Pocket Gamer Connects Seattle 2019 will take place on May 13th to 14th. To give you a taste of what to expect, we'll regularly be publishing interviews with the speakers at the show.
For more details on PGC Seattle and to book a ticket, head to the website here.
Today we're talking to 12traits CEO Joe Schaeppi ahead of his talk entitled: Hyper-personalisation fueled by psychometrics: the ultimate power-up for next level retention and monetisation.
Schaeppi is the co-founder and CEO of 12traits, a company that is unlocking the potential of games through combining deep psychological insights with machine learning while pioneering the field of psychology-based AI.
Formerly he was a clinical counsellor specialising in neuropsychology, the senior manager of UX at Big Fish Games, and a UX director at MRM // McCann.
PocketGamer.biz: Tell us a bit about the company.
Joe Schaeppi: My role at 12traits entails making sure that everyone on our team feels empowered, supported, challenged, and fulfilled.
Carrying the vision of being the first intelligence to truly power real-time personalised experiences based on real human traits is also a core aspect of my day-to-day, from the base proprietary science that we leverage to create clean and valid data sets to train our intelligence off of to all of the more typical tasks of client relations, fundraising, sales, and so on.
I'm effectively showing up 24/7 for whatever is needed to bring this reality into existence and move our current technological landscape out of this dopamine-driven reality and into one that is more beneficial and better for humans while helping companies make great businesses at the same time.
Why did you want to work in the games industry?
Whether you're using NLP, speech, or behaviour data outside of games, there is just not enough to effectively deduce psychological traits in a valid and reliable manner (maybe a couple, but certainly not a full profile).
Understanding humans is vital when it comes to creating environments and experiences that actually benefit them. We're all so different and everything we truly need in life is so idiosyncratic.
Games have been used in neuropsychology for quite a while now, and this was the perfect place to experiment to find out if we could truly map traits from games. Using our proprietary methods, it turns out, we absolutely can. So we're here to scale and teach our AI.
Oh, and selfishly, my former Ultima Online "career" would seem to dictate that I personally happen to love gaming.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into it?
Be kind. Be friendly. And most of all, be helpful. There are a lot of personalities in the gaming world. There are also a lot of people that are ridiculously passionate about their jobs.
I didn't always do the best in the early parts of my gaming career understanding that it's not like working with or for Fortune 500's or other start-ups. People put their heart and soul into what they do which is one of the blessings and curses of the industry (i.e., there can be a lot of ego).
But overall, this just means people in this industry tend to love what they do. So be open, always stay curious, and never let yourself become your goals, but have a clear vision of what you want to do and start doing it even if you haven't been hired to do it yet.
Opportunity doesn't wait for anyone.
What are your thoughts on the industry in the last 12 months?
Wow! The entire gaming industry needs to pat itself on the back. As far as entertainment is concerned, it's larger than the music, television, and music industry combined now. Just that alone is incredible - when the heavy hitters all start trying to squeeze into gaming, there's a reason for it.
A shift is certainly starting as people are waking up to how competitive the industry is getting as a result. We see that the most successful businesses we work with spend more money on UX, understanding their players, and optimising experiences based on who they are, rather than what their competitors are doing, is definitely the new golden rule.
What major trends do you predict in the next 12 months?
The necessity of player understanding and being able to have tech that can automate this understanding as well as scale it and trigger real-time gaming events is going to be one of the key differentiator's for games that are successful in the upcoming years. Everyone who is designing or running games off of behaviour data alone will start to fall behind.
Aside from this, there are very obvious trends that will be interesting to see: like developers getting tired of the cuts Apple takes, to every Fortune 500 trying to jump into the space, to the constant buzz of "AI" that doesn't always end up creating the promise it's hyped up to deliver on (largely because it lacks psychological data). It's a brave new world out there.
How has the games industry changed since you first started?
When I first started there was a large emphasis on analysing and copying features from successful games, where the majority of decisions were made based on the gut feeling of game design veterans who sparred those feelings with in-game behaviour data.
It was the ultimate clash of subjectivity meeting qualitative inference. Now, aside from advances in machine learning and accessibility, games developers are investing more in research, understanding their players, and designing to their needs than ever before.
Data science and user research have the ability to propel innovation and break out of a lot of the old paradigms of measuring what your fanciest neighbour is up to and trying to copy them better than your competitor.
Which part of the Connects event are you most looking forward to and why?
I always love the Pitch and Match meetings at PGConnects events. I think PG Connects does a better job of this than any other conference in any other industry that I've attended.
They're almost always highly valuable and you get to take the time to meet some great people to see how you can make the industry better together- which is part of the spirit of the conference that is very cool to be a part of.
Find out more about Pocket Gamer Connects Seattle 2019 on the website.