Hi I’m Zac, I’m a gamification geek and associate lecturer at the Games Research and Interaction Design (GRID) Lab, in the Science and Engineering Faculty, Queensland University of Technology (QUT) with a research focus on mobile applications, video games and user experience. My primary interests lie in the field of Human Computer Interaction (HCI), focusing on playful experiences and interactions on mobile devices and video games. My phd thesis aims to explore how game design elements embedded into non-game contexts, using mobile technology, can be used as tools of persuasion and engagement.

I interned at the Nokia Research Center, Helsinki, Finland in 2008 and since then have completed a research honours in Information Systems at QUT and have worked as a research assistant for the Institue of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI), QUT in 2009. I’ve also been lecturing and tutoring a range of subjects both in the Faculty of IT and Faculty of Creative Industries at QUT since 2007. I also design iOS applications in my spare time for Eat More Pixels.

I’m a massive fan of board games (especially the german ones) and feel the best way to get to know someone is to play a board game with them. I always carry a tennis ball around with me for impromptu games of handball (known as foursquare in the states).

Phd Research Overview

Name: Zachary Fitz-Walter
Email: z-fitz-walter@qut.edu.au
Title: Exploring the Design and Effects of Game Elements in Context-Aware Mobile Content and Services
Principal Supervisor: Assoc. Prof. Dian Tjondronegoro
Associate Supervisor: Dr. Peta Wyeth

Abstract: Although video games are highly motivating and engaging forms of entertainment they have in fact also had a history of being employed for serious purposes, in particular to make computing applications, such as educational applications, more engaging pieces of software. As technology continues to evolve, with mobile devices becoming more popular and powerful and new applications mediating more daily activities, software designers have turned again to video games as a means to make software applications more engaging.

This trend has become known as ‘gamification’ and describes the addition of game design patterns and thinking to non-game contexts to make a more engaging user experience. The adoption of gamification ‘techniques’ has skyrocketed with a wide range of social, lifestyle and educational software applications utilising various game elements in their design. Although early research has indicated an increased engagement in various domains there is still a need for research to further explore both the design and affect of gamified software applications in different domains, and a focus that encompasses the whole user experience, rather than just focusing on engagement. As traditional gameplay evokes particular behaviours and emotions from players it is important to explore how these align with user experience goals and affect interaction with application software.

This research aims to study the affect of various game elements on the user experience of mobile software applications. The main objective of this research is to determine if game elements can be used to successfully enhance the user experience of these applications and to uncover any issues when applying particular game elements to interfaces. From the results a set guidelines and design considerations will be proposed for the addition of game elements tosimilar software applications. The research aims to inform the future design and evaluation of game-like applications, contributing to knowledge on gamification and the human-computer interaction community.

Recent Achievements and Awards

  • Recognition of Service Award for ACM SIGCHI CHI Play Conference
  • Gamification 2013 Student Design Challenge Winner 2013
  • APA Scholarship Recipient for PhD 2010-2013
  • Smart Services CRC Scholarship for PhD 2010-2013
  • Apple University Consortium (AUC) Student Developer Scholarship 2011-2013
  • Most Outstanding Student CEO Choice Award – Smart Services Annual CRC Conference 2012
  • Best Elevator Pitch (Spoken) – Smart Services Annual CRC Conference 2012
  • Three minute thesis presentation – Faculty runner up 2012
  • Apple WWDC Student Scholarship 2012
  • Best Lecturer in the Information Systems Discipline, Semester One, 2011
  • Best Lecturer in the Information Systems Discipline, Semester Two, 2010
  • Best non-technical research thesis – Smart Services Annual CRC Conference 2010
  • Best presentation – Smart Services Annual CRC Conference 2010
  • Apple University Consortium – DevWorld Scholarship 2010
  • Nokia Research Intern in Helsinki – 2008

Memberships, Groups and Committees

  • CHI Play Publicity Chair
  • Member of the IGDA – http://www.igda.org/ 2012-2013
  • Gamification 2013 Associate Research Committee (Short Papers)