Context | Institute of Play

Many social institutions are challenged to fulfill their missions in the complex new global reality arising as a result of advancements in digital technology.

Take educational institutions, for example. A report released in 2009 by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University and the Alternative Schools Network in Chicago found that U.S. schools are having serious difficulties engaging and retaining students, let alone educating them to succeed in today’s world. The report found that about 7,000 students drop out of high school each day, 1.2 million per year, with grave implications for our economy, our political system and our society.

Similarly, a report released by the National Conference on Citizenship in 2008 found that 55% of people under 30 were unengaged in local or national political processes.

Whereas many American social institutions are suffering a crisis of disengagement, digital and other social media are attracting audiences in unprecedented numbers. These audiences are participating in new kinds of forums that supersede traditionally differentiated modes of activity and locations—like work-play, politics-entertainment, school-home, global-local. These audiences are creating, sharing, mixing, modifying, searching out, curating, critiquing and commenting on content that inspires them, in order to build new kinds of communities and ecosystems of engagement that follow them wherever they go.

The Institute acknowledges these trends as part of a new reality, replete with challenges and opportunities. In this new reality the scope and skill set of engaged citizenship is widened, and many traditional modes for learning, problem solving and participation are rendered less relevant.

It is therefore essential that social institutions create new culturally relevant modes of engagement and models for learning, problem solving and participation. Without them, society will lack a foundation for educated, engaged, empowered citizenship.

This is the context for the Institute’s work. We believe that games, game design and the principles that underlie them have vital roles to play in engaging twenty-first century audiences, as well as in building critical skills like systems thinking, creative problem solving, collaboration, empathy and innovation. We believe they have a unique relevance as social tools to rebuild the foundations of citizenship.

Our belief is grounded in recent educational research and supported by experts, as well as by important thinkers throughout the ages. In this section we offer some additional resources to anyone interested in learning more.

Why gaming in education? How can we not?


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