Gillian Smith, an award-winning game designer, joined WPI in 2017. Her interdisciplinary work merges technical research in AI and HCI with creative practice in textiles and games, with a view towards addressing social issues and broadening participation and perspectives on computing. Their research interests are in computational creativity, game design, computer science education, and the intersection of traditional crafts and computation.
In 2021 Professor Smith was appointed director of WPI’s Interactive Media and Games Development program – one of the earliest gaming programs in the nation, and a program where, in her words, many different fields collide in one place, including tech, art, design, social justice, writing, audio, and user experience design.
Their current research focuses on applications of generative design in crafts and games, and she is co-PI on the NSF-funded Code Crafters project that aims to teach computational thinking to adults via quilt design. She is an award-winning game designer as co-creator of Threadsteading (in collaboration with Disney Research Pittsburgh), a game played on a consumer embroidery machine, as well as co-creator of eBee, a quilt-based board game that teaches basic principles of electricity. They also advise research in integrating procedural generation techniques into games and design tools, and using game AI techniques to gain insight into player strategies and learning.
At WPI Professor Smith has been developing and assessing ungrading practices – teaching practices that shift the focus of students and teachers away from grade-based assessment to encourage greater focus on learning. As part of this work they have been active in several Morgan Center-supported learning communities that bring WPI faculty together to explore ungrading practices.
Visit Digital WPI to view student projects and research advised by Professor Smith
Visit Professor Smith’s personal web site for more information about courses taught
Sustainable Development Goals
Professional Highlights & Honors
Video game news site TechRaptor says it sees a “bright future” for the gaming industry after speaking with two Interactive Media and Game Development students and IMGD Director Associate Professor Gillian Smith.
NPR’s Marketplace spoke with Gillian Smith, Associate Professor and Director of IMGD, about the unionization efforts at Activision Blizzard – the video game company behind titles including Call of Duty, Guitar Hero, and World of Warcraft. It’s the first time a union has been formed at a major video game studio. Smith talked about what she has heard about the working conditions at some similar companies. The story was featured on NPR’s national broadcast, as well as approximately 50 local stations around the country.