AI researcher at modl.ai (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Establishing Trust in AI-based Tools for Game Development
AI-based tools to support the game development process have long been a topic in Game AI research, with popular publications in testing, churn prediction, asset, level and even game generation. However, the adaptation of these techniques from the games industry has been hesitant at best: The small-scale and simplified examples researchers use to demonstrate their work understandably only seldom convince the industry to risk investing in AI tools.
In this talk, I will speak about my experience establishing trust in AI-based tools to support creative processes in game development. Having worked on this topic in both industry and academia, I will address issues ranging from establishing a common language and explaining AI behaviour to issuing performance guarantees via benchmarking and theoretical analysis.
Vanessa Volz is an AI researcher at modl.ai (Copenhagen, Denmark), with focus in computational intelligence in games. She received her PhD in 2019 from TU Dortmund University, Germany, for her work on surrogate-assisted evolutionary algorithms applied to game optimisation. She holds B.Sc. degrees in Information Systems and in Computer Science from WWU Münster, Germany. She received an M.Sc. with distinction in Advanced Computing: Machine Learning, Data Mining and High Performance Computing from University of Bristol, UK, in 2014. Her current research focus is on employing surrogate-assisted evolutionary algorithms to obtain balance and robustness in systems with interacting human and artificial agents, especially in the context of games.
Human-Computer Interaction, University of York
Adventures in game attention research: from measuring experience to moderating mental health
Academic papers often tell a simple story, in which the authors’ hypotheses about a problem magically turn out to be correct and the results are then eagerly received by a grateful world. Real life and real research are much messier and often involve failure, confusion, and rejection. In this keynote, I tell the story of my research on game attention from its beginnings as a fallback from my main PhD topic to how it became my main research theme. My game attention research story has several twists and turns, but eventually led to high impact, award winning papers that contributed to me being offered a permanent academic job. Along the way I discovered new insights into how attention can be used to measure game experience, improve learning in educational games and may be a crucial aspect in the connection between games and mental health.
Dr Joe Cutting is a Lecturer in Human-Computer Interaction in the Department of Computer Science at the University of York, UK. He has a BSc in Computer Science and an MSc in Cognitive Science from the University of Birmingham and completed an IGGI PhD at the University of York in 2019. Much of his research is in the area of the effects of playing video games on outcomes such as learning, cognitive abilities, wellbeing and behaviour change. This includes new psychological theories of how learning happens in video games and how game play can affect mental health, as well as studies on how game play can prevent cognitive decline in older people. He is also creating applied games to address current issues in education such as student wellbeing and teacher recruitment.
Before becoming an academic, Joe enjoyed a varied career which included working as an interactive producer for the London Science Museum and founding his own digital startup company in the area of applied games.
Media, Communications and Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London
Automation and Inequality in Videogame Production
Recent advances in AI techniques for generating and manipulating text, images and other media cast creative industries as the last stand against automation and technological unemployment. Some experts and commentators reassure the public that generative AI can only produce novelty within set parameters and that true creativity is achievable only through the conduit of human consciousness - where personhood channels experience into expression. This way of thinking emphasises 'complementarity', where automated systems augment instead of replace human creativity. Yet, a growing number of complementary tasks seem to draw on creative workers' capacities for living and feeling not to innovate or even supervise, but to iterate on machinic outputs. Automated forms of videogame production must be maintained by workers who use embodied and tacit knowledge to prompt content and bridge processes that are hard to codify and compute. Unlike AI art practices that prioritise co-creation with humans, industrial practices require humans to complement AI systems in routine and repetitive ways. Automation may be stratifying creativity into roles that extol some workers as persons while exploiting other workers as apparatuses – compounding existing race, class, and gender stratification in the games industry and threatening to undo the sector's efforts towards equity, diversity, and inclusion. Drawing on humanities research on creative labour, this talk urges game researchers to consider how automation tools might be shaped around human values to build more inclusive and equitable communities.
Aleena Chia is Lecturer in Media, Communications and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. She uses ethnographic and textual approaches to research creativity and innovation practices in game development and computational wellness. Her research on games investigates the passionate work of hobbyists and automation of creative labour through computational techniques. Her work on wellness examines disconnection from social media and lucid dreaming as a form of biohacking. In 2022, Dr Chia co-edited a special issue on Politicizing Agency in Digital Play after Humanism in Convergence, the edited collection Reckoning with Social Media (Rowman and Littlefield), and co-authored the multigraph Technopharmacology (University of Minnesota Press / Meson Press). Her work is published in Television and New Media, Internet Policy Review, Critical Studies in Media Communication, Journal of Fandom Studies, and American Behavioral Scientist, among others. Before joining Goldsmiths, Aleena was a tenure track assistant professor at Simon Fraser University, postdoctoral researcher at the Academy of Finland's Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies, and PhD intern at Microsoft Research New England.
General Chairs: Laurissa Tokarchuk, Jeremy Gow
Program Chair: James Goodman
Industry Chair: Jozef Kulik
Website/Marketing Chair: Nirit Binyamini Ben-Meir
Social Media/Marketing Chair: Lauren Winter
Post Chair: Peyman Hosseini
Local Chairs: Yu-Jhen Hsu, Peyman Hosseini, Nirit Binyamini Ben-Meir
General Management/Industry Liaison: Susanne Binder