University of Salford wins bid for €4m ‘GameHearts’ project with Ubisoft, Man City owner, Imperial War Museums and the London Symphony Orchestra

GameHearts research project from Uni of Salford

The University of Salford has led a successful €4m bid for a new international research project known as ‘GameHearts’.

It will see researchers working with games publisher Ubisoft alongside City Football Group (the owners of Manchester City FC, involved as representative operating in the wider esports space), Imperial War Museums and the London Symphony Orchestra.

The GameHearts project will evaluate the European video game industry, exploring the economic, social and cultural value of video gaming. It will also be looking at other opportunities for video games ‘to extend and enhance audiences’ engagement with live experiences’.

GameHearts will begin in January 2024, with research findings set to be published in due course. The University of Salford will co-lead the research with European partners.

Professor Garry Crawford from the School of Health & Society at the University of Salford led the bid to secure €4m Horizon Europe funding for the study from the European Commission and UKRI.

Garry led the bid alongside fellow University of Salford academics Gaynor Bagnall (Senior Lecturer in Sociology), Victoria Gosling (Lecturer in Sociology), Seamus Simpson (Professor of Media Policy) and Maria Stukoff (Director of the Maker Space of the School of Science, Engineering and Environment).

The team will collaborate with the universities of Vienna (co-lead) and Tampere, Breda University of Applied Science, and Wroclaw University of Economics and Business, on delivering the project.

Professor Crawford and the team argue that the value and importance of video games cannot be measured solely in economic and user terms, and that the gaming industry is already influential in a wider cultural and social context.

Video gaming is a major European and global industry, employing over 74,000 workers in the EU. The European games industry is worth annually more than €24bn and has a user base of over 124m individuals.

Sports clubs around the world are already using game related technologies to expand access to their live events, as well as employing esports teams to extend the reach of their brands into new markets.

Visitor attractions and live music events are also using new technologies such as Extended Reality (XR).

The news comes a few days after a separate study by the University of Chichester found that Counter-Strike players are ‘unable to cope effectively with the negative influence of stress’.

‘We’ll explore how gaming can extend into the wider arts’ – what those behind GameHearts said about the project

“With GameHearts we want to probe how gaming can be a driver for innovation and increased accessibility,” said Professor Garry Crawford from the School of Health & Society at the University of Salford.

“We will explore how gaming technology and influences could be extended into the wider arts and cultural sector, in a way that helps create new interactive experiences that can open up cultural engagement to wider audiences.

“What makes GameHearts unique and exciting is that we will be working with some of the main players in the world of gaming as part of the research. Ubisoft is one of the biggest games companies in the world.  

“Plus we will be working closely with the City Football Group, London Symphony Orchestra and the Imperial War Museums who have been carefully selected as three case studies that will be used to explore the current and potential value of a closer working relationship between the video game and wider creative industries.”

Emmanuel Martin, VP of Corporate Affairs at Ubisoft, added: “Ubisoft is honored to participate in GameHearts, a European research project that has the potential to facilitate rich collaboration between video games and the cultural sector. At Ubisoft, we believe that video games can provide an approachable way for players to learn and grow through interactive experiences.

“We look forward to contributing our expertise in technology and immersive storytelling to this project, in the hopes of bringing engaging cultural experiences to even more people around the world.”

Gavin Johnson, Media Director at City Football Group, commented: “City Football Group are delighted to be involved in this research project with the University of Salford and other leading organisations. Whilst many may know us for our success on the football pitch, the gaming industry has been a natural priority for us over recent years and we have passionately developed our gaming and esports offering with a key focus on reaching fans in an area of their lives they are passionate about.

“We look forward to offering our unique expertise and global perspective to the GameHearts collaboration and learning from academic findings to continue to enhance our fan experience in the world of gaming and beyond.”

Gavin Johnson, City Football Group

Gill Webber, Executive Director IWM Institute from Imperial War Museums, remarked: “IWM is delighted to be part of this exciting project, funded by Horizon Europe, and to work in partnership with the University of Salford and a wide range of other European partners.

“At IWM, we have taken a keen interest in how video games tell stories of war and conflict. Our recent ‘War Games’ exhibition at IWM London was the UK’s first at a major museum to ask how the reality of war is represented in the virtual world of a video game. Through this project, we hope to further develop our relationship with the video game industry, and to explore how video gaming technology could be used to enhance IWM’s future public programming.”

Kathryn McDowell, Managing Director of London Symphony Orchestra, stated: “The LSO are delighted to be part of this important research, we have been recording and playing music for games since they first appeared on the market. Our work in this area has grown and become more complex as the form has developed. 

“We look forward to working with the sector to explore how the gaming technology can inform and support the cultural industries.” 

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