ASCILITE23 series: Getting to know our keynotes – Chelsea Rapp

In this blog we introduce you to the dynamic Chelsea Rapp, a life-long gamer and Chairperson of the New Zealand Game Developers Association and Head of Corporate Strategy for CerebralFix where she makes exciting games played all over the world.  This keynote speaker has had the most unusual start to her exciting journey. Not all beginnings are fun and games! Let’s find out more.


I have certainly had a round-about route into working in video games. I actually studied to be a molecular geneticist; I have 3 degrees in microbiology, including a masters degree. I’m originally from the United States. After University, I started working as a software development project manager for a company that did massively parallel, personalised DNA sequencing for people who have cancer and worked on regulatory strategy for medical devices.

However, when I moved to New Zealand in 2018, there weren’t a lot of jobs where these skills were useful. I always wanted to do something more creative, so I asked myself what existed at the nexus between software development and creativity – and the answer was, video games!  I’ve always been a life-long gamer, so when an opportunity came up to be a producer for a video game studio in Christchurch, I lept at the chance. I wanted to get more involved in the industry so after a few years, I ran for a spot on the board of the New Zealand Game Developers Association (NZGDA) and have been the Chairperson for the last three years.  As Head of Corporate Strategy for CerebralFix in Christchurch we work with some of the world’s biggest entertainment companies like Disney, Universal, Dreamworks, and Pixar. I also work as the Games Ambassador for the University of Canterbury, where I discuss our new Digital Screen programme and campus development with government, industry, and prospective students.


You may have figured out, the image of gaming being all about dimly lit basements and addicted teenagers a bit antiquated. The truth is that video games are used for so much more than entertainment such as medical rehab, job training simulations, education, and more.   It improves engagement with digital content, establishing healthy habits (e.g. gamified fitness apps or mediation apps), and making content more memorable (Duolingo).

Games have become so ubiquitous, that being familiar with gamification principles will be critical to connecting with young people in the future. Games have been a part of their lives since the day they were born and have changed the way that they connect with content, both online and off. It’s important for today’s educators, mentors, and leaders to understand this if they want to really connect learners with educational and informative content.


Gaming industry is worth more than the global film and music industries combined!!

73% of New Zealanders play video games!!!

 Women over 35 constitute half of the gaming community!

Image of person in VR headset
Photo by Sara Kurig on Unsplash


ASCILITE is an incredible opportunity for educators and providers to brainstorm about new ways of working. With technology constantly evolving, it’s so hard to keep up with the constant deluge of new releases and updates.  I’ll be talking about games as a tool for educators and some of the resources that are available, as well as how educators can use game principles (such as game design thinking) to power critical thinking and social collaboration.  I also think it’s important to discuss these concepts in the context of today’s youth. I’ll also discuss emerging topics – like AI, the metaverse, and augmented reality – and the kinds of questions that might be creeping into our minds.


The great thing about video games is that they are only built through people and partnerships. Globalisation and the evolution of the internet means that people around the world are more connected now than ever before, and it’s important for educators of all kinds to be aware of the kinds of tools and technologies that are emerging.

Virtually every industry on earth has been touched by games or game technology in one way or another, and by harnessing their ability to engage audiences, anyone can create content that leaves a lasting impression.

It’s my hope that everyone will come away from the conversation with new ideas and questions, and perhaps be inspired to explore video games.


The University of Canterbury is way ahead of its time when it comes to investing in tools to power the future of education. The new Bachelor of Digital Screen and the redevelopment of the Dovedale Campus at UC will provide access to an incredible array of digital content creation tools; things like game engines, video editing suites, green screens, and sound recording studios, just to name a few.

It’s geared towards providing students of all backgrounds with access to the latest tools and technology that are out of reach for many people. With this investment, students and businesses in our community will be able to find new ways to take distinctly New Zealand stories to new audiences.

The University is also investing in online delivery tools and materials, so that their renowned teaching programmes can be accessed by anyone, anywhere.

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