NYU Helps Launch Groundbreaking Games Alliance

NYU School of Engineering Professor Katherine Isbister Announced as a Founding Member of the Executive Committee of the Higher Education Video Game Alliance

The NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering announced today that Katherine Isbister, an associate professor of computer science, director of the school’s Game Innovation Lab, and a member of the faculty of the NYU Game Center of the Tisch School of the Arts, has become a founding member of the executive board of The Higher Education Video Game Alliance. Fellow NYU Professor Jan L. Plass, of the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and co-director of the Games for Learning Institute, will become a charter member of the group, and other members of NYU’s Media and Games Network (MAGNET) are expected to become major participants in the alliance’s activities.

Launched today at the Aspen Ideas Festival, the alliance will provide a platform for leading academics to showcase the critical role video game programs are playing in educating and preparing students for the 21st century workforce. The group will afford its members, including professors and other campus leadership, an opportunity to share and highlight best practices, publish research, initiate and strengthen industry connections, educate, and engage policymakers and the media.

"NYU and other universities across the country are performing cutting-edge research in this emerging field, and game designers and programmers are doing foundational work that expands into health, education, and many other fields beyond entertainment,” said Isbister. “There are now almost 400 schools of higher education in the United States that offer video game design as part of their curriculum; I am proud that NYU will play a formative role in shaping the Alliance for the benefit of these scholars and the broader community.”

Princeton Review ranked NYU’s graduate and undergraduate programs among the best game-design programs. Four NYU schools share space at MAGNET, which co-locates teaching and research programs in games as a creative art form, game design, digital media design, computer science, and engineering. Isbister and Plass are members of its Presidium.

Isbister authored the highly regarded book, Better Game Characters by Design: A Psychological Approach, and co-edited Game Usability: Advice from the Experts for Advancing the Player Experience. Isbister’s work focuses on enhancing the social and emotional qualities of human computer interaction. She serves on the editorial board of the International Journal of Human Computer Studies and is a senior member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). In 1999 she was selected as one of MIT Technology Review's TR100 Young Innovators most likely to shape the future of technology. Her research has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, Forbes, and on NPR and BBC programs.

Plass is the inaugural holder of the Paulette Goddard chair in digital media and learning sciences at NYU Steinhardt, where he directs the programs in educational communication and technology, which includes a master’s of science in Games for Learning. He is the founding director of the Consortium for Research and Evaluation of Advanced Technology in Education (CREATE) and co-directs the Games for Learning Institute. That multi-institutional institute studies games to find benefits for learning as well as for cognitive and socio-emotional development.

Addressing the founding of The Higher Education Video Game Alliance, Mark DeLoura, senior advisor for digital media at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said: "Game development programs are growing the next generation of America's STEM leaders: providing excellent career training, serving as incubators for game design and technology innovation, and advancing state of the art game research.  Efforts to increase the connections between educators and professional game developers will help to further strengthen American competitiveness by enhancing the collective power of these programs.”

Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), said: “As the leading association representing the video game industry, ESA is excited by this new collaboration among the country's top game design departments and professors. The Alliance is more important than ever because game design skills are an increasingly critical part of driving innovation across numerous sectors of the economy. ESA and our member companies are fully supportive and enthusiastic about the mission of The Alliance and look forward to future collaborations.”

The Alliance—initially supported by ESA—will aim to achieve multiple goals:

  • survey game programs, placements, and practices across membership;
  • improve Bureau of Labor Statistics information on the games industry;
  • host events  to connect higher education programs and policy makers;
  • provide recognition and awards for innovations from member labs;
  • encourage stronger connections between higher education and industry through things like student internship programs and trend/need discussions and reports; and
  • conduct meta-analyses of the state of play along various sector issues such as health, education, and technology challenges.