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Serious Play Conference 2011: Microsoft's 'Productivity Games'

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"How can we create games as platforms for education, a whole ecosystem of game-like and gameful experiences?" asks Brinkman. "We want to wrap a frame around the educational experience, let teachers do what they want but also build hooks around teacher and student experiences and create living records of them."

One approach to answering this question catalyzed for Brinkman after a discussion with Andy Phelps, director of the school for interactive games and media at the Rochester Institute of Technology. (Full disclosure, the author is a member of the development team on this project.)

Retaining students, rather than seeing them drop out before graduation, is a universal problem in education. Phelps had found that that students who left college early were less likely to have been woven into the social fabric of their school. Phelps proposed to create a productivity-style game around the "non-academic" aspects of college life and turn it into a "Hero's Journey."

Brinkman liked the idea, and now Microsoft and RIT are developing the first version of the game Just Press Play, for release this October within Phelps' programs. Other scholars and professionals from the University of Madison, NYU and social and ARG game developers are participating as partners or advisors.


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