Academic staff at VU University Amsterdam’s Network Institute and the University of Amsterdam’s Master’s programme in Game Studies have created a new platform. A group of researchers working in the field of Applied Gaming. This involves the creation of computer games for uses other than pure entertainment.
Last year, Dr Tibor Bosse (Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence at VU University Amsterdam) spent a few months working at Science Park in the context of an exchange project. There, he met Dr Sander Bakkes (Graduate School of Informatics, Game Studies, University of Amsterdam), a researcher who, like Bosse himself, is very active in the field of Applied Gaming. Both men shared the conviction that there is a need for a cooperative group of researchers, taking different approaches to this topic. Together they founded a new platform: the Amsterdam Applied Gaming Research Community. 'We wanted to combine expertise from a range of different academic disciplines. Applied Gaming is a ‘hot topic’ and the Netherlands is a major international player in this field.'
According to Dr Bosse, the majority of the researchers involved have a background in Computer Science. In addition, a significant number of the platform’s members are affiliated either with the Center for Creation, Content and Technology (CCCT) or with the Network Institute. 'In developing games, our aim is to make them look as realistic as possible, with lifelike characters and plausible discussions.'
However, the group does not rule out the possibility of extending their work to other domains. 'Individuals from a range of academic disciplines have expressed an interest in Applied Gaming. Human movement researchers, for example, are focusing on how games can be used to get people to take more exercise. Humanities researchers are currently exploring games that train the hearing impaired, to stimulate their hearing. And psychologists want to identify the effects of games,' says Tibor Bosse.
He, himself, is currently heading a gaming project for Amsterdam's public transport operator (GVB), in which public transport staff learn how to deal with aggression. Together with a group of colleagues, he developed a game that creates a virtual world for tram conductors. 'It looks just like the inside of a tram. Passengers step in and out, talk to one another, or get angry. The tram conductors then have to decide how to deal with this. During the game, they can indicate their actions by answering multiple choice questions. If they select the appropriate option, then the virtual passengers calm down.' And if they make the wrong choice? 'Then the virtual doll will get very angry indeed.'
Now that the platform is up and running, the focus is on how to proceed. 'The most important thing is that each member now knows who to call,' says Dr Bosse. 'As part of the effort to enhance our public profile, we will soon be launching a website. We plan to attend the Innovation Exchange Amsterdam (IXA) meeting in May, to discuss possible alliances with the company representatives attending that event.' Another reason for the platform’s existence is to jointly apply for grant support. After all, this will help to further their research into the specific factors needed to make games as effective as possible.