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Keynote  Speakers

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Dr Rachel Kowert

Research psychologist and the Research Director of Take This


Moving beyond the MMORPG years: A retrospective look at research innovation in game studies


Abstract: As a discipline, game studies has been continually growing and innovating. In this talk, we will explore how game studies has evolved as an area of specialization since I began my work in this field at the University of York over a decade ago. From the beginning “MMORPG years”, to the “Gamelab years” of the 2010s, to the “Hybrid years” we now find ourselves in, each point of innovation will be discussed, highlighting how our adaptability as a field has continued to dismantle preconceived notions of games as frivolous (at best) and dangerous (at worst) activities. This talk will close with a celebration of how our persistence (and, honestly, our mere existence) as a field of research has changed both science and society.


Bio: Rachel Kowert, Ph.D is a research psychologist and the Research Director of Take This. She is a world-renowned researcher on the uses and effects of digital games, including their impact on physical, social, and psychological well-being.


An award-winning author, she has published a variety of books and scientific articles relating to the psychology of games and, more recently, the relationship between games and mental health specifically. Her published works include peer-reviewed books such as Video Game Debate, Video Game Debate 2, and Video Games and Well-being: Press Start, as well as community-focused books such as A Parent’s Guide to Video Games, and Pragmatic Princess.


Recently, she founded her YouTube channel Psychgeist, which serves to bridge the gap between moral panic and scientific knowledge on a variety of psychology and game-related topics.  In 2021, Dr. Kowert was chosen as a member of The Game Awards Future Class, representing the best and brightest of the future of video games.


Dr. Kowert has been featured in various media outlets, including NPR, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Wired, and video game publications such as Kotaku and Polygon.


In her spare time, she can be found talking about The Witcher (#CavillInfluencer) and playing with her three children.


Dr Tom Cole

Tom is Lecturer in Games Development at the University of Greenwich

Lost in the Woods: The importance and utility of grounded theory methodology and qualitative research in games


Abstract: Using my own research on mixed-affect and eudaimonic emotional experiences in games as a touch point, I will talk about Grounded Theory methodology (GTM), what it has to offer games research, and how qualitative work in general is essential to the health of any research field. In particular, I will highlight how GTM has great potential for opening up new frontiers in research, as well as bringing innovation and novel insights to established domains of knowledge.


Bio:Tom is Lecturer in Games Development at the University of Greenwich. Until recently he was Lecturer in Computing at Goldsmiths, University of London and before that founded and led the BA Games Design degree at the University for the Creative Arts, Rochester.

Tom was in the very first intake of IGGI in 2014. He obtained his PhD from Goldsmiths in 2020, and has published papers on mixed-affect and reflective gameplay experiences, player agency and the use of grounded theory methodology (including 2 papers at the recent CHI 2022 conference in New Orleans). His research is situated at the boundary of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and Games Studies, and focuses on how we can broaden and deepen emotional engagement in videogames, with a particular focus on the eudaimonic gameplay experience.

He also organises AdventureX - the Narrative Games Convention. The only event of it's kind in the world, it's an internationally recognised sell-out event at the British Library Conference Centre.

Before entering academia, Tom worked at Supermassive Games where he was a designer on the BAFTA award-winning horror game Until Dawn and artist on Killzone Shadow Fall.


Dr Sahar Asadi

Research Lead at King

From research to production: the journey of content production automation 


Abstract: Content is an essential pillar of our games at King. Given the scale and the enormous number of players and levels, an AI solution that enables content production automation is required to keep producing playful and fun-to-play levels. It has been a journey of research, experiments, development, and operations.  In this talk, I will discuss some of the research work in this domain, production challenges and how we addressed them in our example use-cases at King. 


Bio: Sahar is a research lead at King where she drives AI research for the games. Sahar obtained her PhD in mobile robot olfaction from Applied Autonomous Sensor System, Örebro University. Her passion is to tackle the challenges of bringing research to product and production responsibly, which will be the theme of her talk at the conference. Throughout her +11 years of industry journey, she got to apply research to real problems in many different domains: user experience at Spotify, distributed deep learning at Clusterone, information retrieval and NLP at Meltwater, and product recognition at OculusAI. Sahar is also a co-founder of Women in Data Science, AI & ML Sweden.

  • Program & Workshop/Demo Co-chairs: Sahar Mirhadi, James Goodman

  • Poster/Buzz Chair: Prasad Sandbhor

  • Website/Marketing Chairs: Michael Saiger, Florence Smith Nicholls

  • Local Chair: Francesca Foffano

  • General Chairs: Debbie Maxwell, James Walker

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