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James Cull

Drama and Theatre Studies, De Montfort University

Thesis title:

Advancing gaming AI for Posthuman experience in mixed reality performance and back again

The research for this project comprises of multiple facets of game design, performance theory, and AI design theory. 

The project is a transdisciplinary practice-based piece of research, embedded in the academia and practice of the chosen fields. Through innovation and performance design, utilising game development software to generate AI driven installation art. 


– Identify a methodology for the utilisation of game design software for interactive installation art. This is being undertaken with the use of game engines such as Unreal Engine and Unity3D. 

– Utilise interactive technologies to create a link between the real and virtual installation spaces.

– Explore horror game theory to identify key characteristics of the genre.

– Develop an original narrtive with branching pathways and outcomes, reflecting this key element of game design.

– Analysis of participant experience through the theory of Posthumanism, specifically Transhumanism. 

Context of the Research

The research brings together key theory from identified practice and academia. The main areas of reading and reflection are as follows:

– Game design specific technical texts, in order to identify and evaluate existing practice in the games industry, to be translated into interactive art instances. The purpose of this chapter and aspect of the research is to consider the technical design of work, reflecting on current practice and considering limitations, possibilities and purpose of the interactive digital content. With a specific focus on AI, this will include the use of technical handbooks such as Barrera, R, Sithu Kyaw, A and Naing Swe, T (2017). Unity 2017 Game AI Programming. 3rd ed. Birmingham: Packt Publishing. Through the utilisation of key industry guides, it is hoped that the research will be able to directly correlate with the games industry and open up dialogue between artists and game designers to innovate new experiences. 

– Texts that offer perspective on horror gaming specifically, as the chosen genre for the work comes with some particular qualities that may not otherwise be present in the generation of work. It is important to identify the characteristics of the genre within game development, as well as how this has manifested itself in existing artistic works. This element of the theory and reading is essential to showing how horror dynamics can be implemented from one medium to another, and will help to form approaches for the creation of art. A seminal text that has been identified in the research area has been identified as Perron, B. (2018). The World of Scary Video Games: A Study in Videoludic Horror. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.  This text is important to the research due to a number of reasons. It helps to identify the key characteristics of the genre, as well as considering the experience of the end-user, with a human-focused stance on the artistic qualities of horror in an interactive form such as horror video gaming. 

– Texts that offer a perspective on using an artistic form of information from the user. Specifically, as the research deals with biometric data from a participant, it is important to consider art works that have done this previously. Equally, as is identified as a key aspect, how this manifests itself within the sphere of posthumanist theory, specifically transhumanism. As it pertains to the artistic element of the research, an important text to explore is Wilson, S (2001). Information Arts: Intersections of Arts, Science, and Technology. Michigan: MIT University Press. This text offers perspectives on art works that have utilised similar connections between user, system and data. With this in mind, it is important to consider existing art that has utilised such approaches. 

– From this, it is then important to consider the posthuman experiences therein once art is generated. Considering the standpoint of transhumanism in the experiences developed, we can look to texts that explore the experience of player as a posthuman, and translate this theory to the artistic experiences of participants in the research. An ideal text for this has been identified as Boulter, J (2015). Parables of the Posthuman: Digital Realities, Gaming, and the Player Experience. Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University Press. We can then directly reate this research to the experiences of participants within the works created as part of this research project. By forming this link between the player experience theory and our participants, we can form the direct link in academia and theory that can be applied to further process and works.



Research Area

  • Drama and Theatre Studies


Immersive Storytelling Research Symposium - Presentation - Liverpool John Moors University - December 2018

Crossing Disciplinary Divides: A PhD Symposium: Drama, Dance and Performance Studies & Art and Design - DMU - September 2019

Postgraduate Multidisciplinary CEM Seminar - DMU - January 2020


Other Research Interests

Games Design


Interactive Narrative

Video Game Engines