Today, the U.S. Department of Education announced the final winners of this year’s Small Business Innovation Research SBIR contract awards—funds that are reserved for entrepreneurial small businesses using cutting-edge R&D to develop commercially viable technologies to solve tough problems. And there’s something that may surprise you about the winning contracts: More than half—or 12 in all—are for games and game-related projects, more than in any previous year. That says a lot about the increasingly creative field of educational games, and the growing base of evidence indicating that games can be an important and effective component of our strategy to prepare a highly skilled 21st century American workforce.
The Rochester Institute of Technology has launched one of the first betas that promises to gamify undergraduate education in a comprehensive way. The initiative’s called “Just Press Play,” and besides having an impressive assemblage of academics, designers, and artists working on the project, they received funding from Microsoft Research Connections to kick the project off.
They have a trailer. Here it is:
I have to say, I am a little worried about what kind of reaction that trailer will generate from students — mostly because I couldn’t figure out what the video was talking about. Warring factions + the need to strike a balance = rock climbing? And all of this is linked to a gamed-up education. Exactly … how? And this is coming from a lifelong gamer who hopes to transform postsecondary learning through education.
RIT’s heart is definitely in the right place, and it seems to have the team, the institutional support, and the outside funding to take a legitimate shot and creating a great user experience. Furthermore, they want to release their tools as open source, for which I for one am infinitely grateful. So please, RIT, know that I am speaking to you as an ally and supporter when I say this: you need a better trailer.
Two CUNY professors, Joe Bisz and Francesco Crocco, recently received a Title V grant to create College Quest, a game-enhanced academic social network, getting things done, and course management application for BMCC. Students will: create an avatar; earn points, levels, and badges for completing course assignments; receive push notifications for deadlines; play skill-building learning games in an online arcade; collaborate and mentor each other; check in to locations for augmented-reality gaming; and much more. The profs are working with Neuronic Games, a NYC game studio specializing in learning games, to produce a beta of College Quest by summer 2012. College Quest was inspired by the popular iOS-based getting things done app, Epic Win, which uses a fantasy theme and avatar system to manage tasks and level-up players. Stay tuned for more information about College Quest!