Academic Game Development

Professionalizing the Creation of Video Games for Research Purposes

Welcome to the 2nd Workshop on Academic Game Development ("AcaDev 2.0") - held on April 11, 2023 as part of the FDG 2023 conference (Lisbon, Portugal).

Academic game development is the creation of applied (or "serious") games for research purposes. The academic context brings unique challenges and opportunities to this environment. Join us for a day of getting into the weeds of academic game development and shaping the discourse surrounding it.

Like last time, the workshop focuses on a shared discourse between participants. We pick up some of the threads of the last workshop for further development together:

  • Developing under an academic schedule

  • Aligning of development and research goals

  • Differences in game literacy and development expectations

The workshop aims to develop publishable insights into academic games from the experiences of those actively involved in their development. To that end, we aim to record workshop discussions and encourage participants to collaborate with us on shared publications on this topic.

In a Nutshell

  • Workshop date: Tuesday April 11, 2023 (full day)

  • Hybrid workshop; in-person participation is highly encouraged.

  • Focus on group discussions; no need to prepare a presentation.

  • Participants are encouraged to submit post-mortem papers on academic game developments. More information below.

  • Post-mortem submissions are not a requirement to participate in the workshop.

  • To join the workshop, fill in this short form.

  • To submit a post-mortem paper, open this link to EasyChair and select "Workshop on Academic Game Development". Do not forget to also register for the workshop using the form above.

Call for Post-Mortem Papers

As part of the workshop, we encourage submitting post-mortem papers about games developed in an academic context. This includes games made for research purposes or the development of games in an academic faculty (e.g. for training purposes).

Submission Details

  • Submitted papers should range between 2 and 8 pages (excluding references) in double-column format.

  • Papers must follow conventions of the FDG conference; anonymized and in ACM SIGCONF format (see here)

  • Strict submission deadline: January 27, 2023 (before midnight, AoE timezone).

  • Notification of acceptance by March 3, 2023.

  • Papers are subject to double-blind peer review process.

  • Accepted papers are published as part of the FDG 2023 proceedings.

  • Authors of accepted papers are expected to attend the workshop.

  • Authors should remove the ACM preamble from their camera-ready manuscripts.

What is a Post-Mortem?

A post-mortem is an established practice in industries where projects comprise defining scope and goals, conducting design activities, and carrying out implementation and production. A post-mortem is usually an internal study of a project meant to codify and analyze informal knowledge attained by developers in one project to make that knowledge available for subsequent projects in the same company.

In video games, there are also public post-mortems, as opposed to internal studio post-mortems. Here, the post-mortem works as a critical reflection on the part of the practitioner or creator. The trade magazine Gamasutra (currently Game Developer) regularly publishes post-mortems by developers. Successive editions of the Game Developer’s Conference (GDC) have featured developers giving post-mortem talks. Public post-mortems have also been published in scholarly books to reflect on more artistically-driven game projects, for instance, the ‘The Mechanic is the Message’ series. In this role, post-mortems turn informal project knowledge into critical public discourse for the medium, advancing the understanding of the medium.

A public post-mortem brings together critical reflection, practical issues, and approaches to deal with those issues. The post-mortem answers several questions about a project. What was this about? What did it set out to achieve? What were the possible approaches? Which approach was chosen? Why? How did it go? What was unexpected? What are the lessons learned? How will it be done next time? In what way did the project achieve its goals? To what extent? What are the implications, looking back?

For academic game development, the post-mortem deals with tensions between game development and scholarly efforts. It explores the chosen game design approach and research design approach, why they were chosen, how their implementation went, and what alternate paths could have been explored. Unexpected challenges, for instance, ethical or experimental control issues with participants and informants and their solutions, should be carefully framed against the scope and intent of the study.

An academic game development post-mortem is not a mere report or even a white paper. It problematizes the project, explores that problem space, critically reflects on what could have been done differently, and provides an empirical account of practice.

Overall, an academic post-mortem is a communication in design research taken as a research method.

Workshop Platforms

We use Discord and Miro to support interfacing between online and offline participants. If you are joining the workshop online, please make sure that you have a (free) account on Discord. A Miro account is not required; a guest link with edit permissions will be distributed shortly before the workshop.

About the Organizers

  • Marcello A. Gómez Maureira (University of Twente) — Game researcher and developer working on game user research. Originally trained as game artist and designer, he worked in that capacity for commercial projects before focusing on research and education involving video games. His motivation to organize this workshop is to develop a better understanding between different fields and interests that come together when games are made for research purposes.

  • Giulio Barbero (Leiden University) — Former industrial design engineer and PhD researcher in the areas of social cognition, game design and artificial intelligence. His research involves programming education processes using video games. He teaches programming courses and supervises theses involving education and gamification. He wants to organize this workshop to bring together specialists in the field and stimulate meaningful conversation on the topic.

  • Isabelle Kniestedt (TU Delft / University of Twente) — Game developer and researcher, currently managing an applied gaming project while finishing her PhD. She has lectured game courses at Leiden University. Her interest lies in the potential of games as tools for change, by using their emotional impact to stimulate thought and behavior. Trained as a game artist and animator, she has taken on various roles in applied gaming projects.

  • Pedro Neves (Lusófona University) — Assistant professor at ECATI, the School of Communication, Architecture, Arts and Information Technologies at Lusófona, where he lectures on game design and interactive narratives in the Game Development undergraduate degree and in the Masters in Game Design and Playable Media (of which he is the co-director).

    Pedro has an MA in digital game design, and his PhD thesis focused on agency in games. As a researcher with HEI-Lab (Human-environment Interaction Design Lab), Pedro works to bring game design more fully into therapeutic and occupational games. Pedro is the principal researcher on the PlayersAll: Media Agency and Empowerment exploratory project funded by the FCT (portuguese national science foundation) under grant EXPL/COM-OUT/0882/2021. PlayersAll studies how game development for therapeutic purposes can treat patients more fully as players rather than just seeking instrumental health outcomes.

  • Carla Sousa (Lusófona University) — Assistant Professor in the Lusófona games degree and the psychology degree and a Researcher with CICANT (Centre For Research In Applied Communication, Culture, And New Technologies). Carla has a background in psychology and holds a PhD in Communication Sciences from Lusófona, and her thesis dealt with game accessibility as a path to empower and promote well-being in individuals with intellectual disability. Her main research targets are the different intersections between media, with a particular focus on games, inclusion, behavior, and human diversity.

  • Arianna Boldi (University of Torino) — Psychologist and PhD researcher in HCI and Psychology. Arianna has multiple interests in the game field, such as studying social behaviors in video games, designing experimental games to study cognitive factors, and investigating the use of COTS games to satisfy people psychological needs. Her interest in organizing the workshop is to bridging the gap between academics and professionals with different backgrounds working on the development of games for research purposes.

  • Mike Preuss (Leiden University) — Assistant Professor at LIACS, the computer science institute at Leiden University. Previously, he was with ERCIS (the information systems institute of WWU Muenster), and before with the Chair of Algorithm Engineering at TU Dortmund, where he received his PhD on evolutionary algorithms for multimodal optimization. His current research focuses on Game AI algorithms and their application to real world problems. Mike’s interest in the workshop is to investigate approaches to make and use games in educational or application contexts.