torstai 5. kesäkuuta 2014

Research Design of Up Your Game Network (Jukka Vahlo)

University of Turku (UTU) has a lot to offer for interdisciplinary game research. I learned this during Autumn 2013 when I started to work with my first game-research oriented project plan for Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation aka Tekes. At the time, Tekes organized a call for strategic research projects on "Reward Homeostasis", that is Mielihyvätasapaino on Finnish. The call emphasized e.g. perspectives of perceived wellbeing, development of new methods for measuring reward mechanisms as well as novel views on business development. 

My task as an employee of Centre for Collaborative Research (CCR) at School of Economics was to explore whether CCR could plan and submit an interdisciplinary research proposal for the call. As CCR aims to collaborate with both private and public sectors and gather adequate research expertise for the needs of companies and public partners, I needed to figure out what kind of UTU based approach could be suitable in this context.

I decided to find out how UTU researchers would react to an idea to plan a game oriented research. Game approach was interesting for me personally and also for CCR because game research combines perspectives of several research traditions. Game studies can e.g. lean towards cultural, art, media and history studies, economics or information technology and information systems science. On the other hand, it was known that the number of game companies in Turku was growing fast. Moreover, emotions and feelings such as joy, fear, frustration and amusement are crucial to any memorable gaming experience. For these reasons, it seemed that a game based approach could have been designed for Reward Homeostasis call for strategic research.

As I booked meetings with UTU experts representing information systems science, economics, neurology and psychiatry, I quickly understood that there was a larger interest towards interdisciplinary game research than I dared to hope. Practically every expert indicated that he/she was interested in discussing about future game research cooperation. I decided to continue with these meetings and plan the reward homeostasis project alongside with networking. Next I met people from cognitive psychology, evolutionary biology, information technology, creative writing, nursing science, law, education, digital culture, history and media, art and cultural studies. This roadshow confirmed that University of Turku was already very active in game research, although most of the researchers working on the field did not know about each other. I also realized that game research was even more multidisciplinary than I had thought. Although game studies tend to combine several academic doctrines, it is rare also for game research to combine e.g. medical sciences, cultural sciences, economics and biology within a single project.

In the end, our proposal for reward homeostasis call was redirected to Skene – Games refueled programme by Tekes. But the networking process continued nevertheless. CCR decided to apply for regional development funding from City of Turku for establishing an interdisciplinary game research network Up Your Game (UYG). City of Turku granted funding for this purpose and so the network was founded in February 2014. The objective of the network is to design and launch new interdisciplinary game research projects based on the expertise of UTU. The network has three overlapping themes called CORE, HEALTH and LEARN.

In April 2014, I participated in Critical Evaluations of Game Studies seminar at Tampere, organized by Tampere Game Research Lab. Amongst other highly interesting themes, the seminar participants discussed about the multidisciplinarity / interdisciplinarity / transdisciplinarity of contemporary game studies. Sebastian Deterding from Rochester Institute of Technology gave a presentation about designerly future of game studies as an interdiscipline. He referred in his presentation to Prasad Boradkar's book Designing Things: A Critical Introduction to the Culture of Objects (2010) and showed Boradkar's model of interdisciplinary in design (2010, 283). Deterding underlined that the differences between design and game studies are profound regardless of the several similarities between these two fields of academic research. Be it as it may, research design is an important part of any interdisciplinary game-based research project.

The research design of Up Your Game network can be presented with a graph based on a modificated version of Boradkar's model:
Figure 1: Up Your Game Research Design model

CORE approach of UYG network includes media studies, cultural studies and digital culture, cultural history and art studies as well as economics, law, information technology and information systems science. HEALTH approach includes e.g. medical sciences, nursing science, neurology and experimental psychology. And LEARN includes education, social studies, pedagogy and, to some extent, psychology. The purpose of UYG network is to design new game-based research by combining elements, and by bringing together the experts of CORE, HEALTH and LEARN. By doing so, UYG aims to identify the needs of both game industry and other industries interested in utilizing game-based approach in remodeling their services in e.g. health care or education. UYG does not emphasize any field of research in designing future game research projects. The principle of the network is to remain very organic.

Figure 2. An example how an imaginery UYG research project could be presented with the UYG research design model. This project, for example, would be based on games for learning approach which includes also game development and business model research

UYG's view on development of game studies is pragmatic: the network will design interdisciplinary research projects which will hopefully put in motion also new academic discussion about the interconnections between game studies and other fields of academic research. If successful, the network may, in the words by Sebastian Deterding, enable and bridge epistemological pluralism within the framework of interdisciplinary game research.


On behalf of Up Your Game network,

Jukka Vahlo
Programme Manager / CCR

Ps. UYG network is open for new researcher, companies and others interested in possibilities of interdisciplinary game research and development. Please be in contact to join the network

UYG Writing webiste is a forum for sharing thoughts and research findings and publishing blog-type texts about e.g. gaming culture and related events. Please feel free to suggest your text for publishing!

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