Outside the box: how to think like games designers

Members of the University of Lincoln’s Performance and Games Network project participated in one of the world’s largest writers’ festivals to help novelists think about how they might be able to create interactive gaming experiences.

Dr Conor Linehan and Dr John Shearer, from the School of Computer Science, were invited to lead a session at the Brisbane Writers Festival, held in September 2014. The event attracts hundreds of writers from all over the world.

Dr Linehan and Dr Shearer together with Dr Kate Sicchio and Richard Wetzel ran a workshop on how to use game design as a way of creating interesting interactive experiences in the real world.

The session focussed on balancing interaction with story, understanding the needs and participation of the audience/user/gamer, and the opportunities to partner with technologists, particularly writers who want to explore the possibilities of games for their creative practice.

Dr Shearer said: “There are lots of different audiences for computer games. We are interested in mixed reality, so what’s happening in both the virtual and real world – where the audience is part of the story. Our purpose at the festival was to talk to novelists about creating new interactive experiences – whether we call them games or not is another matter.”

Writers who joined the team for public talks and panels included Greg Broadmore, an illustrator, writer and conceptual designer for Weta Workshop who has designed for the likes of District 9 and King Kong; and Jeffrey Yohalem, lead writer on Assasin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Far Cry 3.

The visit to Australia was part of the Performance and Games Network project, which is led by the University of Lincoln, and aims to bring together games developers, performance practitioners and academics to explore new concepts in the design and creation of movement-based games.

The project is being sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), as part of a wider initiative to develop the creative industries and put Britain back at the forefront of creative technology. It is also supported by Arts Queensland. For more information on the project go to http://performance-games.lincoln.ac.uk/

Dr Linehan, who also presented a keynote address at the festival, said: “This project is about bringing the disciplines together. We are involved in those cutting-edge conversations about the future of videogames. The project is about exploring how we can make more meaningful and interesting games with more complex narratives.”

Over a series of workshops, performance practitioners and academics will participate directly in the game creation process through a series of workshop activities. This will drive development of new performance-led game mechanics, and playful audience interactions, which will inspire new types of experience in contemporary gaming platforms.

The Brisbane Writers Festival was the second of three inter-disciplinary workshops, with the third taking place on 27th and 28th October at the Mixed Reality Lab in Nottingham.

The Network is now exploring potential collaboration with Film School at Griffith University and Queensland University of Technology, both in Brisbane.

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