Monday, April 26, 2010

A Look at the Long Road Ahead

It's best to start out with a plan. For readers this post pretty much tells you what kind of content you can expect from this blog in the future, and for myself it's a way to focus my thoughts into coherent form. If all goes according to plan, my doctor's thesis is ready in spring of 2014. The plan could be divided into five different types of activities: theory, analysis, prototypes, publishing and teaching.

Theory consists of the all-important questions I'm going to ask and answer. I will start out with asking the question "why people play games" and a somewhat similar question "why are games considered fun". The initial goal is to find out what attracts people to play games, and what keeps them motivated while playing a game. I'm expecting this to involve a lot of reading, so readers of this blog can expect my thoughts on quite a lot of books and what they have given to my research. Of course, in addition to understanding games, further reading on usability will be required as well. But games come first at the moment as I'm quite a bit ahead in my reading about usability and user interfaces.

Analysis means I'll be playing a lot experimental games and trying out experimental user interfaces (if able, or at least read about or watch demos of them). The first part kind of puts me on unknown territory, as my personal taste in games reeks of tradition. It should be interesting to see how this research shapes my personal view into playing games, and I will definitely share my thoughts on experimental games as I encounter them. I will start out by checking out games where audio is in an important role (such as Rez), because audio in general is very relevant to the project we are currently working on.

Prototypes include the concrete work we are doing here at the university, currently for the II City project. I don't know how many prototypes I have time to work on during the following four years, but I'm expecting the number to be around two projects each year, and possibly smaller participation in several more. My current work is related to audio generation but I'm not sure how much information I'm allowed to share at this moment, so I'll be sure to check and share what I can later on. Since we are academics, there will be published papers about each project, so at least at the end of each project I can discuss how the results affect my research.

Publications are a necessity in the academic world. I'm expected to start out slow, authoring probably just one paper and participating in a couple more in the first year, but later on there should be several publications each year. Some of the papers will discuss our prototypes after their completion and evaluation, whereas in some later papers I will start laying down the theoretical basis for my doctor's thesis. Once there are publications out, I will most likely analyze them further in this blog, and discuss their relevance to the grand plan.

Teaching is another thing that one cannot avoid when on an academic career. I'm actually looking forward to it, because much like this blog, it will help to focus my own thoughts if I have to explain new ideas to other people. Also, one side topic in what we are doing is to research how games can be used to improve education. We already have one course planned, and I'll be sure to report of my experiences with it once I've compiled the course material and when the course is being taught.

That's how I see the road ahead. It does look a bit long but hey, at least I know what I'll be doing for the next four years. And since it involves games, it has to be simply awesome.

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