Invited Talks

Katherine Isbister (University of California, Santa Cruz)

How Games Move Us: An Exploration of Design Innovations that Lead to Player Emotions

This is a renaissance moment for video games — in the variety of genres they represent, the range of emotional territory they cover, and the technical innovation that supports the player experience. Yet public discussion about what games do for players is still quite limited, lacking the nuance with which other media are discussed. In this keynote, Isbister will explore how games can influence emotion and social connection, with examples — drawn from popular, indie, and art games — that unpack the gamer’s experience.

Katherine Isbister is a newly appointed Professor of Computational Media at University of California, Santa Cruz. Prior to this position, she directed the NYU Game Innovation Lab, where her team created research games with support from NSF, Microsoft, Bell Labs, and other funders. Her projects have been featured in Wired, Scientific American, and on NPR. Isbister is an early recipient of the MIT Technology Review Young Innovators award, and is a Humboldt Experienced Research Fellow. She spent 2014-2015 on sabbatical as a fellow at Stanford's CASBS Center.

Mitu Khandaker-Kokoris (The Tiniest Shark / NYU Game Center)

Mitu Khandaker-Kokoris is a game designer and programmer, who founded independent game development studio The Tiniest Shark in 2011. She is also Assistant Arts Professor at the NYU Game Center. In 2013, she released Redshirt, a critically acclaimed satirical simulation game that uses science fiction tropes to explore social dynamics. In addition to social simulation, her research interests include the aesthetics of interactivity and its relationship to critical play, and she holds a Ph.D. from the University of Portsmouth, UK. She also has a particular interest in encouraging diversity in STEAM fields, and sits on the Advocacy Committee for the Game Developers Conference.

Adam Noonchester (Insomniac Games)

AI In The Awesomepocalypse

Sunset Overdrive is a fast-paced game with a hero that can move quickly with numerous traversal options. This presentation will show how we created enemies able to challenge a player that has such a high degree of mobility. We began development of this game by applying techniques used in previous Insomniac games such as Resistance 3. As the player's repertoire expanded and the game became faster and more vertical we found these paradigms to be woefully ineffective. This talk will contain descriptions of how we solved some of the biggest AI gameplay problems faced during the development of the game.

Adam Noonchester has been working in the game industry for 7 years, he has programmed AI on: Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack In Time, Resistance 3, and Sunset Overdrive. Prior to working in games he did AI programming for military simulations at New Mexico State University.

Jochen Renz (The Australian National University)

Physics Simulation Games as a Challenge for Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly entering our lives. Currently, most successful examples of AI are software applications. AI that is able to physically interact with the world as well as humans still seems to be far in the future. One of the main challenges AI researchers face in developing physical AI is that human safety must be guaranteed at all times and surrounding objects must not be damaged by the AI. This requires the AI to be aware of all consequences of its physical actions and to perform actions only if they have no unintended side effects. This is a particularly hard problem as in the real world we typically do not have complete information available about our environment and often only know what we can perceive though vision or other sensors. In addition, there could be infinitely many different actions with different outcomes to choose from. 

Jochen Renz is a Professor at the Research School for Computer Science at the Australian National University and the Head of the ANU Artificial Intelligence Group. He completed his PhD at the University of Freiburg, Germany and worked as a Postdoc at the University of Linkoping in Sweden, as a Marie Curie Fellow at the TU Vienna in Austria, and as a Researcher at NICTA Sydney in Australia. Jochen’s main area of research is spatial reasoning; he is interested in both its theoretical foundations and its practical applications, as well as in integrating spatial reasoning with other areas of AI. In 2012 Jochen initiated the Angry Birds AI Competition ( that is held annually together with one of the main AI conferences. 

Brian Schwab (Magic Leap)

Adventures in the Mixed Reality World

In this talk, I will break down some of the issues that I've encountered trying to make compelling experiences in the new universe that is a combination of the very old universe and shiny new digital content. I'll talk about classic AI challenges that need to be thought about a little differently in this new space, and potential solutions. NOTE: I won't be able to talk much about Magic Leap or the specifics of what we're making, but I promise there's plenty of good stuff left over.

Brian Schwab has over 20 years industry experience, including 15 published titles (and more than a few unpublished). He has worked seemingly forever on making engaging and fun game experiences by using a MacGyver style combination of anything nearby: be it academic AI techniques, hand rolled state/tree hybrid systems, or multiplying his birthday with the sum of the jump button presses divided by the number of current extra guys.

Brian has done work in AI, gameplay, game design, and has even been lead designer on a few titles. He’s worked at companies ranging from three person start ups to massive multinationals. His projects have ranged from edutainment to location based thrill rides to Blizzard where he recently released Hearthstone, and now at Magic Leap doing AI and serving as Gameplay Lead.

When not cramming fun into a c++ compiler, he has also spent a good deal of time writing; his book AI Game Engine Programming is in its second edition, and he’s currently working on another book. He’s also been the AI editor for a few of the Game Programming Gems books