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Author Archives: Matthew Lombard

Call: Chapters for “Game User Experience and Player-Centered Design”

Call for Chapters

Game User Experience and Player-Centered Design

Editor: Barbaros Bostan, Bahcesehir University, Game Design Department, Turkey.

Planned to be published by Springer

Long Abstract Submission Deadline: May 15, 2019

User Experience (UX) is a branch of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) interested in improving the quality of the interaction between the user and the product. When applied to the rapidly growing billion dollar game industry, it becomes the Game User Experience or Player Experience (PX) that focus on the relationship between the player and the game. Game User Experience, the individual and personal experience of playing games, is a complex construct composed of behavioral, psychological and physiological levels. The complexity of the concept also effects the measurement of it, which has different approaches with differing strengths and weaknesses. The lack of consistent set of methods and tools that enable the measurement of entertainment experiences is one of the main challenges the Games User Research (GUR) community faces.

Therefore, a better understanding of the player experience is crucial for game designers and researchers: (1) to identify the basic components of game user experience for different members of the industry such as graphics experts, game designers and storytellers, (2) to specify the elements that can shape the game development cycle according to players’ preferences using a player-centered design approach, (3) to identify the impact of game user experience not only on the entertainment but also on the educational value of a game (4) to explain the evolution in the nature and measurement of game user experience with the introduction of new technologies such as VR and AR, (5) and to evaluate and to validate the different techniques for measuring the game user experience.

This book will provide an introduction and overview of the rapidly evolving topic of game user experience, presenting the new perspectives employed by researchers and the industry, and highlighting the recent empirical findings that illustrate the nature of it. This book will aim: (1) to provide a snapshot on research approaches/advances in game user experience, (2) to discuss issues, solutions, challenges, and needs for a better understanding of game experience in terms of the academic domains of HCI, psychology, human factors and game studies, and (3) to report recent research findings as well as industry case studies from both social sciences and engineering perspectives.

Special topics of interest for this book are:

  • The evolution of game user experience in the new era of VR and AR
  • The impact of game user experience on the game development cycles
  • The relationship between game user experience and player enjoyment
  • The exploration of game user experience in educational games
  • Coverage of the user-centered design (UCD) principles in games

Recommended topics include, but are not limited to, the following: Read more on Call: Chapters for “Game User Experience and Player-Centered Design”…

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Parallux’s “Cave” at Tribeca: Are collective shared experiences the future of virtual reality?

[The VR company Parallux has created a new type of shared presence experience for audiences, as reported in this story from Techradar. See the original story for more pictures, and for more information see the NYU news release and an interview in No Proscenium. The Hollywood Reporter has a rundown of the VR-AR programming at the upcoming Tribeca Film Festival. –Matthew]

Are shared experiences the future of virtual reality?

By Catherine Ellis
April 23, 2019

VR is traditionally a lonely experience. After slipping on a headset, you’re typically isolated (even if you’re sitting in a group), and even multi-person experiences only let two or three people share the same world. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

From April 26 to May 4 at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, virtual reality company Parallux is premiering a new experience that 16 people can watch and enjoy together. The experience, Cave, is a tale set 12,000 years ago when stories were told around fires, harking back to the earliest days of shared storytelling.

“When people will show up at Tribeca, they’ll enter the VR arcade, and our experience cave will be in a separate room there,” explains Sebastian Herscher, CEO of Parallux. “There are going to be 16 headsets on 16 seats, set up in two rows. They’re going to walk in, be asked to sit down and relax, and be introduced to the equipment that we’re using, just as a little bit of onboarding.

“Then they’re going to put on their headset, and the moment that they put it on they are going to be transported to the world space of Cave.”

When a member of the audience looks left or right, they’ll be able to see virtual representations of the people sitting either side of them. These won’t just be placeholders, either – each avatar will follow the movements of the person it represents, turning its head in the same direction and ‘looking’ wherever he or she does.

“On top of that, every seat has a unique viewpoint, like a theater,” Herscher says. “So the person on the left side of the audience is having a very different experience and a different viewpoint than a person on the right side of the audience. They are then going to sit back watch our short, and then take off the headset and mosey on out just like a theater or a movie.” Read more on Parallux’s “Cave” at Tribeca: Are collective shared experiences the future of virtual reality?…

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Call: International Conference for Interactive Digital Storytelling (ICIDS) 2019

Call for Papers

International Conference for Interactive Digital Storytelling (ICIDS) 2019
November 19-23, 2019
Snowbird, Utah, USA

Conference website:

Paper & Poster submission deadline: July 12th, 2019

ICIDS is the premier conference for researchers and practitioners concerned with studying digital interactive forms of narrative from a variety of perspectives, including theoretical, technological, and applied design lenses. The annual conference is an interdisciplinary gathering that combines technology-focused approaches with humanities-inspired theoretical inquiry, empirical research and artistic expression.

With this 12th edition of the conference, ICIDS continues into its second decade. The field of interactive narrative has now coalesced into a recognizable entity. This year’s organizers take this editionyear as an opportunity to expand on previously identified topics, related to this year’s special theme:


This year’s conference features a special theme of “Design Foundations, Innovations, and Practices.” In addition to topics covered by previous iterations of ICIDS, the conference program will feature topic areas that focus on principles of design, advancements in the design lifecycle, and design process case studies for interactive storytelling.

This theme broadens prior topic areas within which we expand our design understanding.

  • We target principles of design through:
    • HUMAN FACTORS via work on understanding cognitive and affective aspects of interactive storytelling, and
    • THEORETICAL FOUNDATIONS via work on the design of storyworlds writ large.
  • We target advancements in the design lifecycle through:
    • TECHNOLOGY via work on the role of digital game technologies in interactive storytelling, and
    • CULTURAL AND SOCIETAL IMPACT via work on the ethical, moral, social, and policy issues surrounding the design of interactive storytelling artifacts, including (but not limited to) issues surrounding representation, purposive interactive stories and games, and procedural rhetoric.
  • We target design process case studies through:
    • INTERACTIVE DIGITAL NARRATIVE PRACTICES AND APPLICATIONS via work on industry production practices, live-action role-playing systems, and the use of interactive storytelling for learning and as tools for teaching.

Submissions are therefore invited on the following topics, which are understood as broad and inclusive of additional topics not mentioned here explicitly. Read more on Call: International Conference for Interactive Digital Storytelling (ICIDS) 2019…

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Treating anhedonia: Using VR and presence to boost positive feelings in patients with depression

[In addition to describing new research on the use of presence to treat a specific symptom of depression, this story from STAT provides a link-rich summary of its use in other aspects of mental health care. –Matthew]

Can virtual reality boost positive feelings in patients with depression?

By Megan Thielking
April 22, 2019

Michelle Craske is asking patients to dive into coral reefs, ride on bullet trains rushing past pine trees, and cheer on soccer teams from the stands — at least virtually — in a bid to tackle a symptom long sidelined in depression treatment.

The University of California, Los Angeles, psychiatry researcher and her colleagues are testing whether virtual reality can curb anhedonia, a symptom of depression and other serious mental health conditions that’s marked by a lack of interest or ability to feel pleasure. They’re putting patients into pleasant scenarios — like a stroll through a sun-soaked forest while piano music plays — and coaching them to pay close attention to the positive parts. The idea is to help patients learn to plan positive activities, take part in them, and soak up the good feelings in the process.

It’s an unconventional strategy — not just for its use of virtual reality, but also for how it approaches a patient’s symptoms. Treatments for depression and other serious mental health conditions primarily target negative symptoms, like hopelessness, sadness, and anxiety — but they often don’t help with the lack of positive feelings that some patients experience.

“Most treatments, up until now, have done an OK job at reducing negative [symptoms of depression], but a very poor job at helping patients become more positive,” said Craske.

There aren’t data yet to determine whether virtual reality treatment can make a meaningful difference in anhedonia. But the technology is increasingly popular in mental health care. Other studies have suggested virtual reality can be useful in easing certain phobias, helping people with psychotic disorders experience less paranoia and anxiety in public settings, and reducing social anxiety.

“It goes to the heart of the very best of psychological therapy — going into environments that cause difficulties and learning different ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving,” said Dr. Daniel Freeman, a University of Oxford psychologist who is studying whether it’s possible to use virtual reality to automate therapy for certain conditions, such as a fear of heights. Researchers elsewhere are using virtual reality for everything from treating PTSD in people who’ve experienced sexual trauma to equipping service members with coping skills they’ll need in combat zones.

“Mental health and the environment are inseparable,” said Freeman. “The brilliant thing about virtual reality is that you can provide simulations in the environment and have people repeatedly go into them,” he added. Read more on Treating anhedonia: Using VR and presence to boost positive feelings in patients with depression…

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Call/Job: Nominations sought for founding editor of Technology, Mind, and Behavior

Call for Nominations

Founding Editor of Technology, Mind, and Behavior

Deadline for nominations:  May 15, 2019

The American Psychological Association (APA) is seeking a founding editor for its new interdisciplinary journal Technology, Mind, and Behavior. The term of the editorship is 2020–2025, with a start-up period in the fall of 2019.


Technology, Mind, and Behavior is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal that will publish original work on human-technology interaction, with a focus on human behavior at the individual or group level.

The journal will showcase basic and applied empirical research on the psychology and dynamics of the interactions between humans and technology. Meta-analyses and literature reviews that summarize the current state of science on a topic will also be accepted.

The scope of the journal will include:

  • BASIC RESEARCH: How humans understand and use technology, impacts of technology on human experience and behavior, human-technology interactions as mutually adaptive systems, role of technology in advancing other areas of scientific research, and related topics
  • APPLICATIONS: Development, use, and impact of technologies in domains such as aging, education, mental and physical health, recreation, and the workplace
  • BROADER IMPLICATIONS: Evidence-based analyses of ethical, legal, social, and policy questions concerning the opportunities and challenges arising from human-technology interactions

Research featured in Technology, Mind, and Behavior may address the full range of contemporary and emerging technologies.

These include but are not limited to

  • artificial intelligence
  • robotics
  • mobile devices
  • social media
  • virtual/augmented reality
  • gaming
  • geographic information systems
  • autonomous vehicles
  • nanotechnology
  • biomedical technologies (e.g., brain-machine interfaces, genetic engineering)

As a digital-only journal, Technology, Mind, and Behavior will implement open access and open science principles and will explore innovative forms of reporting research and interacting with readers.

The goal is to ensure a broad interdisciplinary and international reach and to allow for published research to have maximum impact within academic, business, non-profit, and policy communities.

HOW TO NOMINATE Read more on Call/Job: Nominations sought for founding editor of Technology, Mind, and Behavior…

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Robert Rodriguez’ “The Limit” captures the push and pull between VR’s past and future

[This story from The A.V. Club nicely captures some of the challenges of creating compelling presence experiences using virtual reality. The original story includes the trailer video for “Spheres: Songs Of Spacetime”; for more information about “Spheres” see UniFrance and for more on “Dinner Party” see that film’s website.  –Matthew]

[Image: Robert Rodriguez’s The Limit. Credit: STX Financing, LLC.]

A Robert Rodriguez virtual-reality film captures the push and pull between VR’s past and future

Alex McLevy
April 18, 2019

Unless your name is James Cameron, you’re probably a little skeptical of the recent surge in virtual reality as a medium for storytelling. (And even he wants you to know that what we tend to call “VR” isn’t true VR to Hollywood’s biggest devotee of technological advancements.) For most people, it’s still a limited platform, both cost- and access-wise; the forms of available VR platforms (Oculus, Steam, Vive, Google Play, PS4, etc.) are growing, but the amount of content waiting to greet those who pony up the hundreds of dollars for the necessary equipment isn’t yet commensurate with the investment. The richest source of entertainment in VR, unsurprisingly, is gaming, where the immersive environment is more useful as both a tool and aesthetic enhancement. Games like Superhot and Moss showcase the best the technology has to offer, making the player’s broad control of perspective an essential aspect of the experience.

But when it comes to cinematic narrative alone, harnessing VR’s potential becomes more challenging. It’s not simply that a large portion of a director’s skill lies in guiding the eyes of the viewer exactly where they’d like them to be, and facilitating the transition from one sight to the next at a pace—and in an order—meant to maximize emotional impact, or illuminate a certain element of the frame for tactical purposes. There’s also the fact that almost no one seems to have figured out how to shoot a VR movie in a way that would compensate for the option to move your head and disrupt even the most rudimentary of compositions—essentially throwing the meticulous art of cinematography out the viewer-controlled window.

As a result, a number of creators of VR stories are splitting the difference between filmmaking and games, essentially turning their short-film experiences into more of a theme-park ride than a piece of cinema. The latest and clearest example of this sort of breezy, cheap-seats entertainment is Robert Rodriguez’s The Limit, a 20-minute virtual reality action spectacle that slams the viewer into an adrenaline-fueled race through three major set pieces in service of a simple sci-fi conceit. The viewer assumes the point of view of a mysterious agent imbued with some unknown cybernetic enhancements, who makes contact with an assassin (Michelle Rodriguez) similarly gifted with digital upgrades. The mission: to fight back against the organization that created your character, and is now trying to shut its experiment down. Read more on Robert Rodriguez’ “The Limit” captures the push and pull between VR’s past and future…

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Call: “Uses and Effects of Smart Media: How AI Impacts User Experience” issue of Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Call for Papers

Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media
Special Issue: Uses and Effects of Smart Media: How AI Impacts User Experience

Submission Deadline: November 15, 2019

The increasing integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into digital media technologies has provided additional affordances and altered the nature of user experience, providing new audience engagement and gratification opportunities that meet human needs for information, communication and entertainment in a variety of innovative ways.

Read more on Call: “Uses and Effects of Smart Media: How AI Impacts User Experience” issue of Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media…

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Butterfly World: Gaming and VR for insect and ecosystem conservation

[A computer scientist and a biologist are using presence to teach users about insects and environmental conservation; some of the details are in this press release from EurekAlert!. More information is in their article in Rethinking Ecology, and see the project’s Patreon page for a 2:21 minute video (also available via YouTube; an earlier 1:30 minute YouTube video is also available). –Matthew]

Living room conservation: Gaming & virtual reality for insect and ecosystem conservation

Players explore and search for butterflies using knowledge gained through gameplay

News Release 18-Apr-2019
Pensoft Publishers

Gaming and virtual reality (VR) could bridge the gap between urban societies and nature, thereby paving the way to insect conservation by the means of education, curiosity and life-like participation.

This is what Florida International University‘s team of computer scientist Alban Delamarre and biologist Dr Jaeson Clayborn strive to achieve by developing a VR game (desktop version also available) dedicated to insect and plant species. Focused on imperiled butterflies, their innovative idea: Butterfly World 1.0, is described in the open-access journal Rethinking Ecology.

Butterfly World 1.0 is an adventure game designed to engage its users in simulated exploration and education. Set in the subtropical dry forest of the Florida Keys (an archipelago situated off the southern coast of Florida, USA), Butterfly World draws the players into an immersive virtual environment where they learn about relationships between butterflies, plants, and invasive species. While exploring the set, they interact with and learn about the federally endangered Schaus’ swallowtail butterfly, the invasive graceful twig ant, native and exotic plants, and several other butterflies inhabiting the dry forest ecosystem. Other nature-related VR experiences, including conservation awareness and educational programs, rely on passive observations with minimal direct interactions between participants and the virtual environment.

According to the authors, virtual reality and serious gaming are “the new frontiers in environmental education” and “present a unique opportunity to interact with and learn about different species and ecosystems”. Read more on Butterfly World: Gaming and VR for insect and ecosystem conservation…

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Call: Designing Speech Synthesis for Intelligent Virtual Agents – IVA 2019 Workshop

Call for Papers

Workshop: Designing Speech Synthesis for Intelligent Virtual Agents
At ACM IVA 2019 (
2nd July 2019
Paris, France

Extended submission deadline: April 26, 2019


In this workshop we will look at the elements in an artificial voice that support an embodied (either digital or tangible) and dis-embodied form of an intelligent virtual agent (IVA). In this context the agent can be seen to perform, or act a role, where naturalness of the voice may be subservient to appropriateness, and communicating the character of the agent can be as important as the information it presents. We will introduce the current ways a voice can be made to have character, how this can be designed to fit a specific agent, and how such a voice can be effectively deployed.

The intended audience is academics and industry researchers who are tired of seeing their carefully created conversational agents spoilt by inappropriate speech synthesis voices, and who want to lead the way in which speech synthesis takes into account the design requirements of IVAs. The workshop is not primarily for speech technologists (although they are of course welcome) but rather the engineers and scientists exploring the use of IVAs, and are curious to see how modern speech synthesis can dramatically alter the way such agents are perceived and used.


Attendees are encouraged to also attend the main conference but this is not a requirement. We request those interested to email with the following information by April 26th 2019.

  1. 100-200 word biography and main motivation for attending.
  2. Sketch of an actual or imagined embodied agent that intends to use speech to converse or present dynamic content. The sketch could include pictures, example content and design motivations and could vary from well specified to speculative, from ground breaking to well understood domains. It could be a couple of pages to a paragraph. The pre-designs will be used to help the organizers select and formulate a design challenge of interest to the attendees.

Five of the submissions will be chosen for a short 7 minute + 3 minute question presentation at the workshop. Please` indicate if you would like to be considered for this. The submissions chosen will aim to give a varied and provocative view of potential use cases and speech interface designs. Read more on Call: Designing Speech Synthesis for Intelligent Virtual Agents – IVA 2019 Workshop…

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Vulcan Holodome at TED2019: An immersive 360-degree world… without a headset?

[As this report from the TED2019 blog makes clear, immersive platforms that don’t rely on isolating headsets have important advantages in the creation of (social) presence experiences. The original story includes more images and  for more information Axios has a concise summary, GeekWire has a detailed story about a new interactive, haptic-enhanced game for the Holodome as well as an earlier report on the platform’s debut in Seattle, and a 1:00 minute video that includes viewer reactions is available via YouTube. –Matthew]

[Image: Step up close to, and almost into, the work of Monet, a favorite artist of Vulcan founder Paul Allen. Vulcan brought their new Holodome environment to TED2019: Bigger Than Us, in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Credit: Bret Hartman / TED.]

Vulcan Holodome at TED2019: An immersive 360-degree world… without a headset?

Posted by: TED Staff
April 17, 2019

Have you ever loved a painting so much you wanted to step inside it? While the world of VR is usually utilised to take us to inaccessible locations like the depths of the ocean or the surface of the Moon, Vulcan’s Holodome offers the opportunity to enter the world of an impressionist painting in one of two experiences previewing at TED2019.

Unlike the usual headset-based VR experience, the Holodome is a fully immersive environment you can explore with your fellow adventurers, unhindered by wearable equipment. Inspired by a love of Monet’s works, the late chair of Vulcan, Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, wanted to create a way to step inside them. One where you can walk across the painter’s Poppy Field as it undulates around and beneath you, and Woman with a Parasol disappears over a nearby rise.

“With Holodome, our goal is to transport people into immersive adventures across real and imagined worlds, from the highest mountaintop to an impressionist landscape to the boundaries of space, without the need for mounted headgear,” says Kamal Srinivasan, Vulcan’s director of product management. Read more on Vulcan Holodome at TED2019: An immersive 360-degree world… without a headset?…

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