Gamers to PWN Universities & Colleges!


Next Generation of Super Hero Student Gamers (Photo credit: JoePhilipson)

Gamers may soon have a leading edge in advanced education. An international research consortium just released a report identifying games and the use of game-thinking and mechanics in the development and implementation of post secondary studies.

These findings from the New Media Consortium’s (NMC) Horizon Report 2013 (10th annual) are kind of blowing my mind. And they’re more than a little surprising for my husband, The Dean (he’s actually a university college Dean of Arts & Science).

Instead of sharing a game review today, I wanted to share some of the NMC’s exciting (gaming-related) findings. But first:

What’s the NMC?

It’s an international not-for-profit consortium of over 250 universities, colleges, museums, and corporations that focuses on the study and application of new media and technology. Here’s what it said about games and gamification:

Gamers to PWN (“pone”) Universities & Colleges (my twist)

Although NMC predicts gamification (fancy-schmancy word meaning; “using game-thinking and mechanics”) will significantly take off over the next two to three years, there are already campuses and programs using this method in the delivery of  their courses. The NMC reports the IE Business School (Madrid) is one of them. IE Business School is teaching students global economic policy through a game called 10 Downing Street, an RPG (role playing game) in which students play the British Prime Minister. The game also fosters collaborative learning by requiring that students work in six-person teams to debate policy options. According to the NMC,

“Scenarios like this one demonstrate the power of  games to mimic pressing issues, requiring students to do higher-level thinking and exercise skills pertinent to their area of study.”

Game play, according to the NMC “continues to be a major focal point of discussions among educators”, and a controversial one at that. As with any new development concerns about longevity and validity arise. In  this case the concern is that it’s a trend that “carries the danger of immediately disenchanting students if executed poorly.” (I can think of a few university courses and a grad school program that managed the same for me, without the help of gamification.)

At present there are schools of Architecture, Nursing, Music, Business, and (get this) History (to name a few) that are either using or developing interactive games for training and education.

In Development

An example of a game designed for use in schools of  Architecture is SimArchitect (developed by IBM Center for Advanced Learning). This game puts players in scenarios where they are given an RFP (request for proposal) by a virtual client. The gameplay involves preparing the proposal as well as conducting meetings with the client and their team.

The University of Florida is currently involved in developing a game (The Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative project) that will see virtual characters of early Williamsburg, Virginia brought to life in a geographically and culturally accurate world. Students who play the game will have the opportunity explore and interact with this world and the characters in it.

In Play

At McGill University (Montreal) an Open Orchestra simulation game gives musicians the experience of playing in an orchestra or singing in an opera through the use of augmented reality technology. In this example, the game’s use of high definition panoramic  video and surround sound creates the total experience.

Meanwhile in Austin, St. Edward’s University is using a game that turns its students into superheroes.  Through the Global Social Problems, Local Action & Social Networks for Change project, students play an RPG which puts them at the center of a large-scale global social problem. As superheros, students are tasked with fighting these problems at a local level. (talk about PWNing!)

High Score

The NMC report lists seven other examples of games in development or in play at the post secondary level. It concludes that there are broad applications for gaming and gamification in both teaching and learning. Gamification, NMC says, is one way to develop and improve skills, while creating a motivational atmosphere in which to do it. My son (The Gamer) wholeheartedly agrees.


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