Jessica Hammer Explores Transformational Gameplay at Dean’s Spotlight Series 2024

March 26, 2024

Jessica Hammer is an associate professor of learning sciences and the director of the Human-Computer Interaction Institute’s (HCII) Center for Transformational Play at Carnegie Mellon University. Hammer discussed her research on transformational games during the third of four Dean’s Spotlight Series lectures this academic year on March 25.

Transformational games aim to make meaningful, real-world impacts through changing players’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. At the Center for Transformational Play, Hammer conducts research in transformational game design and development. Transformational games target social, economic, and educational issues by incorporating research across disciplines like computer science, neuroscience, psychology, and art.

In her talk, Hammer emphasized the importance of transformational play in addressing real-world concerns. It can be overwhelming for people to take steps in making change, and it can be challenging to know how or where to begin. Transformational games provide an accessible, effective, and transformative method of change.

“Play is a universal human experience, and games very nearly so. It's easy to dismiss this area of life as not serious, or only for kids, but I disagree with that perspective. Everyone needs joy, ease, rest, connection, and the other wonderful benefits that play can bring,” stated Hammer.

Throughout her career, Hammer has worked with many different types of games. She has used her experience and knowledge of games to design and develop games that can make a real impact.

“As a game designer, I've had the chance to explore many different types of games over the years. For example, my work on narrative play includes visual novels, single-player computer games, analog tabletop games, live-action role-playing, and more. This means I have lots of different game techniques to apply to research problems,” said Hammer. “This is particularly important because I tend to be an intellectual magpie, collecting interesting problems where I think games can make an impact. Having lots of tools in my toolbox expands the range of challenges I can address.”

Hammer looks forward to continuing her research at the Center for Transformational Play and developing games that offer innovative solutions, from interactive learning to advocacy.

This talk was sponsored by the Department of Informatics and Networked Systems. Learn more about Hammer here!







--Alyssa Morales