Elina Ollila’s doctoral dissertation was publicly examined yesterday at Tampere University of Technology. While her work, “Using Prototyping and Evaluation Methods in Iterative Design of Innovative Mobile Games”, is not all about pervasive games, it should be of very much interest to anyone prototyping pervasive games. After all, more than half of her papers discuss IPerG / NRC pervasive games, such as Mythical: The Mobile Awakening, and many of the methods discussed are in commercial use in game companies. My personal favourite is her paper “How to Fail”, a strikingly open post mortem of three failed pervasive game research projects analyzing what went wrong in each case.
The opponents, Prof. Frans Mäyrä and Dr. Tony Manninen put up a good show. Finnish PhD defenses are about the doctoral candidate actually defending the argumentation, and they sometimes get really harsh. Much of the discussion revolved around the validity of design research, which always offers easy shots for the devil’s advocates. After all, few game design researchers can scientifically prove the validity and value of their work, if the fact that x companies use it does not suffice. Elina came out in one piece (of course, as she is really good at what she does) after three uninterrupted hours of intense scrutiny and excellent discussion, and the examiners recommended her dissertation to be accepted.
I got personally excited when Elina presented the expansion model of pervasive games in her opening speech: While it was not the focus of her thesis, she considered it essential for understanding and framing the work. I spent the next hour chewing my fingernails, waiting for the opponents to start poking at the expansions, wondering how she would defend it.
Congratulations to Dr. Elina for the great accomplishment!