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About the Project

Page history last edited by Richard Chen 12 years, 2 months ago
HCII Videogame Research Laboratory

Matthew Kam, Derek Lomas et al.

June 20, 2009



Videogames have been culturally pervasive for over 25 years, but recently the multidisciplinary academic study of videogames has made significant progress.  Several peer-reviewed journals and conferences are now devoted to various aspects of videogame research. One of the fastest moving areas in the field is the study of videogames and learning, which is the exclusive topic of several academic conferences. The Human Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) at Carnegie Mellon is regarded by many academics as a leader in the study of videogames and learning.


Other top institutions, such as MIT, Stanford, UC San Diego, UT-Austin, and the Georgia Institute of Technology, have made significant investments in video game research by establishing formal video game research groups and/or creating libraries, archives, and laboratories for videogame research. Following the model of peer institutions, this proposal requests a modest amount of space within Newell-Simon Hall for establishing a secure—but publicly accessible— videogame research area.

A videogame research area would serve three primary functions:

   1. Enable researchers to access a library of video games and game consoles;

   2. Facilitate the development of a videogame research community; and

   3. Enable the recording and analysis of gameplay.


Developing a Videogame Research Library/Laboratory

A semi-public videogame library/laboratory at NSH can facilitate the study of games by giving researchers access to a curated collection of hardware and games.  Awareness of—and access to—cutting edge trends in videogame design could be an important resource for all HCI researchers. Many modern games, such as “Wii Fit”, represent important milestones in interaction design, with their highly innovative, intuitive, and usable interaction conventions.  The rich history of videogame design is broadly relevant to any history of HCI design. If we recognize that videogames have always explored the limits of interactivity within the constraints of a given computational platform, then the history of videogames could be considered an important, if not essential, resource for HCI researchers. 

Recording and Analyzing Gameplay

Videogame interaction designs are currently the subject of intense study within the learning sciences, as videogames have been recognized to be highly motivating learning environments. To support this research, it is increasingly important to provide facilities for recording and analyzing gameplay. Gameplay recording can be done simply and cheaply with small flash-based recording units, which can capture on-screen activity as well as video of a player’s facial expressions. Several computer vision tools have been developed to analyze these videos; additionally, researchers can manually code gameplay recordings.

Community Development

Since many members of the HCII currently study video games in some capacity, a publicly accessible area for videogame research could greatly strengthen this community. A weekly meeting of games researchers in such a space would enable the discussion of games while directly experiencing their play. These weekly meetings could serve as a venue for sharing current research activities as well as for discussing interesting themes across the history of game design.

Significant numbers of CMU undergraduate and graduate videogame enthusiasts are likely to participate in a formal video games research community. Therefore, we believe that situating this space in a location that is visible to passers-by will help to generate campus-wide interest in our work. The social knowledge provided by a community of videogame enthusiasts could be invaluable for videogame researchers. A typical game can take between 6 to 30 hours to complete: with thousands of games on many different platforms, video game researchers could substantially benefit from this community participation.

We hope that publicly accessible videogame research laboratory in central campus (at NSH) will support a CMU-wide videogame research community. This community should include the ETC (Entertainment Technology Center), a world-renowned center of game design. By establishing an accessible space for HCII videogame research in NSH, we hope to strengthen the collaborative linkages between the HCII and the ETC, through the development of shared resources. 

Goals of a Videogame Research Laboratory

  • Position the HCII at CMU as a leader in HCI videogame research
  • Support HCII community awareness of contemporary and historical trends in videogame HCI design
  • Develop resources to advance the academic research of videogames and learning
  • Build community among student and faculty video game researchers
  • Foster community relationships between the HCII and the ETC


Peer Models:

“Re:Game,” a videogame research group at UCSD, has established a model for the community-centered development of a videogame research library. Their game library/laboratory contains the following: large shelves holding 18 different historical game consoles, small shelves holding games, a PC, a CRT and HDMI TV, a switchboard for selecting game system, cabinets for storing game controllers, a gameplay recording device, a workbench and several chairs/couches for participants and observers. All this is located within a keycard accessible office space.

Two different views of the Re:Game research laboratory

In this model, institutional funding provided only the space, the HDMI TV, a lockable cabinet and a few pieces of office furniture. All other resources, like classic consoles and games, were contributed by games researchers or outside donors. For instance, Sony Playstation generously donated several thousand Japanese language Playstation2 games.



Leading Game Research Centers


Re:Game Analysis Lab, UC San Diego



Learning Games Initiative, University of Arizona


Videogame Archive, UT Austin


Stanford Library Video Game Collection


Experimental Game Lab, Georgia Tech


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