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Researcher to take concepts of gaming and play to the next level

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Professor Steffen P. Walz has joined Curtin University’s School of Design and Art (SoDA), where he will work on introducing ‘gamefulness’ into the everyday experiences of education, health and wellbeing.

Professor Walz previously held the position of Associate Professor and Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow at Melbourne’s RMIT University, and his interests include playful, gameful and speculative design; education for an age of digital transformation; and human flourishing or, as he explains, how we should design for what empowers people to lead ‘a good life’.

Professor Walz has been involved in several notable research projects; between 2011 and 2016, these were carried out by the GEElab, a leading game design research centre which Professor Walz founded and directed at RMIT University. He is curating the Education in Games Summit to be held in Melbourne in November as part of Melbourne International Games Week. He has also recently co-edited a book titled The Gameful World, published by The MIT Press.

“I’m very interested in the potential of games and play from analogue to digital, and the impact that they can have on our activities, for example on how we live, learn, socialise, relax and travel,” Professor Walz said.

“At SoDA, we use design and converging design capacities to develop meaningful, enjoyable and integrated solutions that address health and wellbeing challenges.”

“We are living in a time of convergences and my aim is to find convergent ways to motivate and engage people.”

Professor David Hawkins, Head of SoDA, said he looked forward to Professor Walz bringing his expertise, experience and enthusiasm to what are key growth areas for the School.

“Gameful approaches are becoming increasingly important economically and culturally, offering many opportunities for social interaction and new ways of working with complex systems and data in many domains, including healthcare, education, manufacture and exploration,” Professor Hawkins said.

One of Professor Walz’s current projects looks at incorporating UV-sensitive and interactive clothing for school-aged children to promote sun conscious behaviour.

Working with Dr Anne Farren and Joanna Quake from Curtin’s Fashion department, the first results from this research will be delivered at the Fashioning Technology Exhibition as part of Perth Fashion Festival in October 2016.

Another of Professor Walz’s ongoing projects is the FutureDeck, a card game and entertaining brainstorming tool based around Australia’s economic growth sectors. The FutureDeck was a finalist in this year’s Victorian Premier’s Design Awards, and a PhD student at the University of Southern Queensland is studying the game’s effectiveness as a new career development tool.

“The FutureDeck is aimed at playfully inspiring out-of-the-box thinking,” Professor Walz said.

“Together with diverse partners, such as Deloitte, Code for Australia and the Department of Education and Training in Victoria, I’ve created custom versions of the FutureDeck to help organisations to come up with probable ideas for an era of digital transformation, and to enjoy the ideation process.”

Professor Walz is currently supervising seven PhD students with one, Sven Krome, conducting research for Audi in Germany into the notion of ‘driving pleasure’ in a future of autonomously driven cars.

This experimental technology incorporates the car’s context – e.g. location, speed, time spent at a traffic light – to boost the mental and physical health of commuters through in-car exercise, interactive music and a tailored navigation system.

Professor Walz also spent two years working as chief investigator for a German-language gameful fitness app Mission: Schweinehund, published by Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis Pharma.

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