Keynote Presentations


Monday 26 September
Tracy Fullerton

Tracy Fullerton is an experimental game designer, associate professor and director of the University of Southern California (USC) Games program, and chair of Interactive Media & Games Division. Her research center, the Game Innovation Lab, has produced several influential independent games, including Cloud, flOw, Darfur is Dying, The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, and The Night Journey, with artist Bill Viola.

She is currently working on Walden, a simulation of Henry David Thoreau’s experiment at Walden Pond supported by grants from the NEA and NEH. Tracy is the author of “Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games,” a design textbook used at game programs worldwide, and holder of the Electronic Arts Endowed Chair in Interactive Entertainment. Prior to USC, she designed games for companies including Microsoft, Sony, MTV, among many others.

Tracy’s work has received numerous honors including an Emmy nomination for interactive television, Indiecade’s “Sublime Experience,” “Impact,” and “Trailblazer” awards, Games for Change “Game Changer” award, Time Magazine’s Best of the Web, and recently, “The Ambassador Award” at GDC 2016 for helping to advance video games.

Keynote Presentation
Slow Play: Imagining the Serious Worlds of Walden and The Night Journey

The pace of play in digital games often takes on a rough-and-tumble swiftness that requires all of a player’s cognitive bandwidth to process and react, leaving little time for emotional reflection, deliberation or interpretation of game events. In order to create games that respectfully address more serious subject matters, it would seem that the pace of these experiences and the relationship between the player, the game and the ideas generated during play must be examined as an area of design potential.

Over the past decade, Tracy Fullerton has worked on several experimental games, each of which posits a slower, reflective pace of play around the topics of spiritual and philosophical journeys. The open worlds of The Night Journey (a collaboration with media artist Bill Viola) and Walden, a game are designed to leave space and time enough for the player to approach the ideas within the play, with attention and time enough to respond fully to the experience.

In this presentation, Fullerton will discuss the design of these two experimental game worlds: The Night Journey, a game about the spiritual journey which game takes place in a visually abstracted landscape layering 3D imagery, post processing effects and archival video footage into a slow, surrealistic world of “explorable cinema,” and Walden, a game, in which players take on the role of Henry Thoreau, living a simplified existence, balancing their basic needs such as food, fuel, shelter and clothing while also taking time out to seek inspiration in a deeper connection to nature. With these experimental projects as a foundation for discussion, Fullerton will explore the potential that lies with slow play, and the way in which we might imagine serious worlds of play that allow and expect a deeper level of player reflection as one pillar of their experience goals.

Tuesday 27 September
Sara de Freitas

Sara de Freitas is Pro Vice Chancellor and Professor of Learning and Teaching at Murdoch University, Perth, Australia. Prior to this, Sara was Director of Research at the Serious Games Institute, UK attracting millions in research income and brought together commercial and academic partnerships to fuel regional economic growth. She currently holds a Visiting Professorship at Coventry University, a Visiting Research Fellowship at the University of London and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She’s undertaken consultancy work with government departments and agencies, and has experience of working in the manufacturing, ICT, education, health and risk and resilience sectors.

Sara is a passionate advocate of pedagogy-led blended learning, accelerated learning and activity-led learning. Her current research focuses upon learning analytics, online learning and higher education policy. She’s published seven books and over 100 journal articles, conference papers and reports. Her most recent book, Education in Computer Generated Environments (2014), published by Routledge in the Research in Education Series, outlines a vision for future learning in higher education.

Keynote Presentation
The Efficacy of Gamification: Motivation, Flow and Feedback

Research on Gamification reveals gains for student motivation. This talk will explore the latest research around efficacy of gamification techniques in learning contexts. The presentation builds upon the notion of flow and motivation and considers how gamification can engage and re-engage students who are not being well retained with the current teaching pedagogy. The presentation will consider the theory of flow, motivational theories, latest gamification research findings and consider how findings from different studies can be used to support better uptake in different contexts. In particular, feedback modelling is considered as a critical aspect of learning with gamification and asks how far are we from easier tools and approaches for engaging different student cohorts.

Invited Speakers

Jon Weinbren
National Film and Television School, Beaconsfield, UK.

Games with Meaning and Consequence

Looking beyond the idea of ‘Serious Games’, this paper explores techniques and tools that can facilitate the development of meaningful games experiences, which afford the creation of meaning for players – not only through portrayal, representation and signification, but also through the enactment of tangible and empathic consequence arising from player interaction. This is discussed within a variety of practical contexts. We take as our starting point the development of games which have a significant story component. Rather than focussing only on the formal components of the games themselves, this talk also looks at how as educationalists we can best develop and nurture the future creative talent for the design and development of meaningful games experiences for increasingly diverse audiences.


Jon Weinbren runs the Games Department at the UK’s National Film and Television School including the MA Games Design and Development which he founded in 2012. Prior to this, Jon was head of postgraduate programs in digital games design and animation at the University for the Creative Arts, and creative director of development studio and independent consultancy Imaginary Productions. With nearly twenty years’ experience across games, interactive media, film and broadcast television as a writer, producer/director, game designer, creative director, educator and consultant, Jon has worked in senior creative capacities on projects with the BBC, Channel 4, Science Museum, Electronic Arts, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe and numerous others. He is a serving Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and was founder and curator of the London Games Fringe. Jon is also an active practitioner, writer and researcher, with a particular interest in areas where the culture, practice and theory of film, animation, TV, games and other artistic arenas collide and coalesce; Jon’s current research investigates emotion performance in virtual characters and takes reference points from fields as diverse as theatre studies, digital animation, performance capture, affective computing and neuroscience.

Ben Schouten
Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven, & Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands.

Playful Empowerment, the role of game design innovation in participatory citizenship

In this talk I will address a changing perspective on design, one in which users are defined as social and economical actors who co-create products and services. We will see that the role of play in its contemporary and digital form for instance through games, apps, interactive toys is essential in this process. This talk consists of two parts. The first part focuses on our research in play and civic interaction design. I will define play in its digital form and its intrinsic qualities, such as fun, experience, creation, collaboration, and competition. I will then show that through these qualities a new digital culture has emerged in which, instead of a top-down, one-to- many vertical cascade, we find bottom-up, many-to-many, horizontal, peer-to-peer communications (Jenkins, 2009). In the second part, I will sketch the research and game designs in relation to research and education at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, including further collaboration with partners in industry and research. The main focus in this talk is on the challenge of how to design for these collective opportunities, e.g. in health care, education and city planning.


Ben Schouten graduated from the Rietveld Art Academy in 1983. He found himself interested in patterns and iconography, and discovered his fascination for mathematics. In August 1995 he received a Master’s degree in mathematics, specializing in chaos theory. In 1996 Ben Schouten founded, providing innovative internet related solutions. Together with the Dutch Design Institute (Vormgevings Instituut), Desk was internationally acknowledged with a webby award in gaming. In 2001 he received his PhD for his thesis on content based image retrieval and interfaces that allow browsing & searching for images in an intuitive way, according to human perception. His thesis was acknowledged with a Bronze World Medal for Design in the New Media category, sub-category Information and Education, in New York, USA.

In the following years Ben Schouten started a group in Biometrics and Human Behavior Analysis in Smart Environments at the Centre for Mathematics and Computer Science (CWI, Amsterdam) as well as teaching at the Utrecht School of Art & Technology (HKU) in Interaction Design and Gaming. In 2010 he was appointed Full Professor Playful Interactions in Smart Environments at Eindhoven University of Technology and in 2013 Lector of Play & Civic Media Research at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. His group focuses on play for social innovations, citizen empowerment and culture. He is an advisor for the European Commission on the ‘Internet of Things’ as well as for the Dutch Cultural Media Fund, responsible for E-culture.