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HCII Seminar Series - Kat Schrier Shaenfield

Kat Schrier Shaenfield
Associate Professor/Director of Games, Marist College, School of Communication and the Arts; Consultant, Game Designer, World Health Organization (WHO)


This event will be available via livestream.

Video link


"What if We Could Design Games to Reduce Biases and Enhance Compassion?"

Virtual reality (VR) and other types of games have been developed for educational purposes, with mixed results. We are still learning the best practices (and limitations) for designing games for skill development, such as skills like empathy, compassion, and bias awareness. In this talk, I will discuss a number of strategies we have used to design games to enhance identity exploration, empathic concern, perspective-taking, feelings of safety, bias reduction, and other indicators. First, I will consider how we might use the game design process itself to encourage changes in attitudes and/or behaviors. I will share the results of a series of "identity-themed" game jams (game creation events) held in nine different locations in the US (pre-pandemic). With these game jams (targeted toward game developers and game students) we conducted pre- and post-intervention surveys. Second, I will share initial results from our current investigations of using game jams in public schools in Nigeria, with youth ages 13 to 18. Next, I will share a third strategy, which is developing new VR games to enhance empathy and reduce bias. Nigeria has over 250 ethnic groups and 500 languages. With over 200 million people, it is the most populated country in Africa. Unfortunately, there are tensions among the different ethnic groups. We are designing multiple versions of a VR game (targeted toward Nigerian youth), which aim to enhance a greater understanding of the discrimination faced by people who are Yoruba, Hausa, Niger Delta, and Igbo in Nigeria. Finally, I will identify themes across these three projects, share open questions, and consider the next steps for researching and designing games for prosocial purposes. 

Speaker's Bio

Karen "Kat" Schrier (she/they) is an Associate Professor and Director of the Games & Emerging Media program at Marist College, where she researches games for learning, inclusion, and compassion. She also consults as a Game Designer for the World Health Organization (WHO) and is co-PI on a Templeton Foundation Grant on VR and empathy. Previously, she was a Belfer Fellow for the Center for Technology & Society at the ADL. She has been a game designer for 20 years and prior to becoming a full-time academic, she worked at Scholastic, BrainPOP, and Nickelodeon. Dr. Schrier is the author/editor of over 100 published works, including We the Gamers: How Games Teach Ethics and Civics (Oxford University Press), the Learning, Education & Games series (ETC Press/Carnegie Mellon), and Knowledge Games (Johns Hopkins University Press). She holds a doctorate from Columbia University, a master’s degree from MIT, and a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College.

Speaker's Website

Jessica Hammer