Job: PhD/Postdoc/Research Fellow in Game AI at Aalto University (Finland)

Call for Applications

PhD/Postdoc/Research Fellow in Game AI
Project: “User Modelling in Games and Beyond via Computational Intrinsic Motivation”
Finnish Center for AI (FCAI) at Aalto University
Next to Helsinki, Finland

Deadline: August 21, 2022 (Postdoc / Research Fellow) or August 28, 2022 (PhD Student)


Much of our behaviour and experience is not only driven by separate consequences or instrumental outcomes, but also by intrinsic motivations [1]. This becomes particularly apparent when people play videogames – quintessential, intrinsically motivated activities. The goal of this project is to leverage computational models of intrinsic motivation and deep reinforcement learning to advance the state-of-the-art in user modelling. While the focus is firmly on videogames, the project strives to generalise the insights to other domains in human-computer interaction research. The supervisors have extensive experience in videogame, human-computer interaction and intrinsic motivation research, and established the basis for this work through pioneering qualitative and quantitative proof-of-concepts [2,3] as well as theoretical studies [4].

The successful candidate will be given the opportunity to embark on an exciting and playful research agenda, investigating e.g. which intrinsic motivations drive players’ behaviour and shape their experience, which computational models are best at predicting certain experiences and behaviours, and how a model can be fit to human ground truth data in existing or custom-built games with state-of-the-art inference methods. While the PhD / Postdoc / Research Fellow will be able to shape the project based on their expertise and interest, an essential part of their work will comprise the design, implementation and execution of user studies. A strong candidate will have solid coding experience, good knowledge of deep reinforcement learning and an interest in cognitive modelling and videogames. Prior experience in conducting user studies is an asset.


[1] Ryan & Deci. (2000). Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68–78.

[2] Guckelsberger, Salge, Gow & Cairns. (2017). Predicting Player Experience Without the Player. An Exploratory Study. Proc. CHI Play, 305–315.

[3] Roohi, Guckelsberger, Relas, Heiskanen, Takatalo & Hämäläinen. (2021). Predicting Game Difficulty and Engagement Using AI Players. Proc. CHI Play, pp.1-17.

[4] Roohi, Takatalo, Guckelsberger & Hämäläinen. (2018). Review of Intrinsic Motivation in Simulation-Based Game Testing. Proc. CHI, 1–13.

Supervisors: Professors Christian Guckelsberger and Perttu Hämäläinen.

Keywords: intrinsic motivation, user modelling, reinforcement learning, human-computer interaction, human-centric AI, cognitive science, videogames.

Job details: We offer competitive salaries and flexible starting dates for PhD students (4y), post-docs (2+1y) or research fellows (5y). The position is based at Aalto University next to Helsinki, in Finland. Aalto Computer Science is ranked amongst the top 10 Computer Science departments in Europe ( and supports the project with its strong focus on Human-Computer Interaction and Machine Learning.

Further questions on this position? Drop an email to

Apply on, project “Intrinsic motivation-driven user modeling”. Deadline 21.08.2022 (Postdoc / Research Fellow) or 28.08.2022 (PhD Student).


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