Students design, present game at international conference

October 31, 2014

Interaction was the keyword for two UW-Stout students who presented at the Computer-Human Interaction in Play — CHI PLAY — Conference in October in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Michael Flaherty, of McFarland, and Ian Pommer, of Stillwater, Minn., entered their game, the Trial of Galileo, in a conference contest and discussed their work with conference attendees. Their research paper on the project also was published in the official conference proceedings.

They are majoring in game design and development.

Although the game didn't win the contest, Assistant Professor Brent Dingle thought his undergraduate students' work compared well with that of other students, who mostly were graduate students.

Simply having their research and game accepted for presentation was a significant accomplishment, Dingle said.

"This achievement demonstrates the quality and caliber of students at UW-Stout. It also shows the game design and development program is more than just games. It teaches the students how to do research, conduct business and work successfully as a team of individuals from different fields of interest and specialization," Dingle said.

Ian Pommer, left, and Michael Flaherty at the CHI PLAY Conference."They continue to prove the skills and abilities of UW-Stout students are competitive at not just the national level but the international level.

The game was designed in 2013 by Flaherty and Pommer along with Alicia Griesbach, of Beaver Dam; John Leitner, of Oxford; Bryant Seiler, of La Crosse ; and Dylan Tepp, of Milwaukee.

Faculty members Jean Haefner and Ken Patterson also assisted.

Pommer found that the human interaction aspect of the conference was the most valuable. "There was a wide range of talks and presentations, some with seemingly opposite arguments even, and it was interesting to hear.The student competition was the best part — seeing what other schools are working on," Pommer said.

The purpose of the Trial of Galileo isn't commercial but to help those who play it better understand motion graphs through games. "This is an excellent example of the diversity and quality of skills the game design and development students possess. They have taken their understanding of math and science and created an educational game that is fun and enjoyable to play," Dingle said.

The students' paper examines the educational aspects of computer game interfaces and how to create such a game, Dingle said.

The main character in the game is not controlled by a joystick or control pad but by creating a motion graph. The motion graph represents the desired position, velocity or acceleration of the player's character over time. The graph must be fashioned to move the character through various puzzle environments. Through trial and error the player may achieve a better understanding of what motion graphs depict in the real world, the students' research abstract said.

Creating the game required programming and art skills. UW-Stout's game design and development program offers computer science and art concentrations.

"How people interface with games is, or can be, important to education and such opportunities should not be overlooked," Dingle said.

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Ian Pommer, left, and Michael Flaherty discuss their research and game at a conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.