Friday, April 3, 2009

  • Prof's sound ideas about video gaming
  • Film about 1975 airlift features UW prof
  • Biology as it was 45 years ago
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Collins at console]Prof's sound ideas about video gaming

A UW researcher has come up with one of this year’s “Top 10 Big Ideas in Gaming”, as judged by three experts and the crowd at the annual Game Developers Conference, held in San Francisco last month.

She is Karen Collins (left) of the drama and speech communication department, who is Canada Research Chair in Interactive Audio and a member of UW's Canadian Centre of Arts and Technology. Collins produced her “big idea” in a book titled Game Sound: An Introduction to the History, Theory, and Practice of Video Game Music and Sound Design, published by MIT Press.

The publisher’s blurb for the book explains that “A distinguishing feature of video games is their interactivity, and sound plays an important role in this: a player's actions can trigger dialogue, sound effects, ambient sound, and music. And yet game sound has been neglected in the growing literature on game studies.

“This book fills that gap, introducing readers to the many complex aspects of game audio, from its development in early games to theoretical discussions of immersion and realism. In Game Sound, Karen Collins draws on a range of sources — including composers, sound designers, voice-over actors and other industry professionals, Internet articles, fan sites, industry conferences, magazines, patent documents, and, of course, the games themselves — to offer a broad overview of the history, theory, and production practice of video game audio.

Game Sound has two underlying themes: how and why games are different from or similar to film or other linear audiovisual media; and technology and the constraints it has placed on the production of game audio. Collins focuses first on the historical development of game audio, from penny arcades through the rise of home games and the recent rapid developments in the industry. She then examines the production process for a contemporary game at a large game company, discussing the roles of composers, sound designers, voice talent, and audio programmers; considers the growing presence of licensed intellectual property (particularly popular music and films) in games; and explores the function of audio in games in theoretical terms.

“Finally, she discusses the difficulties posed by nonlinearity and interactivity for the composer of game music.”

A news release from the Game Developers Conference explains that “game studies researchers presented their list of the top 10 most unexpected findings for video game designers over the past year. This marks the fourth year that researchers Ian Bogost, associate professor at Georgia Tech; Jane McGonigal, director of games research and development at the Institute for the Future; and Mia Consalvo, associate professor at Ohio University, have presented their list. But this year audience members — both at the panel and via Twitter — ranked the findings in order of their importance.”

Says Bogost, the lead researcher: “Asking the audience to order the top 10 gave us an opportunity to get their feedback on which design problems feel more and less relevant to them. So not only can game designers learn what researchers are thinking about games, but game researchers can also look at the list and gain an understanding of the issues at the front of the minds of game developers.”

Collins’s insights were ranked number 8 in the top ten, behind such studies as “Fashion as character performance — the case of WoW”, “Simulating weather in virtual environments”, and “Fear of failing: The many meanings of difficulty in video games”.

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[Band performs]

The joy of sax: The Engineering Jazz Band ("With Respect to Time") is seen performing at the March break open house two weeks ago (photo by Angelo Alaimo). The band will perform Saturday night at 7:00 in the great hall of Conrad Grebel University College; tickets are $10, with proceeds going to benefit Habitat for Humanity.

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Film about 1975 airlift features UW prof

a news release received this week

U.S. based non-profit ATG Against the Grain Productions premieres “Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam” at the Vietnamese International Film Festival tonight at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California. The documentary will be followed immediately by a Q&A session with producer/director Tammy Nguyen Lee and several cast in attendance. University of
Waterloo Assistant professor Robert Ballard is featured prominently in the film and will be in attendance.

“Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam” tells the significant yet untold story of the $2 million dollar US initiative that airlifted over 2,500 Vietnamese orphans out of a war-torn country in 1975 to protect them from the impending threat of the Communist regime. These adoptees grew up facing unique challenges in their adoptive countries, including prejudice overshadowed by a controversial war and cultural identity crisis. Featuring compelling and insightful interviews of the volunteers, parents, and organizations directly involved, the movie takes a contemporary look at Babylift and its relevance to international adoption today. The film was a passionate team effort that took four years to produce.

Lee said: "Operation Babylift was a moving story I had never heard about, and it was a significant part of our history. Although this journey was not my own, I could relate to the essence of what all adoptees crave — the need to feel loved, the need to feel understood, the need to know who I am, the need to belong. This project refueled my passion to give a platform to those that had not been represented, to find stories that were important and had been forgotten. I hope to also continue the spirit of humanitarianism and community that Babylift inspires."

[Ballard]Tammy Nguyen Lee fled Saigon with her mother more than 30 years ago. A Southern Methodist University alum and graduate from UCLA's Producers Program, Lee founded ATG Against the Grain Productions to promote Asian American cultural awareness through compelling media projects, while also raising funds for international orphanages.

Robert Ballard (right) is a Vietnamese adoptee who was airlifted in April 1975, and is a faculty member in Communication, Leadership and Social Innovation. He is involved in the international adoption community, including serving on various community organization boards and conducting research on adoptive families and identity. In the film, Ballard's personal journey as an adoptee and his family's journey to adopt a child from Vietnam are featured. Said Ballard, "It was an honour being a part of this film project. I hope it is an opportunity for others to hear our voices as adoptees whose lives were affected by the Babylift and the Vietnam Conflict." Ballard will be attending the premiere.

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Biology as it was 45 years ago

[Hynes]A memorial service will be held tomorrow for Noel Hynes (left), the founder of UW’s biology department, who died March 2. It’s scheduled for Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Conrad Grebel University College chapel.

In his autobiography, Nunc Dimittis: A Life in the River of Time, published in 2001, Hynes recalled how things were as he arrived at UW from Britain in 1964. Here is an excerpt:

“Our new building was not ready, so the department had to camp in the engineering school for three months before we could move, and then there were all the glitches that seem to be part of new buildings. We had to plan our course structure, and our protocol for handling graduate students, and find staff and equipment for teaching.

“At that time there were very few Canadian biologists looking for academic posts because most of the bright ones had gone south for their graduate studies, and then remained in the US. So I had the job of searching the world for suitable people. I had envisaged a department with about two dozen faculty, with ultimate growth to about 36. When I arrived there were five in place, the two original ones and one that they had found, a microbiologist who had been appointed with my help, and a phycologist whom I had sent over from UK ahead of me. So there was lots of work to do in that area. I had brought a senior botanist with me, and he was a great help, but we had plenty to do in that area, and it was no help that so much of the staff in the university had no real experience as academics. I reckon that at that time only about 10% of the faculty had any long-term experience of the job, and the place was overrun by a lot of wild but impractical ideas. But we managed somehow, and the institution soon became a collection of competing baronies, each headed by someone who had ideas about what a university should be. I was one of them!

“Fortunately there was plenty of money for equipment, but that also had to be ordered wisely. Things like microscopes and cold rooms were going to have to serve for a decade or two, so one had to buy the right things in the first place.

“I also had some problems with the course structure. I was used to a system where the program was fairly rigid, so one did not have to worry about course prerequisites, which were built into the system. But North American universities are very loosely structured in that respect, because of the freedom of choice for courses, and students always assumed that they could evade prerequisite requirements, and even core courses that, to my mind were essential for their programmes. I remember the shock I felt at having to look carefully at transcripts of applicants for higher degree studies to see if they had a suitable background for the work they wanted to do. All these things were perhaps blows for freedom of choice, but they use up a lot of faculty time,

“It was a busy life, but a rewarding one for me, as we finished up with a department that covered the whole range of biological science, albeit thinly in some places, and where the edges between the former discrete areas were blurred. It also ran much more democratically than many, We did things by committee, and everyone had some input. A main desideratum was that we should be better than the University of Toronto, which was the local giant, in at least one field; and we were, in aquatic biology.”


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'Ware trains on maple syrup day

A note arrives from the Waterloo Central Railway, which runs trains on that track on the east side of campus: "We'd like to remind students to look both ways as they cross the tracks on Saturday, as trains will be passing through campus ten times on the half-hour on the way to the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival. The first train leaves the Waterloo station in Waterloo Park at 6:30 a.m. and the last train returns at approximately 5:30 p.m.

"Our summer schedule begins Saturday, April 11, after which we'll pass through campus six times a day on Saturdays."

Link of the day

Daffodils raising funds for cancer

When and where

Winter term classes end today; exams April 8-24. Unofficial winter term grades appear in Quest beginning April 27. Grades become official May 25.

Rhythm Dance Festival April 3-5, Humanities Theatre.

Travel slide show: Joe Bevan on Killarney and area, 12:15, Environment I room 221.

Water Boys, male a cappella chorus, free concert 6:00, Conrad Grebel UC great hall.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival shuttle buses from Davis Centre Saturday starting 8:30 a.m., tickets $5 at Student Life Centre.

John Sitler, UW library staff member, died March 15, memorial service Saturday 12:00, Henry Walser Funeral Home, 507 Frederick Street, Kitchener.

Accounting and Financial Management Admissions Assignment for applicants who have signed up, Saturday 1:30 p.m. Details.

‘Celebrate Teaching’ alumni event at Conrad Grebel UC, with reception, networking, panel discussion and presentation of Distinguished Alumni Service Award, Sunday 3:00, Grebel atrium.

Second annual Staff Conference April 6-7, “2 More Full Days Just for You”, keynote speakers, workshops, “Your Passport to Health”. Details.

‘Single and Sexy’ auditions for 2009 production, Monday 4:00 to 8:00, Humanities Theatre, information ext. 36358.

Social work seminar: Frank Wagner, University of Toronto, “Ethics, Schmethics, What’s the Buzz?” Monday 4:30 p.m., Renison UC chapel lounge.

K-W Little Theatre auditions for “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” (performances in July) Monday-Wednesday 7:00 to 10:00 p.m., Arts Lecture Hall room 116. Details.

St. Jerome’s University presents Mary Juergensmeyer, University of California at Santa Barbara, “Global Rebellion: Religious Challenges to the Secular State” Monday 7:30, Siegfried Hall.

Techno Tuesday: “eBook Readers”, Tuesday 3:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing competitions: Euclid Contest for grade 12 students, Tuesday; Fryer (grade 9), Galois (grade 10) and Hypatia (grade 11) contests, Wednesday. Details.

English Language Proficiency Examination for students due to write this term, Tuesday 12:30, 2:30, 4:30 and 6:30, Physical Activities Complex. Details.

Faculty Association annual general meeting Tuesday 2:00, Math and Computer building room 4020.

UW board of governors meets Tuesday 2:30 p.m., Needles Hall room 3001.

Town hall meeting with the president, provost and vice-president (external relations) for faculty and staff members Wednesday 3:00, Humanities Theatre. Details.

Good Friday holiday April 10: UW offices and most services will be closed.

UW-ACE instructor user group Thursday, April 16, 1:30, Flex lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Pharmacy building community open house Saturday, April 18, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 10 Victoria Street South, all welcome. (Official opening ceremony, by invitation, April 17.)

Friends of the Library Lecture by Prem Watsa, chancellor-designate of the university, Monday, April 20, 12:00 noon, Theatre of the Arts.

UW Retirees Association spring luncheon Wednesday, April 22, 11:30 a.m., Luther Village, speaker Mike Sharratt (department of kinesiology) on “Optimal Aging for Older Adults”, tickets $25, information 519-885-4758.

Used book sale sponsored by local chapter of Canadian Federation of University Women, April 24 (9:00 to 9:000 and 25 (9:00 to 1:00), First United Church, King and William Streets; drop off books at the church April 22 or 23, or call 519-740-5249.

Graduate Student Research Conference April 27-30, Davis Centre. Details.

Fee payment deadline for the spring term: April 27 (cheque, money order or fee arrangements), April 30 (bank transfer). Details.

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