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The Games for Learning Institute

…Pursuing the art and science of designing educational

Most people would agree that a good game could help students
learn. But what, exactly, makes a game good?

With their vast popularity and singular ability to engage young
people, digital games have been hailed as a new paradigm for
education in the 21st century. But researchers know surprisingly
little about how successful games work. What are the key
design elements that make certain games compelling, playable,
and fun? How do game genres differ in their educational
effectiveness for specific topics and for specific learners? How
do kids learn when they play games? Does the setting (classroom
vs. casual) matter? How can games be used to prepare
future learning, introduce new material, or strengthen and
expand existing knowledge? How are games designed to best
facilitate the transfer of learning to the realities of students’
everyday lives? And how can we use all of this knowledge to
guide future game design?

The Games for Learning Institute (G4LI) seeks to answer these
and other critical questions, pointing the way to a new era of
game use in education. The Institute was established in 2008
with a prestigious grant from Microsoft Research, and supplemental
funding from the Motorola Foundation. Based at New
York University, the Institute brings together 14 game designers,
computer scientists, and education researchers from 9
partner institutions, including Columbia, City University of New
York, Dartmouth, NYU, NYU-Poly, Parsons, Chile’s Pontifica
Universidad Catolica, Rochester Institute of Technology, and
Teacher’s College. The active participation of globally acknowledged
digital pioneers on the G4LI Advisory Board—including
Alan Kay, Jaron Lanier, Mitch Resnick, and Will Wright—both
reflects and strengthens the Institute’s pursuit of innovation,
excellence, and best practices.

G4LI applies a scientifically rigorous approach that uses both
quantitative and qualitative methods. Researchers study existing
games, identify key design elements and learning patterns,
develop prototype “mini games” based on these elements and
patterns, test them in classroom and informal learning settings,
and evaluate the results. G4LI’s initial focus is on digital games
as tools for teaching science, technology, engineering, and
math—STEM subjects—at the critical middle-school level.

G4LI is generously supported by Microsoft Research and the Motorola Foundation.

G4LI bios and advisory board