The Gamer’s Brain: A Broad Review of Cognitive Mechanisms

Celia Hodent from Epic Games provides a broad view of the cognitive mechanisms involved in games in her talk from GDC 2016 entitled “The Gamer’s Brain, Part 2: UX of Onboarding and Player Engagement.”

Please see the following description from the GDC Vault: “Engaging your audience within the first minutes of play is a delicate endeavor, and has become a critical aspect of development in the era of free-to-play games. If the developers fail to captivate their audience’s attention quickly, there won’t even be any retention challenges to care about. This talk will cover the common onboarding pitfalls, provide guidelines from User Experience (UX), and discuss best-practices by using knowledge of how the brain learns. It will provide examples from various titles (including insights from the development of Epic Games’ Fortnite) to help you improve player engagement during early exposure with your game.”

Engines of Play: How Player Motivation Changes Over Time

Jason VandenBerghe from Ubisoft delivers an interesting talk that relates theories on personality, motivation, and drive to game design.

From the GDCVault: “In an unholy psychological fusion, Jason has merged the 5 Domains of Play and the Big 5 with Scot Rigby’s PENS model SDT. The result is a startlingly usable model of your player’s motivational journey through time. It starts with taste, expectations, and individual variation; and then carries through to long term satisfaction, nostalgia, and deciding to buy the sequel.
Knowing which of your proposed game design features fit with what part of your player’s motivational journey is what this talk is all about. As a bonus, this unholy semi-unified motivation model also works as a fantastic tool to communicate your project’s answer to the timeless questions: ‘Who are our players? What do they want?’ on your team, in your company, and even to your players.
Don’t be scared. It’s just science.”

NYU Game Center Announces New Scholarship for Women Game Designers


The NYU Game Center, the Game Design program of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, today announced the creation of a new scholarship designed to support women who wish to pursue a graduate degree in game design. The Barlovento Scholarship for Women in Games is funded by the Barlovento Foundation; Vanessa Briceño, the Foundation’s President, earned her MFA in game design at the Center in 2015. 

Briceño is currently an independent game researcher and writer based out of Houston.  She views the new scholarship as part of the Foundation’s larger mission to encourage young girls and women to learn about game-making and coding. 

“Since the 1980’s, digital and board games have largely focused on attracting young men, creating over the years a startling gender disparity within the games industry,” said Briceño. “The Game Center is a welcoming and supportive environment for all students, and I was especially impressed both by how internationally and demographically diverse our student body was, and yet still by how comparatively few female students we had in my class.  Our goal with the Scholarship is to encourage women to pursue game design as a career and to see the industry as expanding and inviting.  It is vital that we send the message that women are welcome and needed as diverse voices and creators within the gaming industry.” 

The Barlovento Foundation grant will provide a full tuition scholarship for three MFA students over the next six years. Thefirst recipient will be entering the fall semester of 2017.  All female-identifying applicants to the MFA program will be automatically considered for the scholarship, which will be awarded based on a combination of merit and need.

“It’s a major priority for us to encourage and support young women who are considering game development as a potential career,” said Frank Lantz, chair of the Game Center.  “The game industry, and technology in general, can be a hostile, unwelcoming place for women. We want to do everything we can to overcome this problem. We want to send the message that women’s voices are needed in game design. We need their perspective, their creativity, their passion, and their energy. We are incredibly grateful to Vanessa and the Barlovento Foundation for helping us get this message out and for working with us to promote the crucial values of equality and respect.” 

For more information about the Barlovento scholarship and applying to the Game Design MFA, visit our website at

Learning by design

Need help with the Commons? Visit our
help page
Send us a message
Skip to toolbar