In both my Independent Study and Business Planning class I am exploring opportunities for where my design knowledge may add value when we move back to Portsmouth, Ohio. One of the most intriguing opportunities I have been considering is a collaboration with the #7 nationally-ranked game design program at Shawnee State University. I have some experience with game design–mostly in my undergrad work with the Advanced Learning Technologies (ALT) Department at Miami University. ALT provides instructional technology support to faculty, and I worked on the visual graphics of the "learning objects"–many of which incorporated game mechanics–that were used as supplemental coursework at Miami. Beyond that experience, I have not explicitly worked with games and personally, I have never been much of a gamer.

Recently, the Director of our program referred me to a video of Dr. Jane McGonigal's TED talk about the power of games. All I can say is WOW and I am hooked! Not only is she a great speaker, but the game design theories she presents are extremely interesting. One of the blog posts on her companies' blog that I found very informative, highlighted the difference between "gamification" and what she calls "gameful design." It presents an intriguing discussion–one that questions the way in which organizations employ game behaviors to increase engagement.

In my research, I had the privilege of interviewing Nathan Solomon of Philly Game Lab, a brand new space in Philadelphia that is working with local Universities, as well as game industry experts and entities to form a community where the full value of local resources can be a destination point for publishers, investors and related businesses. One of the most powerful things he said was:

"We are realizing more and more that games are just a space for people to learn together."

This concept has been reinforced as I continue looking into how games can be leveraged to create rich learning experiences, and I also discovered a recent Forbes article featuring Dr. McGonigal and this topic of learning through game play: "Want to Be Smarter? Play Video Games" by Erika Andersen. In the article, Andersen outlines McGonigal's argument for the key benefits of playing video games:

1. They teach you how to think critically, how to solve problems.

2. They teach you collaboration skills.

3. They teach you how to fail.

4. They make you happy.

All four benefits focus on what games can teach the participants, and I am very excited to see that they reflect many of the valuable skills I have learned through my graduate design coursework. I plan to continue my exploration of how I might be able to collaborate with the game design program at Shawnee State University, and I look forward to learning more about how to incorporate gameful mechanics into my own work.