Michael T. Astolfi earned a B.A. in evolutionary psychology from Boston University before moving to New York to take acting classes and improv comedy classes with the Upright Citizens Brigade and then enrolling in Gallatin's graduate program. “Gallatin seemed like the perfect place to further explore the connections between evolutionary psychology and play that I brushed up against while researching my undergraduate thesis,” Astolfi says. A co-founder and lead designer of Blacktorch Games, an independent game-developing studio in New York, Astolfi is also a member of two improv teams: shiny and Creative Differences.
At Gallatin, Astolfi studied the design and psychology of video games. “I’m particularly curious about how evolutionary psychology might be applied to develop better, more engaging virtual experiences,” he says. His thesis explored the idea that many modern video games are popular because they target and exaggerate the stimuli that appeal to humans’ ancient evolutionary instincts. “Gallatin’s supportive environment,” Astolfi says, “made it much easier to take the necessary leaps into the interdisciplinary unknown that come with blazing a new academic trail.”