Dr. Katja Rogers on Serendipitous Collaborations and her New Job at the University of Amsterdam

Wednesday, June 29, 2022
by Sid Heeg

In 2016, then PhD Candidate Katja Rogers was presenting her work alongside her colleagues at CHI Play 2016. The paper, titled "Towards Player-Centric Adaptivity: Interactions of Gameplay Behaviour and Player Traits in a Survival Game", presented a game that she and the team had designed that involved procedural content generation. The game adapted its content based on the player’s choices and assumed player type. For example, if a player immediately went to fight giant spiders, the game would provide them, with more giant spiders to fight, or, if they were more interested in talking to people, the game would direct the player to talk to more people and so on. The game’s design was based loosely on some of Dr. Lennart Nacke’s work on player types, and it just so happened that during this conference, Dr. Rogers had a chance to speak with Dr. Nacke Directly. So when she saw her opening, she took it.

During her conversation with Dr. Nacke, Dr. Rogers learned about the University of Waterloo and the Games Institute (GI) at large, seeing it as a great place to work at should she get the opportunity. While they were at it, Dr. Rogers even taught Dr. Nacke how to use Snapchat. But the end of the conversation cemented in her mind that she wanted to work abroad. Before completing her PhD, she successfully applied for a scholarship that allowed her to study abroad and came to the GI as a summer student to work with Dr. Nacke. Not long thereafter, she finished her PhD in Germany with the successfully defended thesis "Realism in Player Experience - Exploring Interaction, Narrative, and Audio" and returned to the GI as a postdoctoral fellow.  

Dr. Rogers’ favourite memories at the GI involve all the weekly Coffee and Toast socials (renamed to Coffee and Games). She attended as well as the more serendipitous collaborations that happened as a result of working in the GI. For example, she loved “the random moments at the GI when you are sitting there working and then someone is like ‘hey do you want to help me play test this board game?’ then you are playing this cool game you would have never played otherwise!” She thought the social events at the GI like Coffee and Toast “instigate these interactions where people get to know your face and can get to know you” which helps research relationships to form as well as the social ones." 

While Dr. Rogers published a lot during her time at the GI on a whole variety of topics (seriously, check out her Google scholar page!), the project she was proudest of was “Much Realism, Such Wow! A Systematic Literature Review of Realism in Digital Games, published at CHI 2022, and received an honourable mention. This project expanded on her PhD dissertation focusing on developing a better understanding of how people conceptualize “realism” in games. 

In the summer of 2022, Dr. Rogers joined the Informatics Institute in the Faculty of Science at the University of Amsterdam as an Assistant Professor in Human-Computer Interaction. She is excited but nervous to start teaching and is looking forward to incorporating teaching techniques she learned from other researchers at the GI like Drs. Cayley MacArthur and Leah Zhang-Kennedy (Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business). You can keep updated with Dr. Rogers’ current work at katjarogers.com, and while she now lives across the pond, she looks forward to continuing collaborations with GI researchers.