Making the World a Better Place Through Play: Lindsay Grace on Media That Matters

by Stephanie Brown

D14_240_258As we count down the days until Media That Matters 2014, check the CMSI blog to learn more about our #MTMDC panelists and why they engage with media that matters. 

Lindsay Grace, game designer, researcher, and American University professor, will be speaking at Media That Matters 2014 on the panel Digital Games: Using persuasive play for social impact. Here is his story.

1. What do you do? How is your work breaking new ground?

I design and develop games that remind people about their assumptions and persuade them to view the world differently. These games are considered persuasive play, critical gameplay, and social impact games. They include games that reward players for stopping to smell the flowers, evaluate people by behavior instead of appearance, and embrace affection.

I think play is a wonderful way to explore new solutions and practice pro-social behavior.  In the past year these games have won design awards at the Games for Change Festival and theInternational Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment. I’ve also published more than 25 articles, book chapters and papers about designing games.

2. How did you get where you are? What have you done in the past?

I am currently the director of American University’s Games Initiative and Persuasive Play Studio.  I have been teaching games for just over 10 years. I previously directed the Games Center at Miami University, one of the top 30 games programs in the country. There I created the Persuasive Play Laboratory. I’ve been making digital games off and on for 20 years.

3. What current or future projects do you want to tell us about?

American University is launching an energized initiative in purpose-driven play. We are fostering relationships with a variety of organizations to produce games that deliver social impact messaging through play. We want to make the world a better place through play.

4. What do you think makes media a powerful tool for change?

Games are an involving medium that require players to accept their rules to enjoy the experience. They also require players to solve problems repeatedly using the tools designed into the game. These two characteristics, audience engagement and repeated practice, form the foundation for a 21st century educational experience.  Each generation of media begets the next and games, whether digital or analog, work as a medium for interactivity, structured engagement and the delivery of message.

5. Have you personally experienced a situation in which media made a positive difference? Tell us about it.

I’ve watched players learn new empathy through games, learn new ways of looking at problems and, most importantly, shift their perspectives. Conventional digital play has achieved the ability to make players emotionally engaged, getting them to laugh and cry, to desire and reject.  I’ve attended conferences where hundreds of people champion the virtual experiences of their play as passionately as their greatest achievements. I think the evidence is all around us, from games systems that seduce us toward physical activity (e.g. Xbox Kinect and Dance Dance Revolution) to games that remind us of the complexities of our most challenging issues (e.g. Papers, Please andCart Life). These games excite people into important reflection, conversation and action.

6. Why do you want to speak at Media That Matters?

It is an important venue with positive goals and intentions.

Meet Lindsay and other innovative media-makers at the Media That Matters conference this February. If you haven’t signed up yet, visit the registration page.


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