A game changer

September 13, 2016
Nic VanMeerten

Like many 14-year-olds, Nic VanMeerten liked to play video games. Unlike most kids his age, he took things a step further.

“I started a team to play games competitively,” says VanMeerten, now a doctoral student in the psychological foundations of education program.

In high school, VanMeerten’s passion for games helped him connect with other like-minded enthusiasts online and made him more comfortable meeting new people.

“It wasn’t just entertainment, it was an opportunity to interact with others and to learn,” he says.

VanMeerten graduated from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Then, with the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System, he conducted research on schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Although he enjoyed the research, he knew something was missing, so he began searching for other careers. While attending the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, he met a researcher who was researching how to reduce toxic behavior in a multiplayer game called League of Legends.

“He helped me to realize I could pursue a career researching how people behave in digital games,” he recalls.

As an undergrad, VanMeerten co-founded GLITCH, a non-profit organization that promotes video games as a culture, career path, and creative practice. Now VanMeerten is out to investigate how people learn in video games and how this information can be used for the greater good—to make learning fun.