The IGGI Vision: #1: Setting the Scene

Over the next few weeks, I’ll present IGGI – a doctoral training centre focussed on games research. IGGI has £30 million from the UK research councils and the games industry to support 120 PhD students over 12 years. These posts are aimed at those involved directly with IGGI: students, supervisors, partners, funders or administrators, as well as others interested in the process of bidding for and running £multi-million research centres. Maybe reading this might help someone, somewhere win funding to support some other crazy, wonderful research idea, whose time has come…

Who funded IGGI and why? What are the vision and goals of IGGI? How did we persuade the UK taxpayer and the games industry to put their hands in their pockets? In a recent meeting between the IGGI students and investigators, it emerged that there is a lack of clarity about the vision and high-level goals of IGGI. Rather than writing a terribly serious treatise on IGGI, or release some of the 200-page documents that were sent to referees in 2013 and 2018, I thought it would be more fun for me, and (hopefully) more interesting for you, if I answered these questions in a series of blog posts over the next few weeks. This post will set the scene…

This will be a personal account, then, but hopefully one worth reading. My role in developing the IGGI vision was as Principal Investigator. This role, for a large grant such as IGGI, is about assembling the team of academics and games industry people that share a common vision (the “investigators”1 and “partners”), listening to many ideas, cutting to the chase and synthesising the ideas into a vision, then writing that vision into a document. This document will be read once or twice by a handful of reviewers and interviewers, who will decide whether this is an idea worth funding. Alongside writing there was also soothing egos, planning finances, dealing with university top brass, filling in forms, and falling in love. More on that later…

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 stuff2 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.

The IG part of IGGI is about Intelligent Games – putting technology and ideas into games which result in richer gameplay experiences. For example through having AI-controlled characters that have a rich palette of behaviours and which make gameplay more likely to promote player empathy or wellbeing, or through having tools that leverage human creativity to create richer game worlds.

The GI part of IGGI is about Game Intelligence – understanding and motivating game players through using games as a primary source. For example using the wealth of online data to understand players and offer them tailored gameplay experiences, or designing games which allow us to more deeply understand human psychology and promote wellbeing.

So that’s IGGI in a nutshell. Next time I’ll talk about the high-level vision and goals of IGGI – how does IGGI plan to change the world? How did we write that into a document that convinced referees and funders?

Soon… Peter xo

  1. It feels rather cute to me that the scientists on a research bid are known as “investigators” – it conjures a picture of someone wearing a lab coat with a deerstalker hat and a huge magnifying glass.
  2. Imagine doing courses with names like “games design” and “game programming” as part of a degree!?