I was excited to have Dan White, CEO of Filament Games, visit our program after hearing him speak at this years Games for Change conference. A visionary, Dan is clearly passionate about transforming the way we teach our children through building good educational games. As he mentioned at the start of his presentation, “Making good educational games is hard.”
As a parent who is very interested in gamification and education I have seen many “educational games” that are really only an education on what can go wrong while building a game. I have played half a dozen or so of Filament Games with my son and we both get a lot out of them. Last night we even played Oncology (yes, a game about cancer) which my son pursuaded me to play. He sat there carefully scanning patients realistic MRI charts locating the cancer and then radiating it. It gave him a first hand experience of what it is like to be an oncologist and he was totally transfixed. This is what I think is powerful about Filament, they build games that empower children not just entertain them and give them an idea about what it is really like being a Scientist, a Doctor, or a Civil Engineer before kids are turned off by math and science classes. Games, when done right, provide an opportunity to learn while playing which encourages children to explore in ways they may not get to out in the world.
As a student I was really interested to hear about Dan’s transition from academia to the private sector. I think this information is priceless for graduate students to hear. It was really generous of him to show us some of his early work, inspiring because I am currently in the rough phase of my development. It’s good to see people on the other side of that, working and doing great things. His business model is unique, a hybrid of non-profit grant related projects and for profit projects that are not client based. I feel like this is going to be more common as grant pools dry up and we find new ways to support arts and innovation. I am also very interested in how he tests out in the field. Having spent the summer working on iterative designs and testing prototypes I understand the value of field studies and am curious about how testing is actualized in a small growing company such as Filament Games.
All in all I think our first round of the speaker series was very successful. I learned a lot and got to meet a leader in the field. These are the kind of experiences one hopes for in a MFA program. I’m inspired and excited to continue my exploration of games and education.