How the power of games inspires solutions to today’s biggest challenges
By Lara Cole
For Sasha Barab, professor of innovation in ASU’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society and professor of education in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, it’s “game on” as he and his team create virtual solutions to society’s challenges.
“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.
The center recently launched My LifeLabs, its newest venture to unlock human potential through a growth and impact platform, thanks to grants from Intel, the National Science Foundation, and donations from entrepreneurs.As cofounder and executive director of ASU’s Center for Games and Impact, Barab has been harnessing the power of game-infused learning for five years. Grants from the Gates Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the National Science Foundation, and seed funding from ASU, gave the center its early springboard.
“ASU has the entrepreneurial spirit to manifest designs that can be researched and scaled to make positive change in the real world,” Barab says.