#gamesUR Summit 2023 Speakers

Below are the speakers for the 2023 #gamesUR Summit. All speakers are listed in alphabetical order. Speaker details can be found on the talks page.

Alex Arndt

A man grins with a relaxed expression. He has short hair, round and transparent glasses, and a thick coarse beard. He is wearing a dark red pullover over a white shirt.

Alex Arndt is a User Researcher in Riot's R&D department, focusing on providing insights and validation for projects beginning in early development and through to launch via playtesting, product strategy, and research studies of all kinds.

Before joining Riot, Alex was a researcher at Activision, working on titles like Call of Duty, Warzone, Sekiro, and Crash Bandicoot. At present, Alex is the lead researcher on Riot's MMO project.

Andrei Muratov

A man smiles. He wears a grey t-shirt under a black jacket. He has glasses and short black hair.

Andrei has 19 years of games experience, having been an artist, a game designer, a producer and for the last decade, a leader of analytics teams. In this capacity, he had a hand in over a dozen games from big to small, from AAA to F2P, and carried theme of player and system behavior insights throughout, either through analytics directly or in collaboration with UR teams. Today, Andrei is the Head of Solutions for Game Analytics at AWS, with the goal of helping all game developers get richer player insights faster.

Andrew Menger-Ogle

Andrew Menger-Ogle is a research psychologist who worked as a language teacher and a program evaluation consultant before transitioning to a career in quantitative UX research. He spent nearly three years at Activision helping to develop and ship games from the Call of Duty, Crash Bandicoot, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater franchises. Since then, he has researched community experiences on the Facebook app and currently leads quantitative user research for Design and Customer Experience (payments) at JPMorgan Chase.

Austin Harley

A man tilts his head slightly and smiles at us kindly as if he were happy to see us. He has very short, dark grey hair, and a short and thick beard. He is wearing a grey pullover.

Most of his 10+ year career has been spent at Riot, and he's worked on a range of titles including League of Legends, Legends of Runeterra, Project L, and multiple unreleased R&D titles.

While his core focus is User Research, he's spent time in many areas of game Insights and development ranging from market research, to analytics, to product strategy and leadership. These days he's focused on building teams, playing games, raising a family, and airbending.

Benjamin Linz

A young man grins widely, looking at us happily. He has dark blond hair, slightly unruly, and a button-up shirt with a dottened pattern blue shirt, unbuttoned at the top.

Ben is about to graduate in Human Computer Interaction at the University of Siegen in Germany. During his master studies he's become passionate about UX(R) in games, gamification and game design, at the latest since studying Serious Games abroad at the University of Skövde, Sweden. In addition to university projects, he's worked with experience design and non-game user research in hackathons/game jams and student jobs, and he loves analysing the UX of products he encounters in everyday life, or especially games while playing them (on stream). On a mission to become a games user researcher himself, he's keen not only to learn from others by volunteering at and attending related conferences but also to spread his enthusiasm by teaching people what he's already learned, whether it's at events organised by the local student gaming culture initiative or a major creative gaming festival. Together with a colleague, Ben has also been producing a German-language educational podcast called "Spielsinn" for the past three years, inviting like-minded people from academia and the industry to talk about his favourite topics of (game) UX and its facets, motivational design, onboarding, UX maturity and the impact of design decisions on the resulting experience.

Carlo Escobar

A young man grins, appearing to be laughing. He has curly black hair and is dressed with a black hoodie under a denim coat. Behind him, we see a restaurant setting, with a yellow light coming for a ceiling lamp.

Carlo Escobar is a user researcher assistant at WB Games with 1 year of experience, where he has had the opportunity to work on a variety of titles such as Hogwarts Legacy and MultiVersus. Before entering the industry, he received his Bachelor's degree in Cognitive Science and Specialization in Computing from UCLA.

Cianna Robinson

A woman gazes at an abstract transparent shape that emmanates a bright light, raising her arm to touch it. She has long black hair with bangs, a black hat, hoop earrings and a thin necklace, and is wearing a black formal jacket.

Cianna Robinson is a User Research Moderator at Activision where she has worked on User Research for Call of Duty: Vanguard and MW2. She graduated from Santa Monica College with a Bachelor of Science in Interaction Design, and has used her skillset to intern for both Activision and Jam City mobile games.

Clara Alexandra Stafford

A woman with long and thin brown hair smiles at us. Her hair is combed behind an ear, revealing a small drop earring. She has a thin black shirt and a small and discrete necklace.

Clara Alexandra Stafford is currently completing her Ph.D. in Psychology, specializing in quantitative methods. She works at Behaviour Interactive as a User Researcher on Dead by Daylight and other unannounced projects, leading projects that require large-scale survey collection and analysis.

Drake Levere

A man smiles happily and calmly, looking at us. He has round glasses, grey eyes, well-combed brown hair, and a fuzzy trimmed beard. He is wearing a casual light shirt, colored black.

Drake Levere is a User Researcher at Sprung Studios, where he supports a number of game studios on a yearly basis. Previously, he completed a PhD at the University of British Columbia where the foundation of his thesis rested on intensive longitudinal methodology.

Elisabeth Whyte

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Elisabeth Whyte is a Senior User Researcher on the Bethesda User Research team. She has conducted user research on a variety of games and genres. Her current work is focused around improving the inclusive design and accessibility of games. Prior to joining the gaming industry, she received her PhD from Penn State in developmental psychology and conducted autism research during her graduate studies and post-doc. Her favorite video games include MMOs such as World of Warcraft.

Émilie Paquin

A young woman grins with a wide smile. She looks happy while she looks at something to her right. She has brown hair, blonde at the tips, and is wearing a black shirt with a cartoon pattern of Super Mario ghosts that grin maliciously, ready to attack.

Émilie Paquin is a Game User Researcher at Behaviour Interactive since June 2019. She worked on various features and DLCs on the popular asymmetrical action horror game Dead by Daylight and other unannounced projects. She has an academic background in Communication with a specialization in Video Game Studies and Gamification.

Emma Varjo

A blonde woman looks to our left, looking interested at something that catched her attention and smiling widely. She is wearing a thin beige pullover, and holding a pencil in her hand. Behind her we can see two framed pictures on a yellow wall.

Emma Varjo (she/her) is the UX Lead and cofounder at Roleverse. While she often straddles the line between design and development, her true power lies in communication and strategic thinking. With a background in both games and other tech fields, she not only grasps the UX of the games she works on, but also the processes and tools with which the games are made. A believer in sharing knowledge, she is an active member of the GRUX SIG community and a founding member and one of the main organizers of the GRUX Finland community. She also runs the ExpQuest Instagram account where she shares her knowledge of game UX processes and methods.

James Berg

A cartoon drawing of a straight-faced man. He has a mostly bald head, oval glasses, a light beard, and a black sports jacket. The background of the drawing is painted teal, with some abstract line patterns.

James worked in AAA game development for more than 15 years, shipping 40+ games & projects at Electronic Arts. During a decade of work as a games researcher, he was elected to lead the IGDA Games Research organization for several years. He then spent several years dedicated to helping establish and build the games accessibility practice across EA games. He’s now a Senior Technical Program Manager at Xbox, lending his knowledge of gamedev to an incredible team that’s focused on improving accessibility across the Xbox platform & ecosystem – letting him help gamedevs everywhere make their games playable by as many players as possible.

He’s autistic and has ADHD, which he would have appreciated figuring out 40 years earlier than he did. Unsurprisingly, he’s an avid gamer, but he’d actually rather be scuba diving (poorly) than whatever it is he’s currently doing – as long as it’s somewhere warmer than his Canadian home. He’s a frequent speaker on the intersections of games, research, and inclusively designed games.

John Hopson

A man looks up and smiles at us. He has his brown hair shaved short and a circle beard. He is wearing a heavy grey hoodie. His picture is taken in an inside setting with lightly colored walls and some technologic devices.

John Hopson has been a researcher in the games industry for twenty years, working on some of the biggest franchises in gaming including Halo, Age of Empires, Overwatch, World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, StarCraft, Diablo, Guild Wars, Lineage, and Destiny. He sits on the steering committee for the GRUX SIG and is the chair of the Data Science and Analytics SIG.

Jonathan Ehrich

An smiles widely. They have their long hair painted red and are wearing earbuds, sports glasses pulled up to their forehead, and a sports jacket. They are taking a selfie in a warmly lighted sunset setting. Behind them, there is a wooden deck and a few trees.

Jonathan has been a member of the Xbox Research team since 2016. They have led research on franchises including State of Decay, Ori, and Crackdown, while also running the team’s competitive research program. In games, they are constantly on the hunt for ways to improve our understanding of the audience and ways to broaden and expand it

Joachim Schiavo

A man raises his eyebrows while looking at us attentively. His just washed black hair is spiky and unruly, and his light beard is well tidied. He wears a dark blue t-shirt.

Joachim Schiavo is a Senior Player Researcher at Solsten. A UX Researcher by training, he has been passionate about video games since childhood. A swiss-army knife of his UX Research teams, he previously worked at CCP Games as a Player Researcher on EVE Online.

Josh Rivers

A man looks at us calmly, with his head slightly tilted sideways. He has brown hair shaved on one side and with bangs on the other, and a short balbo beard. He wears a blue shirt with orange flower patterns under a dark blue blazer, which has a tiny red flower pinned onto it. Behind him and through big windows we can see a river and a city at sunset on the other side.

Josh Rivers, PhD is the UX Research Lead at Solsten. A queer anthropologist by formal training, he applies the tools of anthropology to the world of game development to facilitate empathy and human-centered thinking between companies and their players. Prior to joining Solsten, Josh led UX Research at CCP Games, the makers of EVE Online.

Jozef Kulik

A man smiles, relaxed. He has unruly black hair and a goatee beard, and is dressed in a heavy pink hoodie and a pink bonnet. His picture was taken at home setting.

Jozef Kulik has a background in both Psychology and Neuropsychology and for several years he worked in the games industry as a games user researcher at Player Research where he was able to contribute to various titles including, Life is Strange 2, Surviving Mars and FIFA19. He left this work because he was interested in developing more expertise in game accessibility, and felt that a PhD in this area would provide an opportunity for a deep exploration of this area. His PhD work is focused on developing a deeper understanding of the challenges and facilitators of making accessible games and as he comes close to the end of my PhD he is hoping to feed back more of my research into the wider community.

Kirk Rodgers

A man with a calm expression smiles warmly and happily, with dimples on his cheeks. He is bald and has a ginger circle beard. He's wearing a patterned shirt under a black jacket. The photo was taken at night. Behind him, we can glimpse a dark rooms with a few light spots.

Kirk is Director at Bungie Research, a cross-functional research group supporting Bungie's transition to a multi-IP publisher. In his spare time he plays destiny, climbs boulders, and runs through various PNW forests.

Lanie Dixon

A woman looks to her right and smiles, her long blonde hair falling on her shoulders. She has her arms crossed but appears relaxed and happy. She is wearing a leather jacket and, behind her, we can glimpse a a blurred urban setting, with yellow and teal buildings and a few trees.

Lanie Dixon has over 8 years of UR experience and is currently the Director of Insights for the Ubisoft Canadian User Research group. She oversees the embedded insights teams for all Ubisoft’s Canadian production teams including Assassin’s Creed, Rainbow Six, Far Cry, and others.

Pat Dimaandal

A headshot of a person smiling at us. They have black hair in a bobcut, and is wearing a fully buttoned-up black shirt.

Pat Dimaandal is a User Research Moderator at Activision, where they have worked on titles such as COD: MWll. Before getting their first industry job, Pat interned at UX is Fine! and did freelance games user research. Additionally, they gained mentorship from both GRUX and IGDA. They received their Bachelor of Science in Cognitive Science from the University of California, Merced.

Salem Kazi

A young man dressing a flannel shirt looks at us, smiling. He wears big square glasses and his dark short hair is well-tidied.

Salem Kazi is the UX Research who has 5 years of industry experience, working with various studios such as THQ Nordic, EA, and Wargaming. He has worked on mobile titles, AAA console games, and live-service products. He is currently leading the research efforts at Crytek for the Hunt: Showdown team. He loves using his UX skills to solve problems in D&D and the latest indie movies.

Sebastian Long

A man looks at us with an amused expression. He smiles, dimples on his cheek. He has very short hair, a light trimmed bread, and is dressing a grey polo under a dark grey blazer that displays a tiny cartoon seagull.

Sebastian Long is the Managing Director of Player Research, the leading partner for games user research. He splits his time between consulting with diverse development teams on the application of player data, player feedback and player psychology, and running the 20-person consultancy based in Brighton UK and Montreal Canada. Seb has contributed to hundreds of titles including Elden Ring, Control, Life Is Strange 2, Sonic Dash, and beloved IP including Talking Tom, LEGO, Harry Potter, Guitar Hero, Doctor Who, and many more.

Stefania Pecòre

A young woman with dark hair, painted blue on its tips, looks at us with a daring look. She dresses a soft and fuzzy light pink hoodie.

Stefania Pecòre is a Ph.D. in Artificial Intelligence specialized in Natural Language Processing for social media content and early detection of mental health diseases. She works at Behaviour Interactive as a Data Scientist on Dead by Daylight and other unannounced IPs using both pure NLP and Machine Learning techniques.

Swati S

A woman looks at us with a calm expression and a slight smile. She has long brown and red hair and is wearing a winter jacket. Behind her, we can see leafless trees, a bright blue sky, and lively grass.

Swati is a UX Researcher and a Human Centered Design graduate student at the University of Washington, Seattle. She has a keen interest in exploring the intersections of social media, perception, and misinformation. Originally from India, she made what she calls the ""most natural decision of her life"" to transition from a career in software engineering to the world of User Experience. As a silent observer and an advocate for user needs, Swati is committed to promoting the importance of research and putting the user first in all aspects of UX design.

Swati's love for dogs is matched only by her passion for UX research. On a typical day, you can find her sitting on a park bench under the Seattle sun, scribbling on her iPad, and trying to pet every dog that walks by. When she's not busy with her research, she's dreaming up creative solutions to design problems. Swati's frugal innovator mindset means she's always looking for ways to make the most out of limited resources, which she feels is a valuable skill both in and out of the profession.

Tom Barnes

A blond man with brown eyes, turns his head to look at us with a slight lopsided smile and a calm expression. His face, his short and spiky blond hair and his black hoodie are lighted from the right.

Tom Barnes is a User Researcher in Riot's R&D department, focusing on providing insights and validation for projects beginning in early development and through to launch via playtesting, product strategy, and research studies of all kinds.

Before joining Riot, Tom was a researcher at Activision, working on titles like Call of Duty, Warzone, Sekiro, and Crash Bandicoot. At present, Tom leads research on several unannounced titles in early development.

Yi Chen

A young woman smiles gently. Her long hair, half black and half grey and blue, falls on her shoulders and her black button-up shirt.

Yi Chen is a game user researcher assistant at WB games. She is also working on her Ph.D. degree in Educational Psychology/ Neuroscience at UA and has experience working part-time as a UX researcher at a start-up company.