares Kayali (Universiät Wien)

(Non-)Experiences — Playing Idle Games

Idle (or Incremental) games are characterised by limited levels of player activity. They progress with little or no external input, incentivise waiting and require players to ‘play at planning’. While there exist theoretical considerations of how to define this type of game and its characteristics, to date, little exploration into the experiences players have when (not) interacting with idle games is available. Through interviews in group settings with self-identified players of idle games, I explore the reflective first-person perspective on these experiences. The design and development of a novel idle game will then be used to augment this data by observing players in different ways (personally, through log data etc.) and engaging with them through Cultural Probes. Additionally, we will also use a validated Player Experience Questionnaire to contrast the different types of experiences constructed by the various instruments. This supports a larger argument of aiming at an understanding of experiences as intangible and driven by different stakeholders. — with Lennart Nacke, Andrew Cen (University of Waterloo), Sultan Alharthi, Z Toups (NMSU), Tess Tanenbaum (UCI Irvine) and Jessica Hammer (Carnegie Mellon)

Drawing of a person annoyedly looking at their watch.

The Surrogate Body in Play

Within media theory and, particularly, film studies, Voss has determined how cinematic experiences rely on the viewer to lend their body as a surrogate body to enable the film to actualise. I argue, that this is similarly, albeit across different axes, the case in digital games; arguably even more so as players not only lend their affective reception, but literally more or less abstract actions that are strictly tied to the context of playing particular games in particular settings. — with Kathrin Gerling (KU Leuven)

Drawing of the cinematic dispositive with a blue line indicating the distance between medium and surrogate body (i.e., viewer).

Body Positive Computing

Most body and fitness related technologies come with inherent assumptions of how the bodies of people using them should ideally be shaped and function. For example, a majority counts steps, which makes them unusable for wheelchair users. The ideal figure drawn in this context is often white, male and slim — indicating that those are the signs of a healthy body. To further exacerbate the issue, most technologies, particularly trackers, assume constant progress without appreciating the efforts many people undertake to minimise a decline or considering that rest days after intense workouts are necessary for sustainable muscle gain. Instead, weight loss and constant levels of engagement are valued as a default. In a participatory design endeavour together with people outside of the scope of traditional body focused devices and applications, I want to find out alternatives to the normative design they currently embody. A body-positive fitness tracker, for example, acknowledges the different goals different people might have when self- tracking. As a critical design intervention, the project raises practical questions about the normative assumptions built into self- tracking technologies and serves as a reflection for developers and researchers.

A drawing of a stylised, naked, fat person working out.