A Word from the Director

Welcome to IGGI! Below are a few words about the vision for IGGI, about who funds IGGI and why, and about why IGGI can be a force for good in a sometimes turbulent world.

IGGI is short for the “EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence” (EPSRC is short for “Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council”). You can see why the name IGGI stuck!

In IGGI, 120 PhD students spend 4 years learning cool stuff and conducting research in topics related to games and the games industry, working with 100 UK games companies. The big vision for IGGI is to inject research innovations and innovative researchers into the games industry. There is a strong economic argument for this, and there are even stronger social and cultural reasons.

So where did IGGI come from and what is the vision that allowed us to win £30 million for games research? In the early 2000s, the games research community went through a huge growth spurt (which continues to this day). The economic, social and cultural power of video games meant that politicians and funders could no longer brush games aside as kid’s stuff. An opportunity arose in 2013 with the announcement of a competition for funding around 100 centres for PhD research in a focussed area of science or engineering. While it was clear that the call would be massively oversubscribed and very competitive, games seemed a good fit given the rise and rise of the financial size of the games market and the growing research community. We had more and more friends and contacts in the games industry. And we had shown that games could be funded at scale via projects such as UCT (£1.5 million) and NEMOG (£1.2 million).

A group of people from across academia and industry, with an interest in games research, came together to submit a bid and form a consortium. Our joint goal was to “make better games” and “make games better”. My role in this (as ‘Principal Investigator’) was as a synthesiser of ideas, as a recruiter of people who shared and refined these ideas, and as a writer and lobbyist who could package them up for referees who almost certainly lacked enthusiasm for games research.

So how can we summarise the IGGI vision? The ‘IG’ in IGGI stands for ‘Intelligent Games’ - using research advances to make better games that provide richer, more fun experiences. The ‘GI’ in IGGI stands for ‘Game Intelligence’ - research which uses games to understand and inform people. In more detail: the following two paragraphs, from the 2013 IGGI bid, were probably among the most carefully written of the text in the whole bid document (redrafted dozens of times):

Our vision is twofold:

Intelligent Games: IGGI PhDs, investigators and collaborators will use research advances to seed the creation of a new generation of more intelligent and engaging digital games, to underpin the distinctiveness and growth of the UK games industry. We will weave technical and creative disciplines: using games as an application area to advance research in areas including artificial intelligence and computational creativity; human-computer interaction; interactive sound, graphics and narrative; robotics, agents and complex systems. The study of intelligent games will be underpinned by new business models and by research advances in data mining (game analytics) which can exploit vast volumes of gameplay data.

Game Intelligence: IGGI PhDs, investigators and collaborators will investigate games as a medium to achieve scientific and societal goals, working with user groups and the games industry to produce new genres of games which can yield therapeutic, educational and social benefits and using games to seed a new era of scientific experimentation into human preference and interaction. We will create new games to conduct large-scale analysis of individual behaviour, leading to better understanding in economics, psychology, sociology, biology and human-computer interaction. We will build games which promote physical and mental health and educational achievement, underpinned by advances in mobile technology and data mining.

This vision was refined and updated for the 2018 IGGI resubmission, especially given the enormous advances in machine learning and the cultural and social successes of games, but the text above remains a good overview of the high-level IGGI vision.

But a vision is relatively static, and now, of course, IGGI is a community of brilliant, fun, caring, intelligent, curious research students, supported by staff and industry partners. So maybe the best way to find out more about IGGI is to listen to a few of them…

I look forward to talking about games research with you!

 

Peter Cowling

IGGI Director

Professor of AI, Queen Mary University of London

 

Published 9 October 2020