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Games Research

Computer Games research brings theoretical and critical analysis and contextualisation of games studies, typological and textual approaches to design practice together with novel software engineering and hardware solutions to support innovative product development and new understanding of design and development processes. Computer games research at Abertay University encompasses these interests in the following complementary areas.

Games Studies

Video Games in the Museum

Funder: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Principal Investigator: Prof. Gregor White
Co-Investigator: Kieran Long, Victoria and Albert Museum

The overarching objective of the project is to achieve a clear understanding of issues around games design typologies, protocols for interpretation and display, and an enhanced understanding of video games as a cultural form to establish a resource that will support the ongoing study of the discipline.

In order to achieve this, the network will bring together an international network of experts in games design and development, and academic researchers with a track record of research from a range of disciplines. These are relevant to the understanding of games development as a design process and games as a cultural form and social phenomenon to work with museums and galleries professionals. The combination of this range of disciplinary expertise and diverse perspectives will contribute to the consolidation of existing knowledge and development of new standards, new methods for communicating and promoting understanding of video games as a cultural form to diverse audiences, and protocols for the acquisition and collection of video games as a resource for the ongoing study of the form.

The network will include UK and international games companies who will be invited to contribute to the collection as well as interpretation and exhibition materials. Through this activity, the network seeks to improve the understanding of video game art and design as a creative expression and social form, to the long-term benefit of the games industry in the UK.

Video Games in the Museum

Workshop 2 - Spawn

Hosted in the Hannah Maclure Centre, Abertay University, Dundee on Friday 8 August 2014. In the context of video games SPAWN refers to the spontaneous manifestation of a character or object in the games environment. The SPAWN workshop will explore the design of characters, clothing, objects and environments in video games. Discussions with explore influences from real word designs, styles and cultures and examine how contemporary design and historical styles are used to create fantastic and fictional worlds.

The workshop will include presentations from game design experts, breakout sessions and discussion and a range of exhibits responding to ideas around the exhibition of video games design principles.

The workshop is part of Dare ProtoPlay: the UK’s biggest Indie games festival, taking place in Dundee’s Caird Hall and City Square every year over 4 days in August. As well as showcasing the games produced by the student teams on Dare to be Digital, the festival also showcases many other indie games from local, national and international developers and offers a varied educational programme for the public and a conference for more serious developers. Most programmes are free to enter.  Dare ProtoPlay 2016 runs in Dundee City Square, from 4–7 August.

Workshop 1 - LOOP

Hosted in the British Galleries in the V&A London on the 23rd of April 2014, LOOP is the first of three workshops is focused on discussing the challenges around collecting, curating and exhibiting video games. The workshop will challenge the conventions of the arcade style exhibition and ask participants to re-imagine games exhibition in ways that interrogate and expose games and gameplay by engaging with essential elements of games as artefacts, processes and effects. From there participants will consider the ways in which these ideas can be represented, and exhibited to engage museums audiences with a new cultural medium.


  • Gregor White, Abertay University – Video Games in the Museum
  • Alex Wiltshire, Writer and Games Commentator - LOOP
  • Richard Lemarchand,  University of Southern California– Games Design Process

Tour of the British Galleries at V&A
with Kieran Long & Louise Shannon, V&A

Workshop Session 1: LOOP
Identify games elements visual/audio assets, mechanics that elicit a player response and ways in which the effect could be reproduced in the museum and outside of the game.

Workshop Session 2: FRAME
Identify the appropriate way to understand best the relationship between the asset and the effect and the best we to interpret/represent the experience or knowledge.

RePLAY: San Francisco. March 2015

This workshop explores the establishment of gaming as cultural practice in the context of the pervasiveness of computing and mediated living. Raising questions of social impact of games its controversial content - explicit violence, sexist gender portrayals, and politically charged storylines – as well as more general questions about gaming's positive and negative social effects.  The workshop will discuss ways in which museums can locate games in their contemporary cultural context, explore the reflexive potential of the medium as a way of understanding cultural and sub-cultural mores.


For further information, see Video Games in the Museum

Project Partners:

Game Development and Technologies

Computer game worlds share many properties with complex adaptive systems, including many agents interacting in space over time, agent- and system-scale responses to events and the 3D visual representation of large, complex data sets depicting the system/world state. More and more we are seeing the use of simulation approaches originally applied to Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS)  in the development of computer games e.g procedural content. We are also using game technology in complex systems modelling.

The use of game technology in complex systems modelling is becoming more prevalent, allowing complex systems simulations to be controlled via games-based interfaces. We have been working in this space for the last decade and have projects simulating 4D Cancer Tumours, the Water-Energy-Food nexus and Computational Fluid Dynamics, applied to Solar Physics and Astrophysics.  We use both the rendering and the compute functionality offered by the GPU to increase spatial scale and timescale of simulations. Interpretation of model output can be challenging and we advocate the “built-in” visual simulation afforded by GPGPU implementations that employ optimisations that are standard in the production of real-time interactive scenes.

We are also feeding this complex systems expertise back into game play and design itself. For example, in the areas of real-time computer animation and simulation in computer games we are enhancing fluid dynamics simulation and soft body physics to generate new kinds of interactions and environments. The code base can be released as modules encapsulated within game engines to enhance realism and support development of new interactive experiences. We also have a PhD student investigating the role of CAS in game design - this is an RLINCS funded studentship.


Bown, J. L. et al. 2016. A signaling visualization toolkit to support rational design of combination therapies and biomarker discovery: SiViT. Oncotarget. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.8747

Falconer, R.E. and Houston, A.N. 2015. Visual simulation of soil-microbial system using GPGPU technology. Computation. 3(1): pp.58-71. doi: 10.3390/computation3010058

Falconer, R.E., et al. 2015. Indicator modelling and interactive visualisation for urban sustainability assessment. In: C.N. Silva, (ed.) Emerging issues, challenges, and opportunities in urban e-planning. Hershey: Engineering Science Reference. 2015, pp.188-2


 4D Tumour project

WEF news articleWater-Energy-Food Nexus: STEPPING UP

Games with Purpose

Cybercrime training game – a partnership between Abertay University, Police Scotland and private company Droman Crime Solutions.

The partnership has developed a ‘serious game’ that can train large numbers of criminal justice staff in basic techniques to deal efficiently with cybercrime.

Read more about the Cybercrime training game

The Rig – Developed for offshore workers to develop attitudes to workplace safety.
Funder: BP & Odfjell Drilling
Project Leader: Dr Iain Donald

BP & Odfjell Drilling seek to emphasise their three key values: safety, courage and respect. To improve the productivity of their rigs oil production, the player is required to ensure that their safety, courage and respect meters remain high.  The challenge is to upgrade their rig in order to improve their meters. By doing so, their rig workers and machines will run and work faster.


Far From Home - game developed for young people living in care
Funder: The Care Inspectorate
Project Leader: Dr Iain Donald
Far From Home is an online 3D adventure game made for the Care Inspectorate. The game explores themes of trust, consequence and unfamiliarity in an action-packed and strange alien world.

The game’s star, Sid, a blue-headed alien, was conceived by young people as a fun character to engage with youngsters living in care and help discuss their rights under Scotland’s National Care Standards. Read more about Sid


Tapology – A mobile app, for tablet computer that can be used to introduce gaming and visual rehabilitation to older users.
Principal Investigator: Dr Ken Scott-Brown

The goal of the project is to present a fun and engaging means for participants to gather data on their current and on-going visual function and to create a game that might just enable perceptual learning in the preserved peripheral retina that is spared in Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

Retail Games Concept Design

Funder: NCR Financial Solutions Limited. Supported by the Alison Armstrong Studentship
Project Team: Dr Santiago Martinez,  Dr Ken Scott-Brown, Dr Robin Sloan, Dr Andrea Szymkowiak

In collaboration with NCR Financial Solutions, a prototype Financial planning game for Microsoft Surface. The project examines the role of game’s based animated agents and their deployment of social eye-gaze cues and animation principles in human-machine interaction.

The outcomes demonstrate measurable benefits accrued from the use of animated as opposed to static agent gaze cues in machine interaction. The paper shows how the latest techniques in computer animation can create a human-like face that can guide the eye-movements and hand movements of users around a simple interface faster than similar static or two-frame motion agents.

Scott-Brown, K.C., Ahmadi Darani, O.,Tanda, N.,Mclaughlin, H., Henderson, R.,Cernagovs, D., Turner, J., Tarbert, H.  (2010). Making A Financial Time Machine: A Multi-touch Application To Enable Interactive 3-D Visualization Of Distant Savings Goals. People and Computers XXIV Games are a Serious Business

Martinez, S., Sloan, R., Szymkowiak, A. & Scott-Brown, K. (2010) Using Virtual Agents to Cue Observer Attention: Assessment of the impact of agent animation. Paper presented to The Second International Conference on Creative Content Technologies CONTENT 2010. November 21-26, 2010 - Lisbon, Portugal.

Sloan, R.J.S., Martinez, S. and Scott-Brown, K. 2012. Using the principles of animation to predict allocation of attention. The 3rd International Conference on Appearance, Edinburgh, 17-19 April 2012.

Creative Technologies


Funder: Royal Society of Edinburgh Scottish Enterprise Fellowship
Inventor and Principle Investigator: Matthew Bett

Cinemotus is a collection of techniques and methodologies that allow games hardware to be utilised to mimic the behaviour of high-end Virtual Production systems currently employed in Hollywood.

Cinemotus has been developed as a commercial plug-in software for the industry standard Maya 3D modelling package. It uses an off-the-shelf gaming motion controller as a motion capture device and allows the user to perform the same virtual production techniques as the high-end Hollywood hardware for a fraction of the cost, right at their desk or by remote (networked) control. Cinemotus also encompasses a set of library functions that allow the virtual camera system to work in virtually any real-time visualisation system.

This began as an internal research project within the university to find alternative uses for video game motion controllers, and determine if the technology be adapted as a form of motion capture for Virtual Production techniques.


In the last 6 years the film industry has been shifting over to a new film-making technique known as ‘virtual production’. This technique is particularly employed in films that employ a large proportion of computer-generated elements or entirely 3D animated films. The initial techniques were pioneered during the production of Avatar. For the first time, it is now possible to perform traditional camera work – which has a much more organic, creative feel – in computer-generated media.

There is growing demand for virtual production in areas of the film production pipeline such as pre-visualisation and scene layout. This digital storyboarding process is used to establish the make-up of every scene and shot before films enter production. Even major studios with virtual production systems cannot give access to the technology to the whole creative pipeline because of the expense.

Cinemotus provides a potential cost effective solution for film and other media production pipelines. Reasearch is ongoing using the latest iterations of games hardware and branching out to include other cutting edge interactive technologies, such as virtual reality, to blur the edges between the games and film industry even further. As an internal university technology, Cinemotus is also an integral component of several ongoing research projects.

Initial proof of concept technology