The academic homestead of Annika Waern

Body games: Elena Márquez Segura’s licentiate thesis

elenaMy Ph.D. student Elena defended her licentiate thesis on Friday December 6th, with Floyd Mueller from the Exertion games lab in Melbourne as her “opponent”, a sort of external examiner used in the Swedish ph.d. procedure. It’s not common to have foreign opponents for a licentiate, so we were happy to be able to invite Floyd.

Elena’s thesis is named “Body games: Designing for co-located play activity’. The core theoretical contribution is based on our joint CHI article from earlier this year, but goes a bit deeper into the social and spatial design options. But whereas the CHI article was based on a game design project,  Elena adds a case study where she designs for play in a non-game setting, psychotherapeutic training for the elderly. It is hard to think of a less playful domain! Still, Elena manages to show how a playful setup and a shift in responsibilities for the physiotherapist creates something akin to a festive context, encouraging a playful attitude to the training session. I really like this part, in that it hints at an alternative to the standard gamification approach to reward accomplishments.

With the physiotherapist example, Elena moves out from focussing on gaming behaviour towards more general playfulness. This, Elena needs to elaborate further when going for the Ph.D., as her theory is very much taken from game design and lacks a bit of grounding in theories of play. Throughout the thesis it is clear that Elena has started, but not quite finished, articulating her approach to playful design and she might need another case study to get ther. But what is primarily lacking is publications – the thesis presents a fair amount of empirical investigations that she should publish. It’ll be great fun to accompany her on this path!

I’ll edit in a link to Elena’s thesis if she makes it available!

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