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Event to examine power of games in education, health, social impact

Sasha Barab
August 31, 2012

ASU explores power of play Sept. 27 at Arizona Science Center

Leading researchers, game developers and digital entrepreneurs from the Arizona State University Center for Games and Impact will gather at Arizona Science Center in downtown Phoenix Sept. 27 to discuss and demonstrate the power of computer and video games to influence education, health care and social challenges.

The event, “Playing Games with a Purpose: The Power of Play in Learning, Health and Social Impact,” is scheduled to take place from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., and is free and open to the public. Families, ages 6 and older, are welcome.

Presented by the ASU Foundation for A New American University’s Presidential Engagement Programs (PEP), Arizona Science Center and ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, the event requires registration. Arizona Science Center is located at 600 E. Washington St., and validated parking at the Heritage and Science Parking Garage will be provided.

The three founders of the ASU center – co-director Alan Gershfeld and professors Sasha Barab and James Gee – will share the center’s mission, impact areas and initiatives. Additionally, the Game Savvy Teacher Initiative will be launched during the event, and a formal presentation, including previews of the latest educational games, will be demonstrated on the science center’s IMAX theater.

Attendees will be invited to play games with leading game developers in digitally infused educational curriculum. Discussions will be led by Barab, the Pinnacle West Chair of Education in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, and the event is the result of a partnership between Arizona Science Center and PEP. The collaboration speaks to an institutional, interdisciplinary effort emerging between the science center and ASU, established and facilitated through the efforts of the ASU Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development.

Computer and video games have emerged as one of the most engaging mediums of the 21st century, generating billions of hours of highly interactive entertainment, even surpassing the film industry in terms of revenue. According to a recent Summit on Education report by the Federation of American Scientists, the success of complex video games demonstrates games can teach higher-order thinking skills such as strategic thinking, interpretative analysis, problem-solving, plan formulation and execution, and adaptation to rapid change.

A growing body of research is highlighting the enormous potential of games to drive meaningful and measurable learning, health and social impact.

The session will explore the power of the medium to create more engaging and effective education models, foster healthy living practices, more efficiently train employees and engage global youth in the critical issues facing a highly-connected, fast-moving, 21st-century world. In addition, hands-on demonstrations will offer attendees new and innovative ways to experience the impact of games.

A founding senior scientist and scholar in ASU’s Learning Sciences Institute, Barab is highly acclaimed for his research on the value of transformational play as well as the development of gaming environments designed to assist children in developing a sense of purpose as individuals, as members of their communities and as knowledgeable citizens of the world.

Formerly the Barbara Jacobs Chair of Education and Technology at Indiana University, Barab is well known for his work in developing the education game “Quest Atlantis,” a ground-breaking learning and teaching project that uses a 3D multi-user environment to immerse children, ages 9-12, in educational tasks.

James Paul Gee is the Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies, and also a member of the National Academy of Education. His book, “Sociolinguistics and Literacies” (Fourth Edition 2011), was one of the founding documents in the formation of the “New Literacy Studies,” an interdisciplinary field devoted to studying language, learning and literacy in an integrated way in the full range of their cognitive, social and cultural contexts. His most recent books have dealt with video games, language, and learning.

“What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy” (Second Edition 2007) argues that good video games are designed to enhance learning through effective learning principles supported by research in the learning ciences.

Alan Gershenfeld, Founding Industry Fellow, has spent the last 20 years at the intersection of entertainment, technology and social entrepreneurship. He is currently founder and president of E-Line Media, a publisher of digital entertainment that engages, educates and empowers – with a core focus on computer/video games. E-Line works with leading foundations, academics, non-profits and government agencies to harness the power of games for learning, health, and social impact.

For more information about “Playing Games with a Purpose,” contact Sally Moore at 480-965-4814 or via email at

Steve Des Georges
Senior Director, Editorial Services
ASU Foundation for A New American University