The RAGEecosystem – A European Serious/Applied Games project.

Sarah Humphries (Dean of the Hull School of Art & Design), Anna Kirk-Smith (Programme Leader for Fine Art) and Gareth Sleightholme (Lecturer in Games) are currently involved in an EU funded project looking at (Serious/) Applied Games and their application with regards to allowing further access to employment for citizens across the EU and part of the Horizon 2020 initiative.

3-2016-02-04-RAGE Publicity Photo - Edit

(above) RAGErs in MAdrid, 2015

So, firstly… What is the RAGE Ecosystem?

RAGE (Realising an Applied Gaming Eco-system) is a project that aims to deliver a collection of self-contained “gaming assets” (in this instance, read discreet, individual, coded elements/software solutions) that support game studios, developers and researchers at developing applied games easier, faster and more cost-effectively, thus making them better suited for their purpose. RAGE will make these gaming assets available along with a large volume of high quality knowledge resources (discussions, papers, metadata etc) through the RAGE Eco-system, a social space that aims to be the single entry point for Applied Gaming discussion and development.

Alongside these discreet technology assets developed by the RAGE project, it will also realise a centralised access to a wide range of Applied Gaming software modules, services and resources (or their metadata) that have been designed and developed in regional and EU funded projects. The RAGE Ecosystem will:

  • Provide centralised access to a wide range of dispersed Applied Gaming assets
  • Share strong expertise in key technology value chains
  • Provide a social dimension supported by community tools for collaboration, annotation,

And with regard to creativity & professional/industrial/creative matchmaking…

  • Support gaming developers in moving quicker from research excellence to the market
  • Organise workshops and offer training courses for developers and educators
  • Support industrial road-mapping with new mechanisms to encourage disruptive innovation
  • Cover cross-cutting aspects such as international cooperation
  • Make available a set of asset creation aids that will allow developers and educators to create their own assets.

Currently the research staff from the Hull School of Art & Design are working with Applied Games developers from Cambridge and Germany to develop two games using the conceptual model of the ecosystem currently in development.

1 – The “Water Cooler” Game.

The “Water Cooler” Game aims to evaluate and enhance industry relevant group-working skills in a range of students (particularly those who have a digital focus to their studies) through the use of self-appraisal and situational appraisal, applied in a virtual group-working scenario that tests the students conflict management skills, attitudes towards equality and diversity in the workplace and team working skills.

Designed as an ongoing/”endless” scenario, the game can be used as part of semester or year long modules that use traditional practical group working as a major part of the studio activity being used alongside any practical sessions, whilst in the support of shorter courses, the game will be used in and of itself.

Both scenarios would result in a series of short or extended gameplay sessions (as appropriate) followed by discussion with the tutor/lecturer looking at data collected by the game showing the players given responses to game based stimuli.

This combination of gameplay based feedback, and tutor feedback would form the basis of an ongoing plan for the player/student when moving into any future “live” group working scenarios.

2 – The Entrepreneurs Game.

This Entrepreneurs Game aims to develop creative industry focused entrepreneurial skills in students who are about to embark on creative careers following graduation. The game aims to support longer professional practice modules within arts faculty programmes, as well as more focused retraining for employment programs.

Using live, causal feedback interfaces the game will help the player explore and identify those key skills and knowledge areas required to develop a comprehensive business plan appropriate to a particular creative market sector model or start-up enterprise whether as a sole trader or a creative service provider, or even a “bricks and mortar” enterprise such as a creative product store or a gallery.

The game will allow the player/student to experiment with effective balance and prioritisation within a “safe” sandbox environment whilst understanding the value of The Creation of a Business Plan; Knowing your Industry Networks, Funding a Start-up, Cashflow and Financial Planning, Branding & Marketing Strategies, Audience etc. With a combination of gameplay and tutor feedback the game will form the basis of the development of an ongoing action plan when moving into “live” entrepreneurial practice or business planning phases.

To date the members from a range of Universities and Companies across Europe have met at a number of RAGE conferences to debate and push the project and the highly individual “User Case” scenarios forward in order to fully test the premise of the RAGEecosystem, these conferences have taken place in Heerlen in the Netherlands at the OUNL; Lisbon at the The Escola de Polícia Judiciária-EPJ, London at the Applied Gaming Conference (Gaminomics 2015); Toledo; Paris; and most recently (see top of post) in Spain at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM); with the next RAGE Conference expected in September in Manchester hosted by Bolton University.

Researchers and developers continue to work outside the conference scenarios via Skype and face-to-face meetings (with Cambridge developers Gameware visiting HSAD and staff in December last year).

The focus of these conferences for our research staff have not only taken their inception from the studio practice of the staff and students of the Games Design BA and Fine Art and other specialisms, but are now positively feeding back into the teaching and learning processes and discussions therein.

Papers are expected to be submitted as the project draws closer to its completion in 2020.

(below) RAGErs in Heerlen, The Netherlands, at the first RAGE conference.

RAGE team at Kick Meeting in Heerlen



Designs on E-Learning International Conference: Paper – “Online Discussion Forums: Does Culture, Curriculum and Context Matter?” – K. Whittaker

Designs on E-Learning International Conference: Paper – “Online Discussion Forums: Does Culture, Curriculum and Context Matter?” – K. Whittaker

In September 2010, Kevin Whittaker of the New Media cluster, Faculty of Arts, Hull School of Art & Design, Hull, attended the Designs on E-Learning International Conference presented at The University for Creative Careers, Savannah, Georgia in the United States.

Kevin presented a paper to the attendees on the use and efficacy of VLE’s, LAM’s, and other contemporary technology implemented to aid traditional pedagogic practice; a paper he has since updated and presented to the HE Research conference attendees at the KC Stadium in 2011.

Presented at – Designs on E-Learning International Conference:

 The University for Creative Careers, Savannah College of Art Design, Savannah, Georgia, USA.

Date – 15-17 September 2010

 Paper Title – “Online Discussion Forums: Does Culture, Curriculum and Context Matter?”

Presented by Kevin Whittaker, Hull School of Art and Design, Hull College Group, Yorkshire, England, UK.


 This paper examines the reasons for the decline in student engagement with the online discussion forum and resources provided for Art and Design undergraduates on BA (Hons) Web Design, Games Design and Interactive Multimedia Design programmes.

Technological advancements in the internet have provided educational institutions with the opportunity to develop online learning environments, often in an attempt to replicate traditional teaching methods. There is evidence to suggest this has not had a major impact on learning. Pedagogical innovations in online teaching challenge the methodologies applied to these traditional approaches, and argue that there has been far too much focus on managing the integration of resource content. As a result, the fundamental process of education is often missing.

Students predominantly engaged with designing and building internet related products provides rich diversity leaning amongst student’s means they will often find their own online resources which they believe best meet their learning styles. However depending on the resource used, this can often lead to students constructing their own meaning incorrectly.  Blended e-learning is a challenging aspect of teaching and is influenced by the same individual characteristics and diversity of students in ‘face to face’ teaching. Activity based online learning has the potential to synthesise class room activities whilst providing discussion through distance learning.

Culture, curriculum and context influence teaching philosophy and practice. Online learning needs to focus on blending ‘real and virtual spaces’ otherwise the curriculum design will not be aligned. This paper explores the feasibility of utilising a Learning Activity Management System (LAMS) as an alternative to the traditional approach. This e-learning tool provides a highly intuitive visual authoring environment for creating sequences of learning activities.

link to event –

Contact via Email:

Rabbit Heart – “Developing a Game project as a an Educational Research Tool”.

Following their presentation of the Rabbit Heart research project and game to their peers at HSAD, Paul Starkey and Gareth Sleightholme presented their project as part of their ongoing research to an audience at Platform Expo 2012 earlier this year in February.

Rabbit Heart itself is a game concept based around the lead character of a young girl, called Ululu, lost in a strange world of flying galleons, tentacled monsters and abandoned cities, whose only ally is a semi-sentient Exo-Suit that reminds her of the toy rabbit she had lost. The game is a test bed for gameplay (in particular we are focusing on the idea of empathy and mutual benefit*) functionality as well as production design, and is being used as a teaching aid in sessions with games design students in its current state.

The game development allows those students from various new media disciplines to participate with the research team leaders as clients as well as simply being a model for the type of blog and documentation development that our students should be aiming for.

Paul and Gareth are continuing to develop the project as an educational resource with the idea of publishing their findings and results via a making of book “The Tale of Rabbit Heart”** that will contain tutorials and recommendations for mini briefs for other educators and students engaged in independent research.

*As seen with games such as Ico, Shadow of Collossus and most recently Journey.

**Working title.

Paul Starkey





Gamification is at the core of Paul Starkey’s practice, teaching and research.

Dreaming up gaming devices is second nature to Paul, a lifelong gamer and a member of the BA (Hons) Games Design and Animation teams at Hull School of Art and Design (HSAD). So it was only natural for the academic to apply the principles of gamification – the use of gaming mechanics in a non-game setting – to his lectures.

It is a pioneering method of delivering learning materials for education, and the subject of his MA proposal.

Paul says: “I have completed an experiment to develop a method of gamification. It involves dividing facets of education into separate elements and attaching game technology into them. Students then embark on a “quest” to gain experience points, or bragging rights to gain access to the next level.”

With a student website built, a pilot group of students have completed their “quests” to gain experience points as part of their studies.

The early indicators are that Paul’s educational experiment is likely to be very successful. Since introducing the gamification of knowledge in the Games Design studio, student attendance, punctuality and the volume of work produced have all improved. Student attendance has risen to 100%.

He is now looking at embedding gamification firmly into the first and second-year Games Design programmes and says the principles can be applied to any course, in any educational institution.

Paul is also involved in a large-scale research and development project with fellow academic, Gareth Sleightholme.

Rabbit Heart is a long-term research project that is being added to by students in each graduating year of the Games Design course.

“We’re going through every single process,” says Paul, whose major role on the project is to develop and produce all the visual game elements and mechanics of the game.

“I’m the tech guy who makes everything work,” he says, simplifying the complex, highly technical process somewhat. The plan for Rabbitheart is, eventually, to develop it into a tangible end product, in the form of a educational coffee table art book.

In the space of two years, the team has already taken the game to its first playable level and presented it at Hull’s annual Platform Expo in 2012. Paul’s students all have the opportunity to get involved with user-testing, producing assets – the “furniture” of a game’s set – and producing designs.

Paul has been teaching at HSAD since 2011, delivering lectures and technical software support that allows students to understand games design. At the time of writing, he is teaching nine different software products to industry standard, and counts 27 more software variations in his repertoire. He has a BA (Hons) in Games Design from HSAD.

In his spare time, Paul’s practice includes freelance games design work, developing assets for games or other digital environments for clients in the games industry or other digital environments. He specialises in 3D modelling, such as the development of scenery, furniture and terrain, and texturing. He also builds and designs html and Flash websites.

He is currently developing a second personal games project based on a range of European folk tales.

For more information about Paul, visit

Also see his work on


Gareth Sleightholme

Games Design. Animation. Visualisation.  Inspirational platforms to fire the imaginations of the next generation of Hull School of Art and Design (HSAD) creatives  …and the research interests of lecturer Gareth Sleightholme.

A prestigious early career in historical illustration for museums and set design for theme parks all over the world set the creative bar pretty high for Gareth. And, as one of the key driving forces behind several HSAD research projects, Gareth believes it is vital to continue to raise the bar, without losing sight of basic creative skills.

Historical and Acheao

Gareth’s industry and academic background began as an historical illustrator for East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s archaeology unit. He then trained in Art and Design, and completed his BA Hons with Animation specialism at Norwich University of the Arts which allowed his creative interests to flourish.


Drawing on his historical illustration skills, Gareth has spent over 15 years in the theme park and visitor attraction industry, designing sets and themed environments and producing artwork for attractions all over the world. An impressive portfolio includes designs for London Dungeons; Sea Life Aquariums; Santapark in Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland; at the same time developing a post as visiting lecturer at his former university, where he helped to develop an MA in Animation & Sound Design.


A move to Essex and a role as Creative Director of a company called HPL saw Gareth explore 3D visualisation and production design for the likes of Virgin, Orange and Blackberry, and take his work to new parts of the world including Florida.


Becoming somewhat “disillusioned” with work in the corporate world, in 2008 he returned to Hull to teach at HSAD and resumed his freelance practice with theme park design; historical work for the museums services in Norfolk, the Midlands and Manchester; and most recently theatrical posters in Hull and Manchester and freelance production design works for an aquarium in Eastern Europe; and designs for themed attractions at a well known castle in Northern England.

“I continue to work as a freelance creative for clients that stem from a variety of markets that keep my knowledge of the various disciplines in which I teach current and vital. Some of these are projects which take me outside the typical workplace developing resources that can inform projects and discussion with students, for example working with Lego in Denmark, and recently producing concept art for a heritage project in the Caribbean.

It helps when working with consultants and spokespeople involved in developing links between students and SSC’s as well as other clients and industrial links – For example being asked to act as support on a five day project at the World Skills Conference 2011 in London, or helping Yr 2 Games Design students engage a unique client through which they exhibited their work in front of a unique audience.”

Themed Stuff

On the Games Design BA  – a focal point of Gareth’s teaching at HSAD – his production design input reflects the type of work he developed in his career in physical theme park scenarios. In other words, students build 3D environments, just here they do it digitally. Working on a project called The Streets, students are asked to research a local thoroughfare, then as a group develop a believable, “evolved” environment. As the project grows year on year, so does a digital “city” and alumni are invited to donate buildings to help create a sense of connection to creatives beyond the course itself. Of course there is always the reward of playing a “game scenario” in this extending environment at the end of the module as well.

Students can collaborate with Gareth and colleague Paul Starkey to help develop an actual game in progress. Rabbit Heart is a learning resource that will ultimately spawn a book, The Tale of Rabbit Heart, providing tutorials for anyone conducting independent research in this area.

Work by Gareth and Paul and their students is regularly showcased at the annual Platform Expo convention in Hull (this year in November, 2013.

He has shown his own sequential illustration comic book art, The Indian Fighter, (image) at last year’s ThoughtBubble Animation and Sequential Art Convention in Leeds; expanding upon his work in illustration, drawing, infographics and concept visualisation.

Gareth also expects to complete an MA in Design in August 2013, Visualising Educational Concepts For Art School Students. A subject he tentatively intends to push on into research towards a PhD.


As part of his Masters study, he is developing a number of board games, one, Game Hacker looks to help his students understand game play and the development of game mechanics.

“It’s almost a Lego kit for board games,” he says. “I give them the basics and let them make up the rules as they go along. It’s all part of my research in process, primarily about the ways in which students learn or interface with learning, particularly those who have chosen a visual subject area”.

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Another board game encourages students to become confident with the basics of drawing, and developing their draughtsmanship. I like students to look at the whole journey of developing a skill such as drawing, making mistakes included, which is difficult because they tend to focus heavily on each individual drawing they do. This encourages them to draw from real life and not worry too much about what they’re drawing.

Iron Shod Comics

“The idea is to start students off in their comfort zone until they become confident enough to naturalise their drawing process. In other words, they ‘get over themselves’. It’s a great teaching tool that emphasises self-motivated learning in the student while generating work. It works for animators, games designer and graphic designers.”

The basic craft of drawing forms another one of Gareth’s major research interests. Liaising with Jackie Goodman & Sarah Humphreys on research into the importance of Drawing, including helping develop the course structure for Medical Students SSC to explore drawing as part of their learning process.

Hull Urban Sketchers is a collaborative project with Illustration and Animation lecturer, Domanic Li. At its heart it celebrates the process, and the joy, of drawing. Its premise is to lead by example, and encourage students to build confidence in their drawing skills, in particular, drawing from observation in the urban environment through which they move everyday.

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Gareth’s urban sketches and other work have been shown at; Studio Eleven art gallery, in Humber Street, Hull; ArtLink gallery in Princes Avenue, Hull, and Hull School of Art and Design.

Regarding his continuing work in education,

“I love the idea that I’m now doing an MA when I’m from a housing estate in Withernsea,” says Gareth. “There’s something fundamentally liberating about education. You should be able, if you have the will, to get out.”

Keep up-to-date with Gareth’s blog and his latest creative outpourings:

Here him talk to an audience about his work and projects HERE, or look through his online portfolio at:

Email Gareth at: