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Professor/Researcher Kurt Squire on How Video Games Can Encourage Civic Engagement

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Published on Aug 4, 2011

Kurt Squire, video game designer and assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, breaks down the educational power of video games for digital-age learners.

Kurt expresses a deep interest in "this idea that when you play through a game world--let's say that you're playing as a role-playing game and you're a character who's shaped this entire world--we are starting to see some evidence that players, after playing games like this, will start to [...] look outside and say 'Well, why are things the way they are?'" (00:18)

Squire goes on to explain how this evidence can be applied to more immediate, local issues: "So, what we want to do with educational games, are design games that try to do that but really build them around critical, kind of current issues and then get kids to be motivated and have the skills to go out and start to solve these problems as a direct result of having played the game." (00:38)

One such application was a Madison, Wisconsin-focused game called "Citizen Science" that promoted limnology concepts and encouraged users to take actions to improve the biological makeup of local lakes. "Now, our hope is that you play the game, you put it down, you say: 'Oh! Well why don't we something about it?'" Kurt says. "So we've basically taught you how to do everything that you're going to need to do to change the lake." (4:38)

Kurt Squire is an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Educational Communications and Technology division of Curriculum and Instruction and a research scientist a the Academic Advanced Distributed Learning Co-Lab. Squire is also a co-founder and current director of the Games, Learning, & Society Initiative.

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