Gaming culture is widespread at the University of Waterloo, but it’s not just about racking up a high score, going undefeated in a player vs. player scenario, or unlocking new levels. Gaming is helping researchers in The Games Institute solve everyday, real-world challenges. The institute’s director, English professor Neil Randall, is bringing students from all over campus together, ranging from English to the social sciences, engineering, computer science, and even the health sciences. These students share an interest in gaming and their focus is to create new, innovative, and fun ways to address issues through the use of gaming.
The Games Institute is equipped with spaces that are designed to test different aspects of gaming culture and much of that research explores what happens when we game together in groups or when we are completely immersed in one particular game. By bringing together students and professors from a range of disciplines, the research becomes more meaningful, taking on multiple points of view.
Research being conducted in the institute ranges in subject matter, despite the commonality of gaming. For example, one project underway is using games to help individuals, especially children, with complex issues like food allergies, making the process of monitoring these health concerns simple to understand. Another project is designed to assist policy makers with complicated decision-making processes, testing solutions in a risk-free environment.
As professor Neil Randall explains, this kind of research is important because games get people around a table and facilitate the exchange of ideas through play. Instead of pushing through a brainstorming session, games can guide that process and make it more effective. Likewise, games have the ability to help us address a multitude of challenges, from communication, to health, to public policy.
Interested in finding out more about the Games Institute? Check out their weekly online publication First Person Scholar. The online publication focuses on humanities-based games studies, examining gender in games, gamer controversy, narrative in games, and how individuals experience games.
Visit the Games Institute website