GALA 2021 Keynotes & Panel discussion


Title: Evaluating Gameplay Experience: Beyond Questionnaires

Speaker: Professor Effie Lai-Chong Law

Abstract:  Gameplay experiences are typically evaluated with questionnaires, given the introspective nature of perceptions and responses in relation to game-based interactions.  A plethora of such questionnaires, standardized as well as home-grown, has been developed in the last fifteen years.  While some proved robust with excellent psychometric properties, some entail more systematic scrutiny to ensure their power as a scientific tool. In this talk, I will present one example of the former and another of the latter to reflect on their implications for the game research community.  Nonetheless, using questionnaire as a gameplay experience evaluation method, whilst flexible and efficient, has limitations. Complementing subjective self-reported data with objective psycho-physiological ones is deemed desirable or even essential for specific target groups of specific games in specific contexts. To illustrate this concept, I will report an empirical study where we have evaluated young children’s cognitive strategies when playing with a tablet-based educational game with the eye tracking methodology and their emotional responses with video analysis. In fact, going beyond questionnaires has even stronger relevance to the burgeoning eXtended Reality (XR) games. I will explore the potential of automatic multisensory emotion analysis, thanks to the advances of machine learning methods, for evaluating holographic experiences.  

Biography: Professor Effie Lai-Chong Law is a full professor of computer science, specialising in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Durham University, UK. Before joining Durham, Effie was a full professor in HCI at the University of Leicester. Effie’s long-term research focus is  usability and user experience (UX) methodologies that are applied to make interactive systems  easy and enjoyable to use for meeting user needs and goals. Her recent research areas are Affective Computing, Conversational AI, and Mixed Reality.

Effie has  been engaged in game-based research since 2008 when she contributed to designing a digital educational game (DEG), 80 Days (funded by EU, for enabling children aged 12 to 14 years old to learn geometry. Since then, she has  contributed to creating other DEGs for children on food nutrition, basic numeracy, and geometric shapes, and for university students to learn programming skills In addition, she has been involved in the project ‘Law in Children’s Lives’ (funded by ESRC)  where a game was deployed as a research tool to understand children’s legal competence.

Effie is an Editorial Board Member of Interacting with Computers (IwC),  International Journal of Human-Computer Studies (IJHCS), and Quality and User Experience).  Effie has been involved in a number of national and international research projects. Currently, she is involved in the following projects:

  •  Augmented Reality Interactive Educational Systems (ARETE), EU H2020, 2019-2023
  • Trustworthy Autonomous Systems Verifiability Node (TAS), UKRI, 2020 – 2024
  • Personalized Space Technology Exercise Platform (P-STEP,) European Space Agency/UKSA/NHS, 2021-2023

Effie was the first female Professor to be appointed to the School of Informatics.

Title: Games as Experimental Paradigms: What action games can tell us about the acquisition of expertise in complex dynamic tasks

Speaker: Professor Wayne D. Gray

Abstract: We view action games as experimental paradigms for cognitive psychology. For these purposes, the best are those requiring significant amount of time to master.  What occurs in that time can provide key insights into the acquisition of dynamic task performance. We begin our talk with a brief survey of games in research starting with the pioneering work of the Loftus’ and Sudnow. In a nod to our audience, we then dwell lightly on Donchin’s work creating and using Space Fortress as a tool to study learning strategies. We remain with Space Fortress long enough to discuss Rahman & Gray’s use Space Fortress data in support of the Plateau, Dips, and Leaps approach to understanding skill acquisition. Of course, we need to discuss our work with 492 hours of undergraduate play and about 170 hrs of play from the Classic Tetris World Championships (2020). Finally, we make a brief landing on our new work exploring the dynamics of pairwise performance by building a cooperative action game in which pairs of undergraduates play for 2 hrs/wk across 5 weeks of gameplay.

Biography: Professor Wayne D. Gray is professor of Cognitive Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where he founded the CogWorks Laboratory (CWL). 

Gray is a Fellow of the Cognitive Science Society, the Human Factors & Ergonomics Society (HFES), and the American Psychological Association (APA). In 2008, APA awarded him the Franklin V. Taylor Award for Outstanding Contributions in the Field of Applied Experimental & Engineering Psychology. He is a past Chair of the Cognitive Science Society and the founding Chair of the Human Performance Modeling technical group of HFES. At present he is the Executive Editor for the Cognitive Science Society’s first new journal in 30 years, Topics in Cognitive Science (topiCS). In 2012, he was elected a Fellow by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and spent his sabbatical in research at the Max Planck Institute Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition (ABC) in Berlin. Most recently, he received an IBM Faculty Award from IBM’s Cognitive Systems Institute.

Today his research focuses on detailed studies of longitudinal changes in individual human performance — especially performance in dynamic, real-time tasks — tasks in which even hesitating requires a decision to hesitate. These types of tasks require us to focus on the mind’s eye and the mind’s hand (that is, the interaction of perception, action, and cognition) within dynamic, externally-paced, task environments.

Panel discussion: Crisis management, emergency response and pandemic games


Dr. Margaret Polski (US Naval War College)

Dr. Polski is an Associate Professor in the War Gaming Department at the U.S. Naval War College. Reporting to the Chairman, she serves as lead analyst for analytic war games examining strategic and operational concepts and plans. Dr. Polski has provided analysis and research at home and abroad to address a wide range of contemporary national security decision making and operational problems since 2004. She has field experience in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, and has hosted high-level foreign delegations from over 20 countries. Dr. Polski holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in Political Science from Indiana University, a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University, and a Bachelor of Elected Studies from the University of Minnesota. Her research training and publications are focused on understanding strategic behavior in complex physical and social systems, and includes work in experimental design, game theory, cognitive neuroscience, and computational social science. Dr. Polski’s current research interests are related to governing heterogeneous systems. Currently, Dr. Polski Co-Chairs a NATO Systems Analysis Study research task group on innovation in analytical war gaming. She is a member of the Center for Advanced Pathogen Threat and Response Simulation (CAPTRS) advisory board, an affiliate Research Fellow in the Center for Neuroeconomics at George Mason University, and a member of the Military Operations Research Society’s war gaming community of practice. Dr. Polski has served as a consultant to the Science, Technology, and Economic Policy Board of the U.S. National Academies, and regularly serves as a research review panel member for the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Prof. Lauren Ancel Meyers (University of Texas – CAPTRS)

Prof. Meyers is a professor of biology and statisticsa at the University of Texas at Austin and the founding director of the UT COVID-19 Modeling Consortium. Trained in mathematics, philosophy and biology at Harvard and Stanford, she is internationally recognized for her two decades of
pioneering works in network epidemiology and the application of machine learning to improve the detection, surveillance, forecasting and control of emerging viral threats including COVID-19, pandemic influenza, Dengue, Zika, HIV and Ebola. She has built pandemic decision-support tools for the CDC, BARDA, DTRA and state and local agencies, and has provided global leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Meyers was named as one of the top 100 global innovators under age 35 by the MIT Technology Review in 2004 and received the Joseph Lieberman Award for Significant Contributions to Science in 2017.  

Mr Bruce Clements (MPH, Texas Division of Emergency Management)

Bruce Clements is a Section Chief for Region 6 at the Texas Division of Emergency Management with responsibility for Recovery and Mitigation across 43 counties in central and south Texas. He has worked in emergency management, public health, and healthcare roles for over 30 years. He served as the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Deputy Director for Hurricane Harvey Recovery in Texas and spent eight years as the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Director at the Texas Department of State Health Services where he was responsible for Texas public health and medical preparedness and response programs. He previously held the same position for the state of Missouri. In the Healthcare Sector, Bruce has worked as the Chief Operating Officer and Interim President for Pediatric Healthcare Connection in Austin, Texas, and served as an Infection Control Occupational Health Intervention Manager at BJC Healthcare in St. Louis, Missouri. His military experience includes over 23 years of service with assignments as a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense Instructor and as a Public Health Officer in the United States Air Force. He also volunteered for the Missouri Task Force 1, Urban Search and Rescue Team and the Missouri-1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team. Bruce was a co-founder and Associate Director of the Institute for Biosecurity at the Saint Louis University, College for Public Health and Social Justice. He holds a Master of Public Health degree from Saint Louis University and has undergraduate degrees in Disaster Preparedness, Bioenvironmental Engineering, and Business Administration. He is a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM®) through the International Association of Emergency Managers, has lectured extensively on public health emergency management topics, and published articles and books on public health and healthcare systems emergency management.

Mr Willem Verdaasdonk (Netherlands Organisation of Applied Scientific Research – TNO)

Willem is a scientific innovator at TNO within the department Networked Organisations. He has an educational background in International Studies (BA) and Crisis and Security Management (M.Sc). He has previously worked as a crisis management consultant, utilizing crisis simulation games to train and advise governmental and private organisations in order to improve their crisis response capabilities. He also worked as a senior tutor for the B.Sc. Security Studies at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs at Leiden University. Building on his keen interest in serious games, he developed a specialised course to guide students in the creation of strategic crisis management games. In his present capacity at TNO, Willem’s main focus and area of expertise is the development of (war)games for governmental agencies in the Netherlands and Europe.