We are pleased to announce that Heidi McDonald was promoted from Creative Director to Senior Creative Director of iThrive Games, effective July 1, 2017. In her new role, Heidi uses her natural zest and creativity to lead our organization’s strategy for partnering with game developers and scholars across the world, spurring the production of meaningful games that support teens’ positive development.
Since moving to iThrive in October 2015 from award-winning studio Schell Games in Pittsburgh, Heidi has been instrumental in proposing and testing ways to directly involve game developers and scholars in our work. She has helped select game development projects to fund and co-produce — including the empathy-focused games Companions (with Filament Games) and Cycles of Empathy (with 1st Playable Productions). She also has led the effort to build iThrive Design Guides, resources to help developers design around positive psychology concepts like empathy, growth mindset, and curiosity. The Design Guides are developed and tested through two of Heidi’s flagship projects: 1) iThrive Design Hives, think tanks that bring together notable experts from academia and the game industry to explore the intersection of games and positive psychology, and 2) iThrive Game Jams, where we guide developers in creating innovative game prototypes focused on positive psychology themes.
[Related: We are hosting an empathy game jam at DigiPen in Redmond, Wa. on Sept. 15-17, 2017. Contact us for registration details. Space is limited!]


In her new role, Heidi will scale up activities that extend iThrive’s reach within the game industry. This includes launching two new projects with the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) at Carnegie Mellon. We are sponsoring ETC’s semester-long student project on game design and positive psychology, which kicked off on Aug. 28, 2017 under the faculty supervision of Heather Kelley and Ricardo Washington. We also are guest editing a peer-reviewed special issue of ETC’s “Well Played” journal, focusing on how games can support growth and thriving.

[Related: There’s still time to submit your paper to “Well Played.” Submissions are due Oct. 1, 2017.]
As Senior Creative Director, Heidi offers consultation hours to developers who want to discuss game ideas or ongoing projects that incorporate positive psychology concepts including identifying and using strengths and positive mindsets to thrive socially and emotionally. Contact us to schedule a consultation, and please join us in congratulating Heidi on her promotion via Twitter and Facebook!

Heidi (second from left) at 2017’s Serious Play Conference.

More About Heidi McDonald
Prior to breaking into games in 2011, Heidi worked as a freelance writer, a communications and events specialist, and an elected councilperson in Edgewood, Pa. Heidi began her game industry career at Schell Games, where she spent over four years as a designer and writer. At Schell Games Heidi worked on nine titles including PlayForward: Elm City Stories (with iThrive partner, Play2Prevent, housed at Yale University), The World of Lexica, and Orion Trail. In recognition of her flair for game design she won Women in Gaming’s Rising Star Award in 2013. She was an integral part of the Orion Trail writing team that received an honorable mention for Excellence in Narrative from the Independent Games Festival in 2016. She publishes and speaks internationally on various topics including romance in games. Her book, “Digital Love: Romance and Sexuality in Games” will be released Nov. 1, 2017 from CRC Press.