“Games can connect us in valuable ways to our colleagues, reduce our anxiety and increase our ability to direct our attention.”
She Got Game
As 21st century computer games blossom with possibilities, think of Professor Constance Steinkuehler as one of the people watering the digital garden. “I’m interested in games that improve cognitive well-being, especially among young people,” she says. Fascinated with the social dimensions of online play, Steinkuehler is exploring its convergence with cognitive processes to enhance mindfulness and mental well-being. “We’re developing games that promote learning, health, the self-regulation of attention, and the ability to recognize someone else’s feelings and to respond productively to them,” she explains.
The Public Interest
Steinkuehler’s passion for the constructive potential of computer games has led to a variety of roles in the public sphere. She serves as president of the Higher Education Video Game Alliance and has worked with the White House to advise federal agencies and private foundations on ways to develop games that have positive social impact. “We are doing a lot of work around the public’s questions about the role video games play in their children’s lives,” she explains. Steinkuehler is passionate about computer games as a tool for social change. She is working toward games that produce a variety of beneficial public outcomes like reducing energy consumption, addressing childhood obesity and increasing people’s willingness and ability to recycle.
If there is a single conviction animating Steinkuehler’s work, it is her determination to develop games that are a force for good. “If you look at what we do in informatics,” she notes, “there’s this idea that a computer can improve human life, do good in the world and make things more sustainable for the planet.” For her, the calling is irresistible. “It is impossible to be a cynic when you see what young people do with media,” she says. “When they get hold of games that are fun and beautiful, amazing things happen.”
Ph.D., Curriculum and Instruction studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2005