Understanding Gamers poster


Understanding Gamers Symposium
Monday, June 19
11:00h – 15:00h
Cobbenhagen Building, Lecture Hall CZ9
Warandelaan 2
Tilburg University


The “Understanding Gamers” symposium brings together renowned scholars who study the behaviour, emotional states, and motivation of video game players.

The Tilburg center for Cognition and Communication (TiCC) and SIKS are excited to welcome expert speakers from the Harvard University (Joscha Bach), Massive Entertainment - A Ubisoft Studio (Alessandro Canossa), as well as established game scholars from the Netherlands (Dirk Heylen, speaking on understanding play; and Shoshannah Tekofsky, speaking on gaming motivation).

Attending the symposium is free of charge, but please register for attending the free lunch.


Symposium programme

Cobbenhagen building, Lecture Hall CZ9

Speaker Title
11:00h Welcome with coffee
11:30h Sander Bakkes Opening
11:45h Joscha Bach (Harvard University) How can an artificial System have emotion and motivation?
12:15h Dirk Heylen (Human Media Interaction, University of Twente) Understanding play
12:45h Lunch
13:30h Alessandro Canossa (Senior Game User Researcher at Massive Entertainment - A Ubisoft Studio) Social network analysis of Ubisoft players, from Influencers to Social Whales
14:00h Shoshannah Tekofsky (Senior Analist at Square Enix) Project GAMR - Unifying models of gaming motivation
14:30h Pieter Spronck Closing thoughts



Joscha Bach

Joscha Bach is a cognitive scientist and AI researcher at the Harvard Program for Evolutionary Dynamics. In the past, he has worked at Humboldt University of Berlin, the Institute for Cognitive Science in Osnabrück, and the MIT Media Lab.

How can an artificial System have emotion and motivation? Artificial Intelligence is not just an engineering discipline to invent new methods of data processing, but also an approach to understand our minds by building testable theories. The question of how we can build a machine that has emotion and motivation is the same question as: how is it possible that we have emotions? What drives our decisions and behavior?

Alessandro Canossa

Alessandro Canossa is Senior Game User Researcher and Analyst at Massive Entertainment - A Ubisoft Studio. His current work employs psychological theories of personality, motivation and emotion to design interactive scenarios with the purpose of investigating individual differences in behavior among users of digital entertainment. His research agenda can be broken down in three main areas: a) design and development of digital environments aimed at eliciting specific affective and/or behavioral responses; b) developing behavioral analysis methodologies that are able to account for granular spatial and temporal events, avoiding aggregation; c) design and development of visual analytics tools that can enable any stakeholder to produce advanced statistics and datamining reports.

Social network analysis of Ubisoft players, from Influencers to Social Whales. The game industry is experiencing a paradigm shift that no longer sees games as products but rather as services (Destiny, The Division). This shift entails a different way to understand player behavior: the social dimension of play and the communities of players become fundamental pillars upon which games can lay the foundations of an extended lifetime. In this talk we will see how analysts at Ubisoft are starting to incorporate methods from network science to identify "social whales".

Dirk Keylen

Dirk Heylen is professor socially intelligent computing at the University of Twente. He studied linguistics and computer science and turned into a computational linguist. His work on embodied conversational systems (virtual humans and social robots) led him further to explore topics on emotion and nonverbal communication in disciplines such as Affective Computing and Social Signal Processing.

Understanding play. In this talk we present our work on the Interactive Playground, focussing on the design of game mechanics to steer the behavior of the players to enrich the user experience.

Shoshannah Tekofsky

After 4 long years, Shoshannah Tekofsky is becoming Dr. Video Game today. Her video game career has included game testing, tester management, game research, strategy youtubing, popsci blogging, exciting trips to MIT, data science/analytics at Square Enix, and now human-like AI development at Spirit AI.

Project GAMR - Unifying models of gaming motivation. This talk briefly introduces the field of gaming motivation, followed by the introduction of a novel combined model of gaming motivation. The model is shown to relate strongly to game preference, personality, and demographics. The relationships involve a lot of confirming of stereotypes (yes, men are more competitively driven than women), and some surprises (which game genre attracts the people with the most team spirit?).



Attending the symposium is free of charge, but please send an e-mail to Eva Verschoor (E.A.H.Verschoor@uvt.nl) if you'd like to attend the free lunch too.


SIKS-TiCC Symposium

The symposium is organized by the Tilburg center for Cognition and Communication (TiCC). TiCC is one of five Centers of Excellence at Tilburg University, and focusses on language, communication and cognition, as well as creative computing and gaming.

The symposium is supported by funds of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), and the Netherlands Research School for Information and Knowledge Systems (SIKS).

The event is part of the SIKS educational program. All SIKS PhD students working on topics related to Applied Gaming, Cognitive Science, and Data Science are strongly encouraged to apply. Of course, other students are warmly welcome too.