University of Canterbury Breaks Barriers with Gaming

Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC) will host the 55th International Simulation and Gaming Association (ISAGA) conference in July this year. The organisation is one of the oldest communities of researchers and practitioners in the field of simulation gaming worldwide.

UC Associate Professor Heide Lukosch is responsible for bringing the conference to Christchurch, with support from ChristchurchNZ and Tourism New Zealand Business Events. She says the conference theme, 'Simulation Gaming Across Borders' references cultural and regional borders, but also barriers of gender, discipline, or skill. Importantly, she hopes the conference will address how use of simulation gaming will address these issues, and how they can be used to connect communities, people, and disciplines in tackling the great challenges of society.

"Simulation games are a common instrument for policy and decision making in many countries already and are being used by organisations and governments to visualise the human factor in complex socio-technical systems. We can use game technology to create a simplified representation of a complex problem," Associate Professor Lukosch says.

"This approach is relatively new to Aotearoa, so with this conference New Zealand-based researchers will be able to learn from the international community."

A lot of this impactful research and development is already underway through UC's Human Interface Technology Laboratory (HIT Lab NZ) and its Applied Immersive Gaming Initiative (AIGI), the School of Product Design, and teachings available through the University's Bachelor of Digital Screen (Hons).

"Many people think of games as just a form of entertainment, but there is a whole branch of game design dedicated to 'Applied Games' and 'Serious Games' which leverage the engaging, entertaining, and motivational nature of games to help people understand complex problems, interact and empathise with others within the experience and story of the game, while working to find solutions to complex problems through defined rules," says Acting Head of UC's School of Product Design, Associate Professor Adrian Clark.

"UC is a great choice for the ISAGA conference, with its Bachelor of Digital Screen (Hons) programme with majors in Game Development and Game Arts, and HIT Lab NZ's AIGI programme," he says.

"Students can study all the way from first year undergraduate through to Masters and PhD, learning about Game Design, Game Development, Game Arts, Storytelling, as they prepare to become future experts in game development both for entertainment, as well as for serious purposes."

Associate Professor Lukosch says highlights of the ISAGA conference will include game workshops, where participants will be able to gather hands-on experience and learn with and from each other and the opportunity to check out UC's HIT Lab NZ.

Keynote speakers of the conference include Associate Professor Lukosch, Senior Lecturer in Civil and Natural Resources Engineering Dr Tom Logan, CEO of Geo AR Games Melanie Langlotz and more.

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