Game Labs and Centers

The following are links to key centers, institutes and networks dedicated to different versions of game-based learning, technology rich learning environments and learning innovation.

American University Game Lab

Established in 2014, the American University Game Lab serves as a hub for experiential educationplay research, and innovative production in games and playful engagements. The Game Lab encompasses a curricular initiative, a commercial game studio and several research initiatives operated jointly between the School of Communication and the College of Arts and Sciences. With more than $700,000 in grants and contracts since its founding, the Game Studio employs students and faculty to produce work for clients like the Educational Testing Service, the National Institute of Mental Health, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and WAMU 88.5. We strive to investigate the expressive and strategic possibility of games through interdisciplinary study and our strategic location in the nation’s capital.   


Lindsay Grace, Director American University Game Lab

Meredith Fender, Program Associate, American University Game Lab and Studio

Center for Games and Impact, Arizona State University

Directed by Professor Sasha Barab, Pinnacle West Presidential Chair in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Arizona State’s highly regarded Center for Games & Impact focuses on games as transformational learning environments that contribute potential solutions to critical social issues. They have a distinct theory of change and rich set of development and implementation strategies for these game-infused solutions. To quote the center’s website directly, “We are arguing for a paradigm shift in the ways we think about unlocking human potential, one that sees: content as fundamentally linked to practice, people as having rich potential, and technology as one component of an empowered ecosystem.”

Character Lab, University of Pennsylvania

Character Lab focuses on teaching, theory and research around building student character. It was founded by: Angela Duckworth, a MacArthur Fellow and Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania; Dave Levin, co-founder of the KIPP public charter schools; and Dominic Randolph, Head of Riverdale Country School. Currently, Angela Duckworth has a co-leadership role as Scientific Director, with Donald Kamentz in the role of Executive Director. The lab applies next generation research to new educational tolls and promotes student reflection as integral to self-development. A key App is WOOP (Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan) which helps students set and overcome goals. The tool was developed by Dr. Gabriele Oettingen, a leader in positive psychology, and Dr. Peter Gollwitzer.

The CUNY Game Network (City University of New York), A Center for Game-Based Learning

Part of the largest urban university system in the United States, the CUNY Games Network is an organization dedicated to encouraging research, scholarship and teaching in the developing field of games-based learning. We connect educators from every campus and discipline at CUNY and beyond who are interested in digital and non-digital games, simulations, and other forms of interactive teaching and inquiry-based learning. The sections on Games within disciplines, Dr. Kathleen Offenholley’s blog, Game-Based Learning in College Mathematics and Dr. Joe Bisz’s Choosing the Right Game for Your Lesson are especially helpful resources for educators. The CUNY Game Network also hosts an excellent conference dedicated to games in learning every other year at the CUNY Grade Center in midtown Manhattan.

The Disruptive Media Learning Lab, Coventry University, U.K.

 The Disruptive Media Learning Lab is a cross-university, hybrid innovation practice and research unit.  It instigates and supports open dialogues, promoting collaborative work and exploratory play for all interested in (re)defining the future of learning, and the university, in the age of disruptive media. The lab is focused on how both mainstream and innovative approaches and technologies are explored, repurposed and remixed towards conceptualising a more hybrid and open approach to teaching and learning, to meet a wide range of learner needs.

Research, development and practice within key areas, such as Game Science, Flipped Learning and Student Directed Learning emphasise the need for continuity of learning experience across contexts, space and time, recognising that there is a need to break the traditional boundaries between students and teachers, between and among personal abilities, and types of learning.

Acknowledgement of informal learning (as creative, playful, inclusive and without barriers) as an extension to formal methods, is an important means for promoting ‘lifelong learning for all’ and, subsequently, for reshaping learning and learner preparedness to better match the needs of the 21st century knowledge economies and open societies.

Games for Change

Games for Change (G4C) empowers game creators and social innovators to drive real-world change using games that help people to learn, improve their communities, and contribute to make the world a better place. G4C convenes stakeholders through their annual Games for Change Festival, which features a brand-new VR for Change Summit this year, and fosters the exchange of ideas and resources through workshops and consulting projects. G4C inspires youth to explore civic issues and learn 21st-century and STEM skills through our Student Challenge and trains educators to run game design classes on impact games. G4C incubates projects through our game design challenges and executive production expertise in coalition building. G4C acts as an amplifier by curating and evangelizing games for change to the public through our games arcades and awards.

Games for Entertainment and Learning (GEL) at Michigan State University

The Games for Entertainment and Learning Lab provides a space for the design of innovative prototypes, design techniques, and finished games. The lab strives to advance knowledge about the social and individual effects of digital games. The lab engages many learning based projects such as Tahir’s Playbook where players track their eating, drinking, and exercise habits in preparation of the game. Tahir Whitehead is the player’s coach and mentor in guiding players through mini challenges that help deepen understanding of the connect between good health and good game play. Isotoplis, a STEM game, allows players to assemble new isotopes to complete the table of nuclides. Driving Skills for Life (we all can use this) helps players develop better real world driving skills. In Kerem B’Yavneh, the player runs a homestead while observing Jewish festivals, learning the Torah, and experiencing life in an ancient Yavneh. Every other year, Michigan State host the valuable Meaningful Play conference.

Gameful Learning Lab, Office of Academic Innovation at the University of Michigan

When individuals are motivated to do something, they are more engaged in the task and more likely to learn from the experience.  Well-designed games are environments where participants are highly motivated to continue working on hard tasks and enjoy that work. The Gameful Learning Lab (GLL) leverages inspiration from good games to explore how learning environments can be designed (and re-designed) to promote learners’ senses of autonomy, belonging and competence to motivate engagement and effort in learning. The GLL collaborates with instructors to create engaging courses, conducts research on learner motivation and develops tools to facilitate gameful learning at a range of scales.

Game Innovation Lab at USC

A pioneering game lab directed by vanguard designer, and professor Tracy Fullerton, Game Innovation Lab, stresses Professor Fullerton’s experimental and playcentric approach to design, which has launched some exceptional games such as flOw, Darfur is Dying, and Tracy’s own Walden.

Glass Lab Games

A in innovative lab funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation and the MacArthur Foundation, Glass Lab brings together tip level game designers and leading thinkers and researchers in learning science to create exceptional educational games and metrics for measuring the effects of video games on learning. The have partnerships with EA (Electronic Arts), EST (Educational Testing Service), Zynga, the Entertainment Software Associating, Pearson and Institute of Play. Some excellent applied games produced by the lab include Sim City EDU, where students play the role of mayor in dealing with the environment and simultaneously balancing employment and “happiness”, If EDU, a chapter based game that helps build a player’s empathy, and Mars Generation One, an adventure game for students learning skills of argumentation/persuasion while exploring another planet.

igda, international game developers association


An international organization dedicated to advancing and enhancing game developers. The site features news, events, community forums, advocacy and research. There are numerous local chapters for anyone interested in game design and development for any number or purposes ranging from pure entertainment to applied games for learning. Membership is low cost and recommend for any educator with an interest in games in learning.

Institute of Play

Institute of Play is an NYC-based, non-profit design studio on a mission to transform education through play. Co-led by Arana Shapiro and Dr. Rebecca Rufo-Tepper, the institute consults on school design, curriculum design and offers excellent professional development program, TeacherQuest, which empowers teachers as designers & helps them to leverage the principles of games and play in their classrooms.

The Joan Ganz Conney Center

Based in NYC under the leadership of Dr. Michael H. Levine, The Joan Ganz Conney Center is an independent research and innovation lab that addresses children’s learning in the accelerating digital world. The center has many exemplary initiatives that you can read about as well as important publications. It provides thought leadership in learning and technology> three major foci taken from the center’s website are:

“Learning Together:  We explore and support the role that intergenerational engagement with media can play in children’s learning through programs including the New Coviewing Quick Studies, the Joint Media Engagement (JME) Consortium, and the Families and Media Project (FAM). The New Coviewing Quick Studies are rapid field studies designed to explore learning through digital platforms.  With the LIFE Center, Northwestern University, and Sesame Workshop, the JME Consortium set a research agenda to better understand how learning occurs when children are engaged with media with others. The Families and Media Project (FAM) aims to unearth the potential that media may have for enriching family learning and routines.

Literacy by 10:  We explore and support models that will advance every child’s literacy skills by age 10 through programs including the Grade Level Literacy Partnership and Breakthrough Learning Action Teams.  We have partnered with the Casey Foundation’s Grade Level Reading Campaign to develop an analysis to address the school readiness and early literacy needs of young children.  With support from the Knight Foundation, six local Breakthrough Learning Action Teams comprised of leaders from non-profits, youth development, library, museum and K-12 educational organizations have expanded digital innovation with a focus on literacy development into extended learning settings.

Games and Learning:  We explore and support the potential that digital games may hold for learning through research, design and policy initiatives including the National STEM Video Game Challenge, the Games and Learning Publishing Council and the Gut Sense Action Video Game.  The National STEM Video Game Challenge motivates interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning among America’s youth by tapping into their natural passion for making and playing video games.  With major funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Games and Learning Publishing Council was a multi-sector leadership group dedicated to understanding the market dynamics and areas of innovation that are ready for scaling within the game-based education field.”


What do you get when great game designers team up with the brains from CERN and Oxford in order to create the best science learning game on the planet? Big Bang Legends is the first game by Finland-based learning game studio Lightneer, and it integrates both casual and fun gameplay with educational content about particle physics.

Big Bang Legends is free to download in East and South-East Asia, and the Nordic and Baltic countries. More regions coming soon.

LIGHTNEER INC. was founded in 2015 in Helsinki, a hotbed of innovative education and gaming, to produce interactive entertainment with meaningful learning value with the same level of quality as the world’s biggest hits. The team is comprised of veterans from industry leaders in mobile games. The studio’s name alludes to one who combines the audacity and vision of a philosopher with the practicality and grit of an engineer.

The MAGIC Center at Rochester Institute of Technology

Established in 2013, Rochester Institute of Technology’s Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction and Creativity (MAGIC) is a university-wide, multi-disciplinary research center.   We aspire to lead higher education in the exploration, experimentation, design, development, and deployment of interactive, experimental, expressive and social media.  The MAGIC Center is designed to bridge the gap between research and prototyping, and the ability to bring industry polish and commercial scale and support to myriad projects.   In addition, the Center is home to MAGIC Spell Studios LLC.  The studio serves as the publisher for student’s and faculty’s creative work in the realm of digital media.   In January 2016, RIT, along with RPI and NYU were designated as “NYS Digital Game Hubs” by Empire State Development, with the objective of increasing the economic impact to New York state by fostering innovation and creating collaborative activities that spur new games or companies as well as providing resources and mentoring to encourage students and entrepreneurs to enter the growing gaming industry. 

Please direct all inquiries to:

Jenn Hinton

Assistant Director, RIT Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction & Creativity (MAGIC)

Chief Communications Officer, MAGIC Spell Studios LLC

MIT education arcade, Scheller Teacher Education Program

The Education Arcade has done outstanding work on the development, research and promotion of games in learning, especially for the STEM fields (Science Technology Engineering and Math). The Education Arcade has produced valuable creative tools such StarLogo Nova, a graphical programming tool for making 3D games and simulations, Taleblazer, a tool for creating and playing location-based mobile games, and Gameblox, an easy to use tool for programming and playing games. The arcade offer a week long professional development summer course called Imagination Toolbox for educators. The arcade’s distinguished leadership team includes Eric Klopfer (Director), Scot Osterweil (Creative Director) Justin Reich (Teaching Systems Lab Executive Director), and Kristina Heavey (Program Coordinator).

MOUSE, technology with purpose

Mouse is a national youth development nonprofit that believes in technology as a force for good.  Mouse empowers all students to create with technology to solve real problems and make meaningful change in our world.  Our Mouse Create learning platform provides more than 120 hands-on projects across many different competency areas, including game design, circuitry, green tech, and coding.  In our Serious Games course, youth are introduced to the building blocks of game design and the world of socially responsible gaming, and have the opportunity to research, design, and code their own game prototype in Scratch.

Neuroscape, at University of California, San Francisco

Founding director Adam Grazzaley MD, has been a pioneer in the use and development of closed loop video games and Apps for the improvement of cognitive functioning. The lab conducts video game research using the latest in medical technology. Neuroracer, a custom designed racing game has sown clinical results illustrating how playing this therapeutic game improves vigilance and working memory in the “elderly”. The lab describes several other exciting technologies at the cutting edge of medical science. The related company Akili Interactive has a video game project (Project Evo) to teat ADHD under development. Dr. Grazzaley envisions a near future where video game play will be an approved prescription. The lab is currently undertaking class room studies on the use of video game technologies to improve cognitive control and academic outcomes in young students. The website has key research papers and studies available for download.

NYU Game Center

The NYU Game Center is dedicated to the exploration of games as a cultural form and game design as creative practice. Our approach to the study of games is based on a simple idea: games matter. Just like other cultural forms – music, film, literature, painting, dance, theater – games are valuable for their own sake. Games are worth studying, not merely as artifacts of advanced digital technology, or for their potential to educate, or as products within a thriving global industry, but in and of themselves, as experiences that entertain us, move us, explore complex topics, communicate profound ideas, and illuminate elusive truths about ourselves, the world around us, and each other.

The Game Center is the Department of Game Design at the Tisch School of the Arts. Our mission is to graduate the next generation of game designers, developers, entrepreneurs, and critics, and to advance the field of games by creating a context for advanced scholarship and groundbreaking work. The Game Center’s students, both undergraduates, and graduates are drawn from diverse disciplines including computer programming, visual art, sound and audio, animation, writing, and joined together by the central discipline of game design.

Email for inquiries. 

PETLab, A public interest game design and research lab for interactive media

Based at the famous Parsons- The New School of Design in New York City, the PETLab is a joint venture between Parsons and Games for Change. Directed by Associate Professor Colleen Macklin,The lab features a place for prototyping methods and the collaborative design of games that promote public interest and engagement with important social issues. Numerous high impact games like the physical and fiscal space game Budget Ball (, Specter: Malaria Game (you play a doctor fighting malaria in the developing world) and Re:Activism NYC ( an urban space game encouraging understanding and engaging civic activism and social justice; the game can be adapted for other cities through a downloadable kit) have blossomed from PETLab.

Tilt Factor. Game design for social change.

Based at Dartmouth College and led by Distinguished professor of Humanities, dr. Mary Flanagan, Tiltfactor uses a value based design methodology based on Dr. Flanagan’s work on Critical Play. The lab focuses on public health, pro social attitudes behavior and research that furthers understanding and awareness of how games impact people’s lives and surroundings. They develop a wide variety of games for various platforms, including card games, board games, digital games and urban games. The lab also published several valuable research studies, reports and articles. A superb companion site Values at Play, provides curriculum, class readings, interviews, and research on how to incorporate and be aware of values in game design.

United States Department of Educational, Office of Educational Technology

The official U.S. Department of Education website for educational technology offers excellent information on game-based learning, Education Game Jams, publications, resources, and a blog. The office develops national policy to transform teaching and learning from preschool to adult education. The office strives to create equity for all learners and close accessibility gaps regarding the use of technology in teaching and learning.

Virginia Serious Games Institute

A public-private partnership between George Mason University and Prince William County, VSGI has an excellerator to help foster new businesses and support the game industry. They also host a Game and Technology Academy with summer camos, teacher training, executive education and a virtual academy. The institute has produced several excellent education games and simulations including New Kid on the Block, where the player takes the role of the new kid in navigating the dangers of gang life, Interactive Virtual Incident Simulator, which trains firefighters, and many others. VSGI is located at George Mason University, and they host guest speakers and a few innovative resident companies

WNET/Education, Media with Impact

PBS has an extraordinary array of resources for educator and parents. In terms of games in learning, the Mission US series is an invaluable resource for middle school Social Studies teachers. There are currently 5 missions: For Crown or Colony (Revolutionary America), Flight of Freedom (slavery), A Cheyenne Odyssey (Native American life), City of Immigrants(early twentieth century immigration), and most recently, Up from the Dust(the Great Depression). Each game has an educational resource guide. Students role play a young protagonist, for instance, Little Fox- a 14 year cold Cheyenne boy, and learn through the eyes of a teenage historical figure. This immersive, first person perspective allows students an experience of lived history impossible to achieve through text books, films or other teaching methods.  PBS Learning Media house an incredible number of free online, on demand learning resource.