What can we learn from video games?
The White House is doing what some people call unconventional investments. It is studying the benefits of video for gamers. White House senior policy analyst Constance Steinkuehler, who led the study, discussed the initiative with host Michel Martin.
MICHEL MARTIN, host:
I’m michelle Martin, more from NPR news. The upcoming film, “think like a man,” claims to break men and women in the name of love, but the film is stirring up controversy. We’ll be sifting together in a minute with film critic Wesley morris, and we’ll celebrate the Pulitzer prize that Wesley just announced. It was late.
But first, let’s talk about another game, video game. When you think of video games, you can be honest. Probably not the most education thing: kids glued to the TV to shoot zombies and blow up buildings. For?
But video games may have different USES, and the real quest for these different USES comes from President Obama.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)
Martin: that was the President of the Boston college of science and technology last march. He called for education software to quote “as compelling as the best video game”, with few references. In the fall, he hired Constance Steinkuehler to study the benefits of video games, including ways they could help us eat better or solve scientific problems.
We wanted to know more, so we asked constance steingrad. She’s a senior policy analyst at the White House office of science and technology policy, and she’s with us now.
Welcome. Thank you very much for joining us.
CONTINANCE STEINKUEHLER: thank you for having me.
Martin: you know, you’re the kind of job — I’m sure you’ve heard — people have one of two reactions. One: that’s cool. The other is: are you kidding? So tell us more about what you want to accomplish in this position.
STEINKUEHLER: sure. So, I mean, in the past ten years, have been conducting research on video games, especially in the field of education and science directly, thinking: what is the effect of the media for teenagers and adults? For example, the first the focus of the study is its violent theme, because clearly this is part of the American imagination on the game, as lead to a way of video game violence, problems such as the Columbine.
However, it turns out, many of these relationships in the study has not been confirmed, and the surrounding the game how to screen time into means a new field of activity time, think: how can you use them up from the sofa, and adapt to? How do you use them to improve problem solving or scientific reasoning? And, in fact, believe it or not, how can you use them to think about crowdsourcing scientific discovery itself?
Martin: you know, you have a very interesting background. You have three BA’s in mathematics, English and religion. Do I have this right?
STEINKUEHLER: yes, ma ‘am. B: yes.
Martin: your advanced training is in BBB 0 and psychology. So…
STEINKUEHLER: Yeah. In fact, when I was an undergrad, I swore to the two majors I order to never go into whenever education and tended to. And here I am now, and that ‘s what I did my graduate work In. My formal PhD is In literacy studies, which a contributor strange, and yet if you think about literacy, as you know, sort of making sense of various media, In fact, videogames fall within the purview of that.
Now, I didn’t go to graduate school to study video games. I came quite late, and I have to admit, I know, I haven’t been a gamer for 20 years. I really like the day of the arcade, but it’s about it. But when I went to graduate school, I was really interested in the online community, how could you think of people getting on the Internet in a way that was intellectually rich? How can you do social knowledge construction? How do people get together to solve problems?
So when I came to graduate school, I was looking at something like this: how can we automatically evaluate conversations in chat rooms and see what their knowledge is? And, you know, we’ve been doing this for a while. I know, I spent a couple of years working on dod grants and NSF grants, and we’re going to build systems and then look at these systems and what people are doing in it.
But, really, I’m really sick of it, because even though we can show that statistics have improved a lot in what people have learned, no one wants to go there. It was the first time I downloaded video games. The first game I downloaded was NCsoft’s “Lineage” game. After that, it took a week’s time, watching people task is more than we asked them to do in our space complexity, and realized that they are not only voluntarily, they pay the price is there, I realized that there is something we have to understand. So I gave up everything I did, changed my gear, and started playing games.
Martin: if you’re just joining us, this is from NPR news. We’re talking about video games with Constance Steinkuehler. She is a senior policy analyst at the White House office of science and technology policy. She’s a researcher in this field, and we’re talking about whether video games can be used – how would you describe it? For the benefit of, say, or…
STEINKUEHLER: yes, absolutely.
Martin: but there are some problems. I’m sure you’ve already thought about it. I think some people will question why this is the responsibility of the government.
STEINKUEHLER: I mean, the federal government role in this area – well, let me go back, you know, since the Obama administration as early as in the federal government investment game, since our federal investment has continued. You know, many of these games are particularly military, military training and simulation. So part of my job is to coordinate the investments that have been made and thought about: how do we make sure that we put the dollar in the most important place?
Now, I think about it in two ways. First: how do we invest in innovative and really advanced space? So, if you think about it: how can we create the next Internet today? Second: the social benefits are so high, but the return on investment of individual companies is too low to enter this space. This would be a significant second for the federal government.
You know, some drugs may be in this category of social benefits, incredibly high, and this is a valuable investment, but it’s just not done by the market alone.
Now, for gaming space, the market is where most of the action is.
Martin: sure. In fact, I can understand I mean, from a different direction, I mean, on the one hand, you can see, people might say that it’s not – I don’t need to use tax.
Martin: on the other hand, I think some people may say so: the government has been an incredible incubators, because there are so many powerful idea, but what are the benefits of social welfare? Or individuals privatize these ideas for their own personal gain, and if some of these ideas are productive, what about the returns to the taxpayer?
STEINKUEHLER: part of it will provide a diverse media environment for our teens and our adults. For? So it is certainly useful to simply focus more on pro-social behaviour, intellectual behaviour and new markets for fitness.
Martin: do you have a game for people to listen to NPR?
STEINKUEHLER: oh, yeah. Isn’t that great? Although I’m not sure you need it. But, you know, in philanthropy, you know, now it’s interesting to know that philanthropy has always seen games as a way to reach young people. Believe it or not, is a very good strategy game, like to play a game about certain social problem, and finally a donation button, people are asked, well, now, has really stepped in.
A few days ago I saw a game – the game is not over yet, so I won’t say any names or anything, but in the game, leveling the result of the game is actually in the planting of trees in the world. When you think of all those who take time to play, to discover and explore a topic, is really a wonderful thing, this topic is, in fact, the real output in the world, and good for others.
Martin: ok. So, to be honest: “SIMS” or “angry birds”?
STEINKUEHLER: you know, I have a kid of two and four, so my only game these days is a casual game on my phone.
Martin: do you play games on your phone?
STEINKUEHLER: oh, sure. The game I am playing now is a game called Journey, which is a young, very small company called game company. And, you know, if you haven’t played the game for a while, I think you’ll be surprised and happy about the diversity of the games there. In this case, it’s a game about how to move in this beautiful wind-blown landscape, and, you know, you’re playing anonymously with other people. You sing this note to show that you want to help other people’s pursuits. That’s a great headline. Now, this is only part of the diversity of game development.
Martin: do you have any matches for the baby to sleep?
STEINKUEHLER: oh, that would be cute. If I did that, I wouldn’t get up at four in the morning when I was two.
Martin: well, I’m going to get you back – hopefully, maybe you can catch a minute. Constance Steinkuehler is a senior policy analyst at the White House office of science and technology policy. We found her on Wisconsin public radio in Madison, Wisconsin.
Constance Steinkuehler, thank you very much for joining us.
STEINKUEHLER: thank you for having me.