Gaming company CEO focuses on 'social change'

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In September, when Schell Games was about to launch an online play component to the "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" television show, company founder and CEO Jesse Schell emphasized, "We are interested in the notion: Can games change people for the better?"

South Side-based Schell Games isn't alone. Sharing the mission statement is an international organization called Games for Change, which is sponsoring its annual Games for Change Festival this week at New World Stages in New York City.

Mr. Schell will receive the group's inaugural Game Changer award.

"Through his work, teaching and incredibly successful talks, Jesse inspires young game designers and students to look at their craft beyond its commercial value," said Asi Burak, Games for Change co-president.

"He has become one of the most vocal voices in support of the transformational power of digital games. And Jesse walks the walk by dedicating much of his studio's work to educational and social change-related projects."

Mr. Schell, 43 and an award-winning game designer and author, called the award "a tremendous honor. I'm a big believer that the universe wants us to help each other, and I really believe that as games become more elaborate and widespread, there will be more and more opportunities to create games that help make the world a better place."

Schell Games creates titles for entertainment but also develops interactive games that promote social and emotional well-being.

"We've been very focused on games and entertainment, but that's always been very broad for us," Mr. Schell once said during a tour of his company's 13,000-square-feet facility on East Carson Street.

"It's a mix of downloadable games, combined with interactive theme park rides, combined with interactive toys.

"We've always been the company that likes to go where other people aren't going."

In addition to receiving the award, Mr. Schell, who serves on the faculty of Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center, will be one of the keynote speakers.

Schell Games will sponsor an initiative called Game Designers of Tomorrow at the festival. One-hundred students will be given discounted admission to the festival, and 10 universities are each invited to provide complimentary access for two game design students.

"Jesse is a perfect role model for aspiring designers, as throughout his career he has led by giving back: sharing his knowledge, expertise and enabling others to excel," Mr. Burak said.

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Maria Sciullo: msciullo@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1478 or on Twitter @MariaSciulloPG.


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