Pre-Festival Summit: Federal Games Working Group

Jenny Vogel, Random No Comments

Jenny Vogel | July 5, 2012

Two weeks ago I got the opportunity to attend my first conference! It was the “Games for Change” 2012 conference in New York City. The first day was the pre-festival summit, which was an interesting experience, because it allowed all the people in attendance to gather together in a more casual setting than the lectures of the following days. Teachers, game designers, and other academic professionals alike were at the summit, arranged in a round-table fashion. While the discussions were still directed by speakers, there was a different feel to these talks—audience members were encouraged to speak up and contribute their experience and advice.

The first couple sessions were opening remarks and “state of the industry” talks, which were interesting, but the session that I’m going to write about was the one that I enjoyed the most. “There’s a Badge for That” was the title of this portion of the summit. Lead by David Langendoen, Leah Potter, and Jim Diamond of “Electric Funstuff”, “American Social History Project”, and “Education Development Center”, respectively, lead this talk about a badge system that they created for an educational game called “Mission US: The Flight to Freedom.” The game was developed for middle-school age students in American History classes and aimed to help students understand the historical significance of slavery and the difficulties facing an enslaved person. The speakers introduced themselves and the game, but the discussion quickly became a much more broad, brainstorming type discussion about the possibility of a “universal badge system.” The idea is simple: create a badge system like you would find in any video game and then apply this to ALL games and even to significant life events and school achievements!

Traditionally, badges in video games are awarded for any kind of achievement, but they are awesome because you can display them to friends, brag about them, but most importantly, they display your abilities in a tangible way. I think that this is a powerful idea that can be integrated into, at the very least, public schooling. This would be a way to completely revolutionize the idea of standardized testing. Students would be awarded for their achievements and they would be able to have real proof of their efforts. Their accomplishments could be recognized in a way that isn’t really direct competition/comparison with other students. Universities and employers would be able to clearly see the student’s achievements in all fields. Now, obviously, this would be a radical change. The first step would be to apply this to all video games. But if this system could be implemented it could influence an interesting change on the educational system! I think children would love the idea of gaining badges for achievements.

On Tuesday, Nolan Bushnell, famous for founding Atari, spoke about his new project, Brainrush. The badge system ties in perfectly with Brainrush. (An online collaborative learning game website) He spoke about how much more quickly people learn through games than through traditional lectures, and badges are terrific incentive for learning! So—here’s my hope for the future of education: first we bring in a Brainrush teaching type system and then we implement a universal badge system for rewards. Overall, the Games for Change conference has single handedly come up with a solution to all the problems in our educational system! Well, that’s an over-statement, but it would definitely be a step in the right direction.

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