Keynote Speakers

Dr Mikael Jakobsson is the Research Coordinator of MIT Game Lab and Research Scientist at Comparative Media Mikael JakobssonStudies, MIT. He conducts research and teaches classes on game design and game culture. His current research interests focus on different aspects of co-located collaborative games and design exploration of connections between interaction modes and experience outcomes. Previous work includes studies of social interaction in virtual worlds and reward systems in games. His projects often involve collaboration with industry partners and aim to engage with academics, practitioners, and players. He has also reviewed games for a major Swedish newspaper for ten years.


“Here Be Dragons – Exploring Uncharted Interaction Modes and Game Mechanics”

The often aggressive, deceitful and mean aspects of play behavior has been known, studied, and to some extent understood for decades, but looking at the serious games movement, it is hard to find good examples of these dynamics being put to use for a greater good. Despite strong claims that mean acts between players in games and other ludic activities are important, perhaps even essential ways of developing and refining important social skills; educators, designers, and policy makers tend to stay away from this type of social dynamics. This sets games for learning or other types of directed impact apart from games designed and played without purposes beyond the activity itself, where attacks, arguments, threats, betrayal, lies, blaming, and putting others on the spot is commonplace.

We decided to take a closer look at these dynamics as a first step towards understanding if and how they can be utilized to benefit or impact players. This talk will 1) give a brief history of mean game mechanics, 2) show how we work together with our students using design exploration to better understand the chains of mechanics-dynamics-experiences involved, and finally 3) outline a method for using mean mechanics for good.

Dr Gary O’ Reilly is a Senior Lecturer/ Director of the Doctoral Training Programme in Clinical Psychology at University College GaryOReillyDublin. He also has a part time appointment as a Principal Clinical Psychologist at Temple Street Childrens Hospital. As such he is both practicing clinician and an academic researcher.  In recent years a significant focus of his work is the development and evaluation of user friendly Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) interventions for young people delivered through a computer game and App called “Pesky gNATs”. The aim of Pesky gNATs is to contribute to the transformation of mental health intervention for young people through technology on a sustainable not-for-profit basis.  For more details please see or follow us on twitter @peskygnats


“Pesky gNATs! Designing Highest Quality Computer Game Based Mental Health Interventions for Young People with Anxiety or Low Mood.”

This talk will describe Pesky gNATs, a technology based mental health intervention for young people aged 9 and older who experience clinically significant anxiety or low mood.  Pesky gNATs has 3 components: 1. A Computer Game that young people play in session with a mental health professional that delivers a Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) intervention for Anxiety and Mood Disorders.  2. A Smartphone App that helps a young person transfer learning from therapy sessions into their home, school and community life and rewards them for doing so with fun unlockable games.  3. An Online Training System that allows mental health professionals anywhere in world to train in and use our programme.  CBT is a form of psychotherapy with one of the strongest evidence bases behind it but its concepts can be abstract and challenging for young people to understand.  This paper will also describe how we have tried to combine ideas from developmental psychology, clinical psychology and technology to make them more accessible for young people. It is hoped the talk will illustrate the value of incorporating game based technologies into mental health interventions in order to make them more accessible to children, less stigmatising and also more effective.

Stephen Howell stephenis the Academic Engagement Manager for Microsoft Ireland. In this role he acts as STEM & coding evangelist at all education stages on the island of Ireland. Prior to joining Microsoft, for many years he was a Computing lecturer in Dublin and a visiting professor in Tokyo. Stephen is an experienced software developer with a focus on natural user interfaces like Kinect. This passion led to the development of Kinect 2 Scratch which is used in thousands of schools and universities worldwide.

An experienced conference speaker, Stephen has been invited to present workshops and keynotes at conferences internationally. When not evangelizing coding, Stephen lives in Louth with Aileen and their 2 boys and 2 girls. You can read his blog at and follow him on Twitter: @saorog


“Teaching Coding through Game Creation”

Constructivist game creation using tools such as Minecraft and Project Spark enables exciting possibilities for teaching problem solving and coding concepts. In this presentation, Stephen will show how students can conceive, build and code a complex game narrative and learn logical programming concepts along the way.