The Pepperdine Gameful Design Lab has three main mission goals:
- Engagement and Learning: To build engagement and learning through gameful design of classroom and academic practice. This means building relevance and meaningful choices into class design, emphasizing feedback and interconnected skills and lesson activities. We concentrate on maximizing student empowerment to take charge of their own learning by encouraging a playful attitude.
- Agency and Empathy: To increase personal agency and amplifying voice through learning with games, engaging in gaming practices, and designing games. Gaining this gaming literacy means being able to recognize and manipulate systems, and we want to help people transfer these skills to their everyday non-gaming lived-in systems. We focus on games about moral and ethical reasoning, the arts and humanities, and empathy development. Furthermore, we have a moral and democratic imperative to reach everyone, especially those most in need of help understanding and navigating systems and getting their voices heard.
- Research: To research the effectiveness of project initiatives related to the first two goals. Additionally, to research existing gaming practices of non-normative gaming groups, again with the goal of expanding understanding and empathy in gaming culture, writ large.
The Gameful Design Lab focuses on helping players develop a playful attitude towards lifelong learning. This includes instilling an attitude of bravery, a willingness to try and try again, and the wherewithal to be reflective and critical about their own and others’ actions and situations. When we play, we are constantly thinking of how things *should* be and trying things out over and over again for continual improvement. When we play, we aren’t afraid to fail because we know it’s the fastest way to learn. When we play, we are always pushing ourselves to try on new roles and see the world from a different perspective. When we play, we understand.
The Gameful Design Lab is currently funded as a winner of the inaugural Pepperdine University Waves of Innovation Grant.
Games are made up of interconnected systems (rules, mechanics, structures). Players explore and learn how these systems are interrelated through their play–through making decisions that matter, that are meaningful–and, in doing so, they become part of the system.
Players bring with them some sort of imagined future or the hope for some improvement to the current conditions in the system. Through their activity, players exercise agency and steer the game’s outcome, all the while themselves being constrained and controlled by the game. The Gameful Design Lab seeks to encourage resistance towards the inherent control in a game’s rules and structures, to make compelling narratives emerge from this struggle and transgression.
Our lives are made up of interrelated systems, of course. From navigating health care to applying to college, from dealing with bullies (online or otherwise) to being a community activist, success often depends on being savvy to our lived systems and understanding them enough to make meaningful decisions.
These societal systems are the way they are because of complex networks of social life. People have to deal with other people, and they often end up making laws or building systemic structures to regulate and constrain that sometimes result in less-than-ideal systems. Furthermore, social life is dynamic, and our systems need to be interrogated continually and adapt to our collective needs. Collectively we can critique and resist the status quo and speak up when we see injustice. Collectively we can learn and make things better.
To do this, however, we need to be empathetic beings. We need to be able to understand how others live and *be* who they are. The Gameful Design Lab proposes that a highly effective way to promote empathy development is through games. Players can more explicitly place themselves in a character’s shoes and make decisions that affect the outcome of a game. And players can become designers, too, and share their own stories and let others gain insights into their own lives and experiences.
In summary, games are a great way to help people develop a critical eye towards systems understanding *and* they’re a great way to share stories and voices and give us guidelines for how to critique those systems.