Meet Rebecca Weiss, Engineering Director

January 31, 2023by Amber Cook and Rebecca Weiss

We're thrilled to share that Rebecca Weiss recently joined Hidden Door as our Engineering Director! She most recently led Mozilla Rally was a Research Scholar at Princeton University. With such a wonderfully wide-ranging background, we thought we’d introduce her in her own words.

Tell us about a game you love?

Only one?

Bethesda Starfield — Fallout had an enormous impact on me, so I am fond of Bethesda. I love open-world, story-driven games, especially ones where there’s greater lore driving the world design, and you immersively learn about that lore by interacting with puzzles, items, environments, and random encounters. Todd Howard described it as “Skyrim in Space” and that’s enough to get me interested.

A Complete Baldur’s Gate 3 - I never played the earlier Baldur’s Gates games, though my friends were obsessed. However, I played Divinity, loved it, and saw that Baldur’s Gate 3 was in development with Larian Studios. My friends and I started a 4-person campaign and got to the end of the early access version in a weekend. It was so good that we promised ourselves not to touch it again until there was a full release to play, which means that I will probably be taking time off to play a campaign when the time comes!

I’ve also obsessively played the Dune: Spice Wars Air and Sand update, and now I have to stop playing if I intend to be productive again. I like to evangelize and warn people about this game simultaneously.

What's exciting to you about the intersection of AI and games?

These days the advances in ML/AI research are pretty eye-popping. The things that are possible now were only fantasy technologies in my head growing up.

What’s more interesting to me is what will happen to the next generation of tinkerers because games are a great vehicle to introduce technology to people who would otherwise never encounter it. A big part of my career was enabled because my interest in gaming drove me to learn more about how computers worked. For example, my introduction to internet protocols came from online gaming and chat. Several years later, when I ended up working for a browser vendor, all of this lived experience became professionally valuable. But I only knew those things because I learned about them in a fun context.

So when something is fun, people are willing to try a little harder to do something that is otherwise pretty hard or mysterious. They’re more willing to try something a bit awkward or scary because it is also exciting. Machine learning is still pretty impenetrable mathematical magic to many people if you encounter it from software or algorithms in isolation. But when you embed something arcane in a familiar and fun context to people, it becomes much more approachable. I see the intersection of machine learning and gaming getting more people into both machine learning and gaming, which means more games that I can play that will increasingly have more striking experiences. What’s not to be excited about?

If you were a D&D character, what would your moral alignment be?

Vacillating between Chaotic Neutral and Chaotic Good, depending on whether it’s a corporate setting.

What's something you're proud of creating?

My last project was Mozilla Rally, a data-sharing platform for public interest projects. This project repurposed the telemetry platform used for Firefox for more use cases beyond browser client analytics. Our most visible project partnership was with The Markup, an investigatory tech journalism organization, where we created a community of users who shared some browsing data with their reporter team through our platform. This project (“The Pixel Hunt”) series exposed the potentially illegal use of ad pixels on government and hospital websites.

This story caused a bunch of class action lawsuits to be filed and drew Congressional attention to the problem of illicit user tracking. We also won a Webby! Now other institutions are looking to build platforms to accomplish the same goal of building common tools to make it easier for people to pool data to force transparency and accountability from walled gardens, and that’s pretty cool.

And for, um, research purposes, what’s your favorite snack food?

Boy, this is tough. Apples and cheese? Rice and an egg? These are my reliable go-to's.

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