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Keynote Speakers

Monkey see, Monkey do - An ecological approach to challenges in games

Games, whether they are digital games, tabletop games or sports, basically challenge two aspects of human nature: our ability to choose appropriate actions and our ability to perform appropriate actions. Expressed in theoretical terms games are constituted by exploratory and performatory challenges. I will claim that this distinction is the key to understanding the experience of playing a specific game and what kind of skills and knowledge the game demands of its player. In this talk I will build upon this claim in order to discuss the following themes:

  • Categories of games –One framework for digital games, tabletop games and sports.

  • The role of coaches – Sharing the performatory and exploratory work.

  • Backseat gaming – The pleasure of sitting next to a gamer.

  • The illusion of learning – How digital games can give us an effortless sensation of accomplishment.

Jonas Linderoth is an associate professor at the Department of Education, Communication and Learning, University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Jonas's academic interest is about perception, learning and cognition during gameplay. Jonas claims that most contemporary ideas about what happens “inside” a gamer during gameplay are based on naïve versions of Cartesian dualism that fail to see gaming as an embodied practice. As an alternative to this “common sense theory” he is currently developing what he calls an Ecological Approach to Games and Gameplay based on the works of James and Eleanor Gibson. “Experimental psychology as well as the serious games movement are trying make the reality of gaming fit their predefined ideas. The Ecological approach, on the other hand, is an attempt to find a theory that fits the reality of gaming”.



A Paradox of Play: Autonomy and Discipline in Video Gaming
Playing video games produces experiences of autonomy and freedom--compelling subjective states that contribute to the pleasure of gaming. At the same, time players often create and conscientiously deploy mechanisms of discipline reminiscent of those Foucault wrote about for 19th century prisons. Surveillance, examination, and control of the body are key elements of video gaming practice. Why do we find this seeming paradox between autonomy and discipline in video game play? Based on my empirical research, I examine the paradox, especially how it is technologically mediated, with remarks on its implications for gamification and methodologies for video games studies.
Bonnie Nardi is an anthropologist in the Department of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine. She is interested social life on the Internet and works with activity theory. Her most recent book is My Life as a Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft (Michigan 2010). Her forthcoming book Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook of Method (with T. Boellstorff, C. Pearce. and T.L. Taylor) will be published in August (Princeton 2012).
Building Social Games: From Platform to Product
In this session we will walk through the intricacies of social game development including the platform they run on all the way up to scaling and managing a live game.  While social games may appear at first glance to be rudimentary Flash implementations, the reality is that there are incredibly exciting challenges associated with scaling a live product to millions of users in a matter of hours.  In this talk you will learn about the foundation that these games run on at Zynga, plans to expose these systems to third parties, the data and analytics that power the games once live, and finally we will share live demonstrations of next generation games taking advantage of these capabilities.
Reed Shaffner is current a Director of Product at Zynga responsible for and associated game technologies.  The team is focused on building the consumer facing platform across a number of devices and platforms.  Prior to Zynga, Reed was with Microsoft where he held roles in both Microsoft Office and Bing.  While at Microsoft Reed worked on a number of projects including the creation of the Open XML document format, serving on the W3C and driving accessibility in technology (which he is very passionate about), and creating the first implementation of social search in conjunction with Facebook.  Reed is usually a proud graduate of Duke University but was somewhat embarrassed to include that this year given there untimely departure from the tournament only a few months ago.

Zach Shubert is currently a Principal Software Engineer at Zynga, where he leads a talented team of engineers in creating the foundation for Zynga's "Platform for Play".  The team is primarily focused on the middleware that glues all of Zynga's core services together and the SDKs to use them.  His current interests lie in large scale web applications and the software infrastructure that powers them.  Before joining Zynga, Zach was the CTO of a New York digital music retailer, Amie Street.  There he led efforts to scale the application up to consumer demand before laying the groundwork for a new Internet radio service, Songza.  His engineering genesis entails nearly a decade of study and employ at Brown University where he served on the technical staff of the computer science department after earning his undergraduate degree there.



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