The current global crises demonstrate that human strategies based on exploitation have come to an end. These strategies, now leading to failure, are reflected in games and their mechanics: it’s all about winning, accruing possessions, conquering new worlds.

Project Lead: Margarete Jahrmann, Experimental Game Cultures, University of Applied Arts Vienna

Project Partners: Brigitte Felderer, Social Design, University of Applied Arts Vienna, Matthew Pelowski, Department of Cognition, Emotion, and Methods in Psychology, University of Vienna, Stefan Glasauer, Computational Neuroscience, Brandenburg University of Technology, Cottbus.

Using methods of artistic research, experimental psychology, and neuroscience in a combination that we term the PSYCHO-LUDIC APPROACH, we will investigate alternative motivations for game-playing, how we can learn from these about possible future forms of society, and whether, by using new game mechanisms in experimental, playful contexts we may unlock better means of mediating reflection, thoughts, and action, creating a powerful, transdisciplinary basis for ecologically respectful ways of living. 

We propose that intrinsic forms of motivation, such as curiosity, creative work, participation, and emotional flow could replace profit-oriented game mechanics, enhance emphatic bonding, and foster a positive exchange with the environment. We will develop a scenario of future play that can break up established structures and suggest alternative games that point beyond the purpose of play: Signposts to possibilities of new forms of society, politics, and coexistence.

We address this aim by means of the psycho-ludic approach, which combines artistic research with scientific methods from psychology and neuroscience. In Hyperscan Flow Plays we use scientific experiments, hyperscanning, i.e., the simultaneous measurement of the coupling of the brains of two or more people in a natural social setting, to achieve empirical and theoretical insights. In dedicated actions we will present our questions as public artistic games, in which viewers are at the same time co-players and self-researchers, with whom we investigate motivation, affect, empathy, and emotion for alternative strategies of play.


Objective 1

Artistic exploration of alternative game mechanics to investigate new ways of motivation and affective experience, away from profit and accumulation of possessions through experimental play to illuminate political and ethical awareness of a new ecological materiality and new ways of perceiving the world. Uncertainty as a basic principle of a dynamic play of forces is positively experienced in the ambiguity of play (Sutton-Smith, 1997). The research project itself is seen as a test case for the usefulness of such mechanisms.

Objective 2

Strategically reinterpreting existing metaphors and concepts in artistic cooperative play and the meaning of game mechanics in society through a deliberate use of cooperation and empathy mechanics. In contrast to established game mechanics of conquest, linear development, and accumulation, we explore, using the psycho-ludic approach, a new field of alternative empathic game design and connect it to an experiential design of “agency,” actionability.

Objective 3

Artist-researcher investigation of cause and effect of intrinsic motivation in games through affective experiential contexts, empathy, curiosity, etc., with the goal of discovering mechanisms and strategies that, culturally transferred, could influence capitalist concepts, effect social change, and intervene in our current global challenges.

Objective 4

Design of experimental game-art test facilities in which subjective experience of alternative mechanics becomes possible. In the coupling to Social Design as a multidisciplinary field of the design of social interaction we start a) from the radical questioning of game mechanics as the basis of political narratives of the present and b) from the particular emotive state of the players as concrete agents.


Please find a link to our abstract here (.pdf)

CRE[AI]D – A brain aided artistic image liberation game

At A MAZE. Festival 2024 the installation titled Cre[AI]D was showcased, highlighting the intersection of traditional art and artificial intelligence. This installation continuously generates images using AI, trained on the drawings of artist Margarete Jahrmann.


Cre[AI]D employs an AI system to produce its images. The first AI is dedicated to the visual output, ensuring that each image reflects the style and characteristics of the original drawings.

The process begins with the second AI, which generates prompts for the image creation. These prompts are derived from five randomly selected words taken from a book, introducing an element of randomness and speculative fiction into the generated art. Even the prompts that generate the images are now generated themselves.

Interactive Element

A significant feature of the Cre[AI]D installation is the large red buzzer present within the exhibit space. When pressed by a visitor, this buzzer initiates the image generation process. This interactive component allows visitors to engage directly with the installation, triggering the creation of new images with each press.

Continuous Image Generation

Cre[AI]D is designed to produce an infinite number of images, ensuring that the exhibit remains dynamic and ever-changing. The continuous generation of new art pieces means that each visitor experiences a unique set of visuals.

Playable 3D version

Explore our live online version directly in your browser, where you can generate images within a virtual representation of the “Postsparkasse”. Use the WSAD keys to navigate and your mouse to look around. Click on the one-armed bandit to generate a unique image.

Enter Postsparkasse now!

Psycholudic Engine

In the digital atelier of the Psycholudic Game Engine, the boundary between creator and participant dissolves. Here, the alchemy of ChatGPT transforms words into the living code of LUA, crafting levels brimming with potential. This environment invites every player to become an artist, re-imagining the essence of gameplay through the versatile scripting language LUA.

The Concept

The Psycholudic Game Engine is designed to push the boundaries of traditional game development, allowing players to enter prompts that generate levels and behaviors dynamically. This innovative approach hints at the future of gaming, where players can prompt an environment much like a holodeck, crafting unique experiences with their input.

Generating Levels and Behaviors

In this game, players can input prompts that the engine translates into game levels and character behaviors. This process is powered by LUA, a lightweight and efficient scripting language known for its real-time capabilities. LUA allows for immediate modifications to the game’s rules and environment, creating a fluid and responsive gaming experience.

What is it like to play a tree @ re:publica24

We care how we play — to test and change this we use methods of artistic research, experimental psychology, and neuroscience in a combination that we term the PSYCHO-LUDIC APPROACH. In play experiments we investigate alternative motivations for game-playing, how we can learn from these about possible future forms of society, and whether, by using new game mechanisms in experimental, playful contexts we may unlock better means of mediating reflection, thoughts, and action, creating a powerful, transdisciplinary basis for ecologically respectful ways of living.

Fotos: Ivan Jakaric/ Cath Spaeth

Psycholudic Shuffleboard

The Psycholudic Shuffleboard is a project designed to merge traditional card games with modern technology. Specifically, it focuses on the game “Schnapsen,” providing both physical and virtual versions of a game board to facilitate various types of research and analysis.

The Physical Psycholudic Shuffleboard

The physical version of the Psycholudic Shuffleboard is constructed from oak wood and incorporates Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. This board allows each card play to be recorded in real-time, ensuring accurate documentation of the game. The integration of NFC technology means that each card’s movement is logged, providing comprehensive data for analysis.
The board features buttons that players can press to indicate when a game has been won. This feature simplifies the process of recording game outcomes and ensures that all critical events are captured.

An additional aspect of the Psycholudic Shuffleboard project involves using the collected metrics to experiment with role switching within the game. By analyzing detailed logs of gameplay and player interactions, we can identify patterns and triggers when switching roles between players.

The Virtual Psycholudic Shuffleboard

The virtual version of the Psycholudic Shuffleboard is designed for scenarios where digital data integration and low latency are essential. This version enables data transmission over the network with minimal delay, which is particularly useful for experiments that involve simultaneous recording of gameplay and brain activity. The virtual board allows for precise timing, capturing game data within milliseconds.

Disruptive launch of PSYCHOLUDIC APPROACH project @ Chubu University/Nagoya/Tokyo

We are happy to place the 1st emanation of our new FWF /PEEK project “The Psycho Ludic Approach: Cre[AI]d. A brain aided artistic image generation game”.

Players: reknown scientists, as the QUANTUM LIKE AI/ quantum physics brain pioneer Andrej Khrennikov and the nobel price candidate Masanao Ozawa or Takuya Isomura, BIOMIMETIC AI/ tissue brain expert for neural networks corresponding to free energy brain principal (Friston) from RIKEN Center for Brain science Wake, Japan or the emotional science fabric developer from social robotics lab, Dr. Jaeryoung Lee. 

 Arigato gozaimasu, Special Thanks for the invitation to Prof. Yutaka Hirata, The Neural Cybernetics Laboratory, Director, Center for Mathematical Science and AI, Chubu University, Matsumoto Kasugai Aichi, JAPAN,

1st AI CR[AI]D Brain Image drawing session, Live at Center for Mathematical Science and AI, Chubu University, JP

@Nagoya University 2023, October/November 2023