Press start: Games Research Group launches at the University of Lincoln

Posted by a.hay on 29 January 2014 - 1:04pm

By Patrick Dickinson, Senior Lecturer, School of Computer Science, University Of Lincoln.

This article is part of our series: a day in the software life, in which we ask researchers from all disciplines to discuss the tools that make their research possible.

Computer games are a big part of our lives. The size of the world games market is set to grow to $78 billion by 2017. In the UK, 40% of people have played games in the last twelve months. In other words, computer games and their role in society warrant serious research.

With this in mind, the University of Lincoln will launch the Games Research Group (CRG) on 13 March 2014 at the AHRC Creative Economy Showcase. The group's aim is to bring together staff and students to work on a wide range of research. For example, we will look into the role of social computing in how games are played, and how autonomous systems can be used to improve gameplay. We will also work on vision engineering, which is in the news right now thanks to the motion sensor design of the Xbox One.

One of the main tools we use right now is the Kinect, which is a platform that has grown quickly. I use the latest version (1.8) with Visual Studio Express for test projects that use C#. We will soon beta test Kinect v2. We work with the Android SDK for games on tablets and phones. Eclipse is the IDE that we prefer, and we teach the game engine Unity at undergraduate level. As a rule, we make game assets with Blender, the free and open-source graphics suite, and 3ds Max for three dimensional modelling and animation. For code projects, we need a strong version control system, so we use GitHub. Other technologies we study are the Oculus Rift VR headset, and the augmented reality platform Vuforia. Our website uses the Commons in a Box plugin to link up with other social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

The GRG’s first project will be funded by the AHRC on the theme of Performance and Games. The project will be cross disciplinary: one of its key members is Kate Sicchio, who is Lincoln’s BA Dance Programme Leader. She has been working with SoCS Reader Duncan Rowland for some time. Our partners on the project are Exeter’s Gabriella Giannachi and the Mixed Reality Lab, based at Nottingham. Also, the UK games trade body TIGA and the Australian culture body, Arts Queensland.

The next step for us will be our first workshop event. This will take place in Lincoln, in March 2014. We have yet to confirm the date, but it will look at a wide range of subjects. These will include mixed reality performances, audience and interaction, gaming for the disabled and physical games in the museum and playground. For more details, go to our website and Twitter feed for regular updates.

All in all, the GRG will build wide collaborations across the world and lead to some really innovative new projects. The games will be fun too…