Category Archives: York College Transformative Games Initiative

New Website, Upcoming Talks, and More!

It’s been a while since the blog has been updated, but there is much to report. First, I am excited to say that I will be acting as the new Director of Undergraduate Research at York College starting in the Fall of 2013. I will be succeeding Dr. Rishi Nath from Mathematics and Computer Sciences, who did an outstanding job of launching the program and increasing the student participation in our annual research day to nearly 300. Undergraduate research is really taking off at York College, and those involved are looking forward to attracting attention to the college, pursuing new funding mechanisms to support this work, developing productive student-faculty relationships, and learning as much as we can from each other.

Second, Transformative Games has a new website in development that offers many features for students and faculty. has been launched and content is being added rapidly to provide students and faculty at York College with the latest in games-based learning. The site also hosts a games gallery, a mirror of this blog, opportunities for student-faculty collaborations, and a discussion board for members to debate topics and provide feedback. An external site was developed primarily to host the games themselves, which is easier than hosting the site at the official York College website or the CUNY Academic Commons. While the website currently resides at a private URL, the blog will still be hosted in the Academic Commons. There are also plans to mirror the essential components of this site on the official York College website.

Finally, there are many dates coming up that I’m going to discuss in future posts:

November 6th – I will be attending the 2012 CUNY Honors Opportunities Conference at the Macaulay Honors College. This year’s theme is “Undergraduate Research: The Opportunities and the Challenges.” I hope to report many interesting developments that will affect undergraduate research and games-based learning.

November 13th – Former student Rasha Alsaidi and I will be presenting at the York College Research Conversations lecture series. Our talk, “Transformative Games: Undergraduate Research by Design,” will describe the process of creating game-based learning systems for undergraduates. The conversation will focus on productive mentor-mentee relationships and building a framework to accommodate students with widely varying research interests.

November 29th and 30th – I will be presenting two talks at the CUNY IT Conference. The first talk will be with the CUNY Games Network, and the second will be with the York College Center for Interdisciplinary Health Practice. Both talks will discuss games-based learning and are described in detail in previous posts.

York College Transformative Games Initiative

I’m very happy to announce that there is plenty of interest and support among the faculty, students, and administration to officially launch the York College Transformative Games Initiative. The objective of this committee will be to provide information about game-based learning, organize local efforts to incorporate games into the classroom, and analyze the results of these efforts in order to make improvements. The committee will operate under the direction of Xin Bai from Education, Michael Smith from Performing and Fine Arts, and myself. While our roles may be overlapping, I will be primarily handling the science underlying game design, issues related to in-game assessment of student performance, assessment of game efficacy, and administration of the committee. Xin Bai will oversee issues related to educational technology. And Michael Smith will manage issues related content, asset, and media creation by students and faculty. If you want to be included as a member of this committee or if you want to learn more about how games can be easily incorporated into your classroom, please send me an email. In a future post, I will provide the rationale for game-based learning and provide a list of peer-reviewed articles and books that document the science behind game-based learning. Announcements of the first committee meeting will take place here and via York College e-mail.  In the meantime, I’m happy to answer any questions you might have here.

Welcome to Transformative Games

This blog will document my experiences in developing games for education. I borrowed the title of the blog from Jessie Schell, who notes that the term “Serious Games,” while sober enough to attract the attention of academics and funding agencies, is actually an oxymoron. Games must be fun and engaging to be successful, even if their ultimate purpose is serious in nature. The idea behind Transformative Games is that game mechanics can be used to inform, teach, and shape behavior. Games are excellent learning management systems that are capable of both teaching and assessment. The realtime nature of games allows them to occasion “teachable moments” for “just-in-time learning.” Well designed games adjust task difficulty according to user performance, which facilitates sustained attention, engagement, and learning while minimizing boredom and frustration. Standard psychophysical staircase procedures can be utilized in games to   optimize engagement and put the user into a state of “flow,” where time seems to pass very quickly. Transformative Games strive to incorporate everything we know about psychology, neuroscience, education, and game design into the learning experience.

To help others who might be embarking on a similar journey, I’ll be describing the process of developing games for education as well as issues surrounding Transformative Games. During this summer, I will be working with several high school students, college undergraduates, and programmers to develop a number of games for college freshmen. We only have six weeks to develop working prototypes and present them at a local conference. Consequently, I’m sure I’ll have a lot of valuable lessons to pass along in the next month or so. I will also document my efforts to unify college professors interested in games at my primary institution, York College. And I am working with others at the CUNY Games Network to develop a CUNY-wide institution for games. Our first task is to develop a conference in April 2013. Finally, I’m also developing simulations in Second Life with the York College Center for Interdisciplinary Health Practice to provide students with tools to practice skills that would otherwise be too expensive or risky to perform in the clinical setting.

Expect major updates every week and sporadic posts along the way. I’ll develop major categories in the future in the event that you only want to follow one of the aforementioned pursuits.