Saturday, 31 May 2014

A Potpourri of Games

In 1999, my Ph.D. student Andreas Junghanns and his wife Manuela hosted a party at their apartment in Edmonton. They invited a few faculty and graduate students over, all members of the GAMES (Games, Analytical Methods, and Empirical Studies) research group. We enjoyed an evening of playing a variety of games, eating, drinking, and socializing. Needless to say, a good time was had by all.

Andreas and Manuela had a nice idea, so it had to be copied. Several months later I hosted a GAMES party. Soon, other faculty members in the GAMES group joined in. For almost 15 years now we have had several GAMES parties a year, trying to average one per month (excluding the July and August holidays). Any excuse is a good reason for having a party: a visiting GAMES researcher, meeting new GAMES students, celebrating a success, or just because we need a break. Whatever the reason, GAMES parties are popular amongst the faculty, staff, and students who are interested in games-related research (and some who just enjoy playing games).
One of many tables at a typical GAMES party.
The parties include any form of game. During any given party, you may encounter classic games (such as chess), newly published games (often from Germany), physical games (such as billiards), and video games (no shortage of choices here). The play is non-competitive; everyone participates for the fun of it. Thinking and strategy games dominate the selection; the higher the luck factor the less likely it will be played. A typical party has between 20 and 40 attendees, dominated by the graduate students. There is always plenty to eat, drink, and think about.
Michael and Shayna Bowling: May 2014 GAMES party hosts.
Michael and Shayna Bowling hosted the GAMES party held in May. During the week, Michael is a passionate, highly successful artificial intelligence researcher and the leader of our Computer Poker Research Group (CPRG). But during their leisure hours, Michael and Shayna are enthusiastic game players and game collectors. They have a large collection of games and bring their latest additions to every GAMES party.
A sample of the Bowling's game collection.
And what of Andreas and Manuela? They are both back in Germany and doing very well. When visitors from Alberta drop by, they host “small” GAMES parties. GAMES group alumni occasionally host parties around the world, including Iceland, Denver, and Silicon Valley. GAMES parties have now gone international!
What's a party without food?