Knowledge Games: How Playing Games Can Solve Problems, Create Insight, and Make Change

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Imagine if new knowledge and insights came not just from research centers, think tanks, and universities but also from games, of all things. Video games have been viewed as causing social problems, but what if they actually helped solve them? This question drives Karen Schrier’s Knowledge Games, which seeks to uncover the potentials and pitfalls of using games to make discoveries, solve real-world problems, and better understand our world. For example, so-called knowledge games—such as Foldit, a protein-folding puzzle game, SchoolLife, which crowdsources bullying interventions, and Reverse the Odds, in which mobile game players analyze breast cancer data—are already being used by researchers to gain scientific, psychological, and humanistic insights.

Schrier argues that knowledge games are potentially powerful because of their ability to motivate a crowd of problem solvers within a dynamic system while also tapping into the innovative data processing and computational abilities of games. In the near future, Schrier asserts, knowledge games may be created to understand and predict voting behavior, climate concerns, historical perspectives, online harassment, susceptibility to depression, or optimal advertising strategies, among other things.

In addition to investigating the intersection of games, problem solving, and crowdsourcing, Schrier examines what happens when knowledge emerges from games and game players rather than scientists, professionals, and researchers. This accessible book also critiques the limits and implications of games and considers how they may redefine what it means to produce knowledge, to play, to educate, and to be a citizen.

Karen Schrier is an assistant professor of media arts, the director of the Play Innovation Lab, and the director of the Games and Emerging Media Program at Marist College. She is the editor of the Learning, Education, and Games series.

Karen Schrier

About Karen Schrier

Karen Schrier is a media and game designer, producer, and educator. She is an Associate Professor and Director of the Games & Emerging Media program at Marist College, where she also heads the Play Innovation Lab and teaches game design, interactive media, UI/UX, and transmedia storytelling. For 2018-2019, she is also a Belfer Fellow for the Center for Technology & Society at the ADL. While earning her doctorate at Columbia University, she created websites, apps, and games at a number of companies, including Scholastic, BrainPOP, Nickelodeon and ESI Design. Dr. Schrier edited Learning, Education & Games, published by ETC Press in 2014 and 2016. She is also the author of Knowledge Games, a book on games and problem solving, published by Johns Hopkins University Press. Karen holds a doctorate in Instructional Technology and Media from Columbia University, a master’s degree from MIT, and a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College. Thesis: Revolutionizing History Education: Using Augmented Reality Games to Teach Histories


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