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About The Center for Games & Impact

Building upon the vision of ASU President Michael Crow for a New American University, the Center for Games and Impact at ASU is committed to excellence, access, impact and research that contribute to the public good.

Directed by Professor Sasha Barab, the Center has as its mission to investigate, innovate, and cultivate game-infused solutions to society’s biggest challenges.

This mission is realized through partnerships among learning scientists, game developers and socially responsible entrepreneurs to rigorously study and innovate around the full life cycle of impact games. By examining the full lifecycle of impact games—from research, design and development to publishing, assessment and optimization—we seek to pioneer, implement and share best practices for harnessing the unique power of games for achieving sustainable and scalable outcomes.

“We develop games, apps, and platforms to immerse learners in what it’s really like to be a scientist, a doctor, or an engineer by investigating real-world problems in a virtual world,” Barab says.

This type of learning is called transformational play, and it’s much different from memorizing facts for a test. In a game world, the power lies in taking on the role of protagonist and making choices that have consequences. It helps people learn and grow in a context where they can fail safely and come to appreciate themselves as people who can have a real impact in a world—albeit a virtual one.

We have secured support from the Kauffman Foundation, Gates Foundation, the National Science Foundation, Educational Testing Services, Public Broadcasting Services, US-AID, the Intel Foundation, and private donors. At the core of all these efforts is the underlying assumption that the power of games lies not in the bits and bytes of the game world, but in the ways that the designed components are integrated into a larger infrastructure and local ecosystem.

Our commitment is to grow our understanding of game-enabled innovations for impact through use-inspired initiatives, scaling out the impact of these products at the same time building capacity of others to leverage lessons learned. These ideas are being tested and iterated as part of an innovation lab, through externally funded grants, and with students as part of a certification program.