The Center for Games and Impact at ASU and E-Line Media partnership is building a Game Infused Theory of Change (download handout ), an impact-based approach, and a human and technological infrastructure to address the challenge of developing effective impact-friendly business models for game-based services with the ultimate goal of being able to achieve sustainable and scalable impact.
- Adventure (optimized for enabling students to take on identities and solving problem in an engaging, narrative context)
- Simulation (optimized for students to experience real-world scenarios that contextualize learning vs. optimized for pure fidelity itself)
- Strategy (optimized for students to solve complex problems balancing multiple variables to accomplish desired outcomes).
- Toolbox (Optimized for students to create content with powerful tools to realize diverse goals and develop new media literacies).
Big “G” game infrastructures are open-ended and seamlessly integrate the small “g” games into a larger, flexible ‘meta-game’ structure and affinity space that fosters user-driven extensions and adaptations in support of real-world goals and outcomes. It is with the Big “G” components that we transform individual experiences within a game into a dynamic interaction to enable learning to be applied and extended beyond the classroom walls.
Key components are:
- Data and Analytics Dashboard (Allow teachers, students and other key stakeholders to not only see data, but also interact with the game and optimize the learning experience based on this data).
- Social Communities and Affinity Spaces (a framework for engaging in discussion, co-mentoring, tutoring, critique, reflection, “theory crafting”, and designing)
- Achievement-based framework and gamification layers (carefully designed extrinsic reward systems and intrinsic motivators to focus attention, motivate action and provide a trajectory of advancement)
- Meta-game identity (framework for personalized avatars, meta storylines, and open APIs that unite small “g” and real-world experiences.
- Smart tools (tool systems which can be used as templates for real-world applications and move learning beyond the classroom walls)
- Modding tools (powerful tools, opportunities, and support structures so students and teachers can extend, shape, and augment the core platform)
To be clear, while individual small “g” game experiences can and do achieve learning success, we believe the deeper learning outcomes come through the seamless integration of the small “g” games with a Big “G” infrastructure that both connects and extends each of the individual learning modules.
Harnessing games for impact around a core initiative area, involves a 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 furthering key impact objectives.
Another key tenet of our theory of change is that game-infused experiences are most effective when treated as services that are integrated, managed, and continually optimized for ecosystem integration, ongoing sustainability and scaled impact – as opposed to products that are released and remain static. Building a game-infused ecosystem requires building trust and strong communication across multiple stakeholders with a flexible design process that iterates in relation to how well the system is meeting impact goals. Continual optimization of the system requires ongoing data collection, including data mining of community usage, creating specific assessments focused on key priority areas, and examining real-world participation to ensure outcome achievement.
A successful rollout would include processes and technologies to ensure implementation fidelity and allow for local optimization of products and services to maximize sustainable and scalable outcomes.
This service-based model not only enables responsiveness to teacher, student, and other stakeholder feedback, continually maximizing engagement and learning outcomes, it also enables responsiveness to shifting dynamics in the ecosystem of implementation. An additional benefit of an on-going service is that it offers an expandable infrastructure allowing for the addition of new modules and capabilities.
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.