Celia Hodent

Celia Hodent is recognized as a leader in the application of user experience (UX) and cognitive science in the game industry. Celia holds a PhD in psychology and has fifteen years of experience in the development of UX strategy and processes in video game studios. Through her work at Ubisoft, LucasArts, and as Director of UX at Epic Games (Fortnite), she has contributed to many projects across multiple platforms, from PC to consoles, mobile, and VR. Celia is also the founder of the Game UX Summit, advisor for the GDC UX Summit, member of the Foresight Committee at CNIL (National Commission on Informatics and Liberty, an independent French administrative regulatory body). She currently works as an independent consultant, helping studios increase the likelihood of their games to be engaging and successful. Celia also provides guidance on the topics of playful learning, ethics (founder of ethicalgames.org), unconscious bias, and inclusion in tech.

Celia is the author of The Gamer’s Brain: How Neuroscience and UX can Impact Video Game Design (2017), The Psychology of Video Games (2020), What UX Really Is: Introducing a Mindset to Great Experiences (2021), and co-editor of Game Usability: Advice from the Experts for Advancing UX Strategy and Practice in Videogames (2022). 

Implicit Bias and Inclusion in the Workplace

FROG 2023 – Keynote

Oftentimes, humans do not think rationally. We believe that we have an accurate perception, an accurate memory, or that we can multitask efficiently. We believe that we are in full control of our decisions according to our values, that we have free will, that we can understand others, that we are logical beings. Sadly, this is a fallacy. This talk proposes to explore some of the most common cognitive and social unconscious biases that trick us into making bad decisions in everyday life and prevent us from building a more inclusive environment in the game industry, even if we understand the importance of diversity.

Aphra Kerr

Dr. Aphra Kerr is a Professor in Sociology at Maynooth University in Ireland and holds a PhD in Communication Studies (DCU, 2000). She is a PI at the Science Foundation Ireland funded ADAPT Centre for Digital Content Technology, a multi-institutional national research centre (2021-2027). Her books include Global Games: Production, Circulation and Policy in the Networked Age, Routledge, 2017. In 2020 she was elected to the Academy of Europe and in 2016 she received a Distinguished Scholar award from the international Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA). She is an external expert advisor to the Pan European Games Information system (PEGI).

Making and Banking Value in Digital Games

FROG 2023 – Keynote

Physical money is being replaced by all sorts of digital tokens, and the new arbitrators of these digital tokens are no longer solely our central banks. Digital games are part of this wider trend, and have within, and around, them a range of formal and informal economies. Post 2012 industry data reveals that digital downloads and free to play had overtaken traditional retail and upfront purchase in many markets. People are purchasing and playing digitally. While the console sector has always been concentrated, we are seeing similar concentration patterns emerging in other sub-sectors. A small number of major non-European platforms and publishers are capturing an increasing amount of the financial value created by games in emerging sectors, and intermediating significant financial flows. While successful European mobile game development companies and tool makers have emerged over the past decade, they have quickly become targets for acquisition by global publishers from outside of Europe. This talk draws upon data from three collaborative research projects. In the first we are analysing the revenue and data for game companies in a range of countries and examining changes over time in the ownership and market dominance of certain companies. In the second we consider the working conditions of digital game makers. The development of local chapters of Game Workers Unite has revealed troubling differentials in pay between occupations and demographics to add to considerable workplace culture issues. In the third we are analysing the implications of these digitalisation shifts for young people, especially in relation to user privacy, and gambling practices and promotion. In the final analysis I will consider the implications of these trends for European game makers and players.

Markus Meschik

Markus Meschik runs the NGO Enter, a counselling centre for families and professionals dealing with digital media in Graz. He is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Graz, the University of Klagenfurt and the University of Applied Sciences Linz with a research focus on problematic gaming behaviour and financing models of digital games, as well as a reviewer and expert for the BuPP of the Federal Chancellery. His book “Game Over ? Digitale Spiele in Familien und der Kinder- und Jugendhilfe” (Digital Games in Families and Child and Youth Welfare) was published by Büchner Verlag as an open access edition in 2022.

Insert Coin to Continue: In-game spending by adolescents and the convergence of gaming and gambling

FROG 2023 – Keynote

From a monetization perspective, games as products seem to make up an increasingly smaller part of the gaming industry, in favor of the free-to-play business model – which in many cases is more lucrative in the long run. Critical research in this regard has long been limited to loot boxes or (pseudo-)randomly generated content in digital games, which are particularly reminiscent of classic gambling and have been the focus of research due to their potentially harmful effects in terms of pathological gambling behavior. Lootboxes, however, represent only the (admittedly particularly lucrative) tip of the iceberg of the free-to-play model and the dark patterns implemented in it.

“Insert Coin to Continue” is a mixed methods research project that addresses questions about the motives for spending money in games as well as the extent of spending among austrian youth between the ages of 11 and 25. It addresses the questions of who actually spends most money (players often referred to as „whales“), which mechanics seem to need potential regulation and the formulation of judicious regulatory frameworks. Based on the empirical findings, analogies between gaming and gambling are presented, which not only concern the audivisual appearance of the individual gaming offers, but also help shape the direct gaming practice of gamers. It is argued that the business models of free-to-play games are often distinct games in their own right, forcefully tied to the main game, but with a completely different goal. Furthermore, considerations of a sensible regulation are presented and put up for discussion.

Photo Credits: Nelson

Jan Švelch

Jan Švelch is a game production studies scholar based at Charles University, Faculty of Social Sciences. He is a member of the Prague Game Production Studies Group. His research interests include game production studies, industrial reflexivity, video game voice acting, paratextuality, monetization, and analog games such as Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons. In 2018-2020, he was a post-doctoral researcher at the Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies at Tampere University. Besides research, he has more than fifteen years of experience as a freelance journalist covering video games and music for various Czech magazines, including the Metacritic-aggregated Level.

Tracked and Monetized: On the Interconnectedness of Game Monetization and Player Surveillance

FROG 2023 – Keynote

Freemium monetization and in-app purchases have added a new level of complexity to the relationship between players and developers as well as the task of maintaining and running games. Prior to 2009 and 2011 when the App Store and Google Play Store, respectively, enabled in-app purchases, the dominant monetization model was a one-time premium payment, especially after arcade games had fallen out of favor in the early 1990s. This made the job of tracking business performance of games relatively simple, and developers and publishers did not have to care much about what happened after the sale of software. In-app purchases are generally predicated on online connectivity and establish a continuous loop of monetization, and thus a more long-term consumer-producer relationship. In this context, it is crucial for the game industry practitioners to know what players are doing in the game and how they are spending their time and money. In this keynote talk, I will explore the connections between game monetization and player surveillance, drawing on my two previous empirical research projects about the production context of video game monetization (including the job profiles of monetization-related professions) and the normalization of player surveillance through infographics. I will argue that monetization is driven by data obtained through game telemetries and distribution platforms, but that the industry intentionally obscures this relationship to the public as it is aware of the problematic dimensions of this type of value extraction. At the same time, the fact that game design and game governance are so strongly influenced by monetization-related quantitative indicators can be used by player communities to stage an effective protest against game companies, as was the case during the Dungeons & Dragons OGL announcement by Wizards of the Coast in January 2023.