Federico researches games and play with a mix of theoretical and experimental approaches. In his interdisciplinary work, he combines game studies, aesthetics, cognitive psychology, philosophy of mind, and more to elucidate the experience of individuals at play.
Education and Professional Experience
Federico obtained an undergraduate degree in Visual Arts from the Fine Arts School Figueroa Alcorta and a graduate degree in Audiovisual Communications from the Blas Pascal University in Córdoba, Argentina. His early research examined the intersection between hacker ethics and the contemporary art world.
For a few years, he was active as a media artist, exhibiting in galleries and museums in Argentina, until he decided to return to academia and pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Cologne, Germany on the topic of time in video games. He successfully defended his dissertation in 2018 (summa cum laude) and published it with transcript Publishing in 2019 under the title “Time and Space in Video Games. A Cognitive Formalist Approach.” In this research, Federico theorized how our perception of time shapes the design of the temporal structures of video games and, in turn, how playing video games can affect our perception of time.
His doctoral dissertation led him to work as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health (IGPP, Freiburg, Germany) for the EU-funded project VIRTUALTIMES. The aim of this project was to develop virtual reality tools to diagnose and treat psychopathologies like depression through the manipulation of time perception. Federico’s role in the project was to help design and conduct experiments to assess how video games and virtual environments can affect the perception of the passage of time in healthy individuals.
After this, he joined the EU-funded project ISEDA (Innovative Solutions to Eliminate Domestic Abuse) as Researcher and Project Coordinator. ISEDA’s goal is to combat domestic violence in Europe through the development of training programs, awareness-raising campaigns, and the use of digital tools. One such tool is a serious game that will train police officers on how to conduct interviews with victims. Federico was involved in the preliminary stages of the development of this tool when he left the project to take his current position at the Cologne Game Lab as a Substitute Professor of Media & Game Studies.
Federico has taught at different institutions of higher education like the University of Cologne, the TH Köln, the Ruhr University Bochum, and the Blas Pascal University. As a teaching assistant in Argentina, he taught courses on the history and philosophy of art. In Germany, his teaching has primarily focused on game studies, play studies, digital culture, and philosophy of art.
In his current position at the Cologne Game Lab, Federico has taken over the teaching responsibilities of Prof. Dr. Gundolf S. Freyermuth. He now teaches the Media & Game Studies seminars in the Bachelor of Arts in Digital Games and the Master of Arts in Digital Games together with Prof. Dr. Sonia Fizek. These seminars tackle a wide variety of subjects that provide students with broad theoretical foundations to analyze video games in their cultural and historical context—including courses on game studies, play studies, media studies, art history, philosophy of art, narratology, theory of fiction, and more.
Federico’s current work brings theories of philosophy of mind and cognitive psychology to bear on the understanding of play. So far, play has been predominantly studied in terms of its formal aspects, through the analysis of play activities and playthings, and in terms of its functions, such as in child development and community building. With this research project, Federico aims to shed light on the psychological dimension of play by conceptualizing the state of mind that characterizes it.
Federico’s previous research has been mainly concerned with time in video games. His dissertation approached this subject from two complementary angles: the formal analysis of temporal structures in video games, and the examination of those aspects of time perception that are relevant in our interaction with them. In his postdoctoral research, Federico shifted from the humanities to the natural sciences and conducted experiments to closely examine how video games and virtual environments can affect our perception of the passage of time.
Current Research Projects
The Playing Mind: A New Framework for the Study of Play.
Full publication list: https://federicoalvarez.com/publications/
Alvarez Igarzábal, F. (2019). Time and Space in Video Games. A Cognitive-Formalist Approach, Bielefeld: transcript Publishing. [Open Access]
Aguilar Rodríguez, J., Alvarez Igarzábal, F., Debus, M. S., Maughan, C. L., Song, S. J., Vozaru, M., & Zimmermann, F. (Eds.) (2022). Mental Health | Atmospheres | Video Games. New Directions in Game Research II, Bielefeld: transcript Publishing. [Open Access]
Alvarez Igarzábal, F., Debus, M. S., & Maughan, C. L. (Eds.) (2019). Violence | Perception | Video Games. New Directions in Games Research, Bielefeld: transcript Publishing.
Alvarez Igarzábal, F. (In press). “Art, Video Games, and the Comeback of Human Nature,” in Leonardo Electronic Almanac, MIT Press. (Preprint).
Landeck, M., Alvarez Igarzábal, F., Unruh, F., Habenicht, H., Khoshnoud, S., Wittmann, M., Lugrin, J.-L., & Latoschik, M.E. (2023). “Journey through a Virtual Tunnel: Simulated Motion and its Effects on the Experience of Time,” in Frontiers in Virtual Reality 3:1059971. DOI: 10.3389/frvir.2022.1059971
Chaumon, M., Rioux, PA., Herbst, S.K. [et al. including Alvarez Igarzábal, F.] (2022). “The Blursday Database as a Resource to Study Subjective Temporalities During COVID-19,” in Nature Human Behavior. DOI: 10.1038/s41562-022-01419-2
Alvarez Igarzábal, F., Hruby, H., Witowska, J., Khoshnoud, S., & Wittmann, M. (2021). “What Happens While Waiting in Virtual Reality? A Comparison Between a Virtual and a Real Waiting Situation Concerning Boredom, Self-Regulation, and the Experience of Time,” in Technology, Mind, and Behavior, vol. 2 (2). DOI: 10.1037/tmb0000038
Rutrecht, H., Wittmann, M., Khoshnoud, S., & Alvarez Igarzábal, F. (2021). “Time Speeds Up During Flow States: A Study in Virtual Reality with the Video Game Thumper,” in Timing & Time Perception, vol. 9 (4), pp. 353–376. DOI: 10.1163/22134468-bja10033
Alvarez Igarzábal, F. (2020). “Experiencing the Passage of Time in Video Games,” in Proceedings of the 13th International Philosophy of Computer Games Conference.