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A Game Designer Walks Into NASA Astronaut Training: What Other Industries Can Learn From Us

YOW! 2019 Sydney

A Game Designer walks into NASA Astronaut Training: What other industries can learn from us
In 2016, a NASA engineer found screenshots of a technical virtual reality demo of a potential astronaut game on a Reddit forum and decided to contact the developers to discuss how game developers can help train astronauts for the next missions into space. In the upcoming two years, NASA worked closely with said game developer to introduce new and innovative techniques to virtual astronaut training.
My name is Jennifer Scheurle and I'm a game designer. For many years, my industry has been largely isolated from other fields despite our intricate knowledge of UX, behavioural psychology and how to teach players complex and difficult systems and concepts. Games have one of the most unique parameters of an interactive experience in existence. They need to keep people interested for many, many and they need to do so with millions of different kinds of people to be successful. It is an opportunity to expose a large group of people to ideas in the most personal and compelling way imaginable. Game design has cracked the code for how to engage people deeply and thoroughly in experiences completely new and alien to them - for better or worse.

In this talk, we will walk through how game designers think about problems, how we use behavioural psychology to guide our users and why designing with heart and compassion is your key to reach and compel the masses.

Jennifer Scheurle

Lead Game Designer

ArenaNet

United States

Jennifer Scheurle is a multi-award-winning, world-travelling Game Designer and public speaker who has worked on 8+ released titles since she started working in the industry 6 years ago. Born and raised in Germany and with a Bachelor of Arts (hons) in game development, she has played her role in Europe’s thriving indie game scene. She was named as one of the 100 most influential women in game development in 2016 by the Australian MCV Pacific, was named again in 2017 as one of the top 30 women in games by MCV as well as one of their 30 under 30 in the same year.

After being headhunted for her first job as a QA lead for the game Twin Komplex, Jennifer quickly acquired lead roles as a game designer, leading teams of up to 15 people in co-development and remote development for global collaborations.

A lead game design teacher at the Academy of Interactive Entertainment in Sydney, Jennifer has also created a wide range of course material as one of three members of the curriculum development team for the institute all over Australia.

In the past 3 years, Jennifer has been very active in her communities, speaking at numerous events including NZGDC, PAX Aus, GCAP and GDC.

Currently working for Melbourne-based Opaque Space, Jennifer is leading the game design team, predominantly working on the internationally acclaimed Earthlight franchise. The Earthlight IP stands out for its innovation and high-fidelity in VR technology and gameplay with parts of it being used at NASA’s Hybrid Reality Lab for astronaut training. The game won Game of the Year at the Australian Game Developer Awards in 2017. Opaque Space won Studio of the Year at the same ceremony, praised for its innovation and expertise, anti-crunch culture and inclusive workplace.

Aside from that, Jennifer also creates for Flat Earth Games’ Objects in Space, which won the PAX Australia Indie Showcase in 2016 and her physical controller set was nominated for the Alt.Ctrl.GDC award at GDC in 2017.