Informatics, TU Vienna

Lunchtime Scientific Series: Zachary O. Dugas Toups

The Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) group of the Faculty of Informatics invites you to a presentation on "Playing at Planning: Developing Games to Support Disaster Responders"


We draw on years of ethnographic investigation into the disaster response practices of fire emergency response, urban search and rescue, and incident command to inform the design of games. Our objective is to support training disaster responders, yet our findings apply to general game design. We identify critical components of disaster response practice, from which we develop game design patterns: emergent objectives, developing intelligence, and collaborative planning. We expect that, in implementing these patterns, designers can engage players in disaster-response-style planning activities. To support the design patterns, we survey exemplar games, through case studies. We contribute a set of game design patterns that support designers in building games that engage players in planning activities.


Zachary O. Toups is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at New Mexico State University, having started in August 2013, where his research areas include intersections of collaboration support, game design, wearable computers, and disaster response. His current projects explore how game players gather and share information in-game; how games can teach disaster planning activities; how wearables can support human-human and human-drone collaboration; and how games can be used to design and test wearable computer interfaces. He asserts that digital game play is the human-computer interface in its purest form; people play games in order to experience interfaces. 

In his present position, Prof. Toups has brought in over 1 million USD in research funding from the US National Science Foundation and Army Research Lab, including an NSF CAREER award. He directs the Play and Interactive Experiences for Learning (PIxL) Lab, which supports five Ph.D. students and a number of M.S. students. He is the Co-Chair for the ACM SIGCHI Annual Symposium on Human-Computer Interaction and Play (CHI PLAY) for 2016 and 2017, and has served in a number of roles for CHI PLAY, the ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, and other conferences. Prof. Toups received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Texas A&M University in 2010 and his B.A. of Computer Science from Southwestern University in 2003. In between his Ph.D. and appointment at NMSU, he researched information technology to support disaster responders at the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service with the Texas Task Force 1 elite urban search and rescue group.