Harnessing games for impact, involves a clear theory of change, scalable platform and set of design, technology and implementation best practices along with a green light process for selecting specific projects that collectively are likely to result in a capital-efficient, engaging and effective vehicle for advancing and sustaining key impact objectives.
At its core, impact-based research (IBR) is an agile research approach that aligns stakeholders around impact outcomes accomplished through clearly articulated theories of change that are continually optimized through sustained real-world implementations and shared best practices across a committed community of practice (download handout ). Realizing this vision requires a deeply committed team that spans core competencies in learning sciences, content domains, research methodologies, game development and ‘double-line’ publishing mechanisms for game-infused learning products and services built on sustainable models that can be continually optimized for effectiveness and scaled implementation. Our approach to any impact partnership is to leverage this IBR methodology, and treat the partnership initiative as an agile startup building a game-infused system—as opposed to simply a work-for-hire producing a one-off game product.
The following are key considerations when pursuing planning, implementing and optimizing a game-infused suite of products and services for impact;
- Identifying key stakeholders and interests (ensuring all stakeholders have aligned interests and impact objectives);
- Defining impact outcomes (clearly articulating the real-world objectives for the work);
- Conducting landscape and opportunity analysis (ensuring new initiatives are informed by and effectively building upon existing community of practice);
- Developing theory of change (clearly articulating how specific intervention will foster desired outcomes);
- Analyzing key considerations for full lifecycle of implementation (considering impact objectives, audience, context, design, develop, publishing, assessment and scaling);
- Assembling and empowering team (building a successful partnership requires assembling the right stakeholders and ensuring agency and voice);
- Engineering and implementing the intervention (applying the theory of change through the design, development and implementation of the product, service or practice);
- Assessing and optimizing for impact (tracking evidence of impact through intervention that has credibility with key stakeholders and optimizing the intervention based on this feedback);
- Sustaining and scaling for impact (ensuring the intervention can be sustained locally and scaled globally);
The Center for Games and Impact at ASU and E-Line Media have built the legal, business, design, and technical infrastructure, along with the human capital and necessary best practices, to effectively apply IBR in a manner that leverages gaming methodologies and technologies to achieve sustainable impact. Specifically, we have built a double-bottom line commercial studio (staffed with leading game designers) and a university-based Center (staffed with leading research scientists) to create game-infused products and services that can be continually optimized for ecosystem integration, with the ultimate goal of producing sustainable solutions to society’s biggest challenges.
- An Ecological Model of Impact Innovation: Building Interpretive Space for Anticipatory Action and the Potential to Thrive
- Impact Based Research: Closing the Gap between Game-Based Learning Research and Sustainable, Scalable Real-World Impact
- Impact-Based Research: Cross-Sector Insights Toward Aligning Education Research and Real-World Impact (NSF EAGER GRANT)
About Sasha A. Barab PhD
Sasha Barab is a Professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University, where he co-founded and serves as the Executive Director of the Center for Games and Impact.
Dr. Barab is an internationally recognized Learning Scientist who holds the Pinnacle West Chair of Education, and who has researched, designed, and published extensively on the challenges and opportunities of using games for impact.