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Computer games design and technology research

Explore our work in computer games design and technology, one of our areas of expertise in Digital and Creative Technologies

As the games industry grows, products and player experiences grow too, catering for different audiences and gameplay tastes. Games now take many forms, from traditional console and computer-based to virtual, augmented and alternate reality, using new and emerging technologies.

Our research brings design theory and development together to produce relevant and practical outputs for people working in the gaming industry, alongside traditional academic-focused theory writing.

We combine game design, development and player psychology in a unified approach. We investigate what drives players and how players derive pleasure from play. This creates a focused design approach that produces games tailored to players' drives and desires.

We explore how player psychology and cognitive processes are involved in interpreting and understanding game content as it is experienced during play. We do this by observing games being played, interviewing gamers and holding focus groups for collecting gameplay data. We also explore how traditional narrative and story theory can be applied to games to produce more critically acclaimed and profitable titles. 

We produce playable games to test our research. Often these games can be commercialised and sold to the public. One of our big commercial releases was a first-person horror adventure, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs.

Our research into disruptive game design provided theoretical foundation for its development. It was developed by The Chinese Room, published by Frictional Games, co-designed by Dr Peter Howell, alongside one of our previous lecturers, Dan Pinchbeck. The game experimented with subverting knowledge of gameplay and story elements to explore how players respond to re-learning what they thought they knew about the game world and its inhabitants. The game sold over 120,000 copies in its first week of release.

Our research topics

  • Game design theory
  • Game development practice
  • Player psychology and the experience of play
  • Narrative and storytelling with games

Facilities

Our facilities include an industry-standard motion capture suite, Virtual Reality suite and PlayStation 4 Development Kits for developing and testing new games. Our researchers have worked as game developers in the gaming industry and many still develop games.

Collaborations and funders

We have close ties to The Independent Game Developers' Association (TIGA), meaning we can attend TIGA member-only events, and have access to computer games development and policy discussion. We also share our research at trade conferences like Develop, and The Game Developers Conference (GDC), and regularly present papers at academic conferences – including the Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA) and Philosophy of Computer Games (POCG). 

Our research has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the European Research Council (ERC), and our games are published on game portal sites like itch.io, steam.com, gog.com, humblebundle.com, PlayStation Store and Google Play.

Projects

Find out more about our latest projects and publications in the fields of disruptive game design, ambient gameplay, pervasive games and ambiguity, game development as playful practice, and cognition as play.

  • Sprint Project: Challenger 2 Tank Driving Simulator

    An investigation into technology required for a CR2 driver sim - encompassed vehicle physics models, terrain deformation, terrain geophysics simulation, satellite and aerial imagery, and digital object capture processes.

Publication highlights

  • Electric Eric

    A procedurally-generated dungeon-based FPS developed by staff from the Computer Games Technology, Computer Games Production, and Music Technology courses during the University of Portsmouth Game Jam 2022.

  • Values throughout the Game Space

    Jerrett, A.M.L., Howell, P. (2022) "Values throughout the Game Space", Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction

  • Developing an empathy spectrum for games

    Jerrett, A.M.L., Howell, P., Dansey, N. (2021) "Developing an empathy spectrum for games", Games and Culture

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Our members

Peter Mark Howell Portrait

Dr Peter Howell

Senior Lecturer

peter.howell@port.ac.uk

School of Creative Technologies

Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries

PhD Supervisor

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Mr Ted Turnbull

Senior Lecturer

ted.turnbull@port.ac.uk

School of Creative Technologies

Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries

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Leila Yolanda Arabella De Lara Portrait

Mrs Leila De Lara

Senior Lecturer

Leila.DeLara@port.ac.uk

School of Creative Technologies

Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries

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Mohammed Jahangir Uddin Portrait

Mr Mohammed Uddin

Senior Lecturer

jahangir.uddin@port.ac.uk

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Matthew James Higgins Portrait

Dr Matthew Higgins

Senior Lecturer

Matthew.Higgins@port.ac.uk

School of Creative Technologies

Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries

PhD Supervisor

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Discover our areas of expertise

Computer games design and technology is one of our areas of expertise in Digital and Creative Technologies. Explore the others below.
 

Animation and virtual production

We're creating ground-breaking, award-winning CGI films, and investigating how film production can be used in education.

Student in motion capture suit in the studio
Read more

Experience design

We're investigating the impact and application of experience design and digital technology in the cultural and heritage sectors to improve visitor experiences and conserve cultural and historical sites.

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Discover our research

Music

We're investigating music and sound and creating new tools to enhance performance and creativity.

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Read more

Research groups

Advanced Games Research Group

Our research feeds into the design, development, and release of commercial and free games. Explore our advanced games research group.

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Explore research


Interested in a PhD in Digital and Creative Technologies?

Browse our postgraduate research degrees – including PhDs and MPhils – at our Digital and Creative Technologies postgraduate research degrees page.