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2020 End-of-Year Report

Dear CM&BHC Community,

I am excited to celebrate the end of 2020, hoping that the bad parts are not a trailer for 2021. Despite the many challenges, grief, and losses, there were also many moments of celebration. And certainly, a lot of experimentation to survive. What are some* of the highlights of the year from our community? (I have been stalking you as best as I can...)

  • The Brain Architecture Game went hybrid and is in beta! Many thanks to Morgan Kuligowski and Fiona Cahill for helping me move the needle on this.
  • CTIN 575 Love Matters premiered this Fall, and it was a treat to teach. I solicited help from alumni Laura Garcia and Andy Sacher from The Lavender Effect. I will involve alumni more and more in teaching because the experience has been so valuable, and the upside of remote teaching is widening participation. 
  • The much-anticipated paper on our work led by Dr. James Finley's lab for Parkinson's Disease is in the press and will be open-access when published. The usability work completed before this paper is pending re-submission.
  • We've officially launched the bi-continental initiative Brains@Play led by Garrett Flynn to "promote the responsible development of brain-responsive social experiences through participatory public events that explore the art, science, technology, and ethics of multiplayer brain games." Check-out the associated Visions & Voices event on the website and mark your calendars for the upcoming design fiction competition in Spring 2021 (Feb 1-March 20, 2021). I will need judges too!
  • Jeff Newell completed data collection on an epic video conf-based study on mindfulness and gaming with help from Wendi Wu, Morgan Kuligowski, and Fiona Cahill.
  • Juri Hwang premiered Scurry Along, a sound toy to help hard-of-hearing children in their journey to auditory rehabilitation at the Tokyo Games Show.


Our entrepreneurs have also been very busy:

  • Ama Inc., led by Awu Chen, keeps expanding, and we're happy to see that they can show their work safely in Taiwan this month in a series of events.
  • Thinker Tinker and Yuting Su's lovable plush Octobo keeps growing (including a new human baby in the family).
  • Lumeum by Max Orozco launched ReadyTeddy to habituate children on MRIs.
  • AppliedVR, a company where some of you have worked or interned received FDA Breakthrough Device Designation to treat pain with Digital Therapeutic and is now on an accelerated track for approval.


My professional practice in Greece has ventured into some interesting areas and is helping me reclaim my bilingualism. When I landed for my sabbatical in 2018, I had never written even a paragraph of Greek content as an adult professional, and it was a bit rough and embarrassing. Thanks to memory, practice, and the miracle of neuroplasticity, the Greek in me is strong, and thus far she:

  • Co-designed a speculative game (Slaughter of the Commons) in Greek for Onassis Foundation HackAthens 2019, published in a bi-lingual book (in press).
  • Co-authored and edited a training manual for family medicine/primary care in Greek with Dr. Christos Lionis (in press).
  • Continues to teach one module per semester in the MPH program at the University of Crete. 
  • Received a Greek Diaspora Fellowship to collaborate with Aristotle University of Thessaloniki to explore the intersection of Narrative Medicine and Cinematic Arts in Medical Education Curricula. It is on hold thanks to the pandemic, but we're made some plans for when we can proceed.


In 2021, there are oh-so-too-many plans to invite you to:

  • Since I am very behind on publishing research papers, I hope to start hosting bi-weekly co-writing sessions for myself and students who need to prep papers for publication all next year. There is really no other way to do it. Writing up research is a group sport. Are you behind on writing? Let me know to add you to the list. 
  • I will be teaching CTIN 510 for the first time (in addition to CTIN 503), which used to be Dennis Wixon's class on mixed methods research methods. It is a bit terrifying to try to fill Dennis's shoes, but it is also exciting to teach a new class. He will guest lecture a little bit, so I don't have to miss his retirement completely
  • Laura Cechanowicz, Julie Lutz, and I will be leading some design fiction workshops on Rehabilitation Futures as part of the SMART-VR Center 2021 agenda. We will need some help here. 
  • I will be co-chairing the Ethics & Accessibility track of IDC 2021. This is a great conference for those who design experiences for children. Consider submitting work at all stages of completion or participating in the design competition. 


And more, but gosh, do I need a little break for the holidays! I can't stop thinking about the last decade a lot and about what it has meant to me, my students, and my colleagues. Although the Games for Health Initiative started in 2007, its impact on teaching became visible a bit later in 2010, when our team of students won two awards at a national competition and went to the White House.

I did not get to go to the White House that time, but Maryalice Jordan-Marsh did! Most of you know her as my most cherished collaborator at USC since 2007. Beyond a collaborator, however, Maryalice has always been a VIP mentor, and I am trying very hard to pass along all that she had taught me. I leave you with a picture of us full of happiness and innocence after we obtained our first grant together. I miss all of you, but I miss working with her in-person the most 🙂

Be well everyone and see you soon,
Marientina Gotsis

* Feel free to send me updates to include monthly in these newsletters: new jobs, project milestones, exhibitions, weddings, babies, whatever you want to celebrate. I include as much as I can here, especially if you need to update your resumes. For brevity here, I only include the lead/point person on a project or company as our community often includes large teams.