Today, the American education system prepares students for the careers of yesterday, while the jobs of tomorrow remain unfilled. At the Power of NeuroGaming (PoNG) Center at the Qualcomm Institute, UC San Diego, we are building a learning ecosystem around video games and sen-sor technology. By combining cognitive science, neuroscience, engineering, the digital arts, and education we seek to create games that meet a wide range of goals including medical rehabilitation, behavioral intervention, learning across the lifespan, and encouraging social change.
Video games are as much a part of today's cultural zeitgeist as movies were a century ago, with the same potential for good. Video game players experience autonomy, a sense of purpose and mastery, incentives to drive learning, and joy when new successes are achieved. High speed action-games yield transferable cognitive benefits [1,2]. Popular games, like the sandbox game Minecraft, are specifically designed to be modified through new and altered code that incentivizes a peer community of children to learn to code  so that they can accomodate their Minecraft worlds. Games like Pokémon Go nudge people toward positive behaviors like walking.
By attracting millions of users, these viral games give an unprecedented window into human behavior from a broad swath of society on the scale of "Big Data" both from the huge number of users and the quantity of data collected. And, this is just the beginning. Pokémon Go and other ubiquitous games have yet to fully link with the social media platforms that permeate our lives.
In the midst of all of the excitement over the game technology that currently exists, there is an opportunity to take advantage of the much greater potential that lies in the integration of games with novel sensor technology that will truly bring games out of the computer and into the real world through shared virtual and augmented experiences that amplify our natural senses with new information.
The PoNG Center's mission is to integrate neuroscience knowledge in the areas of motivation, learning, movement, and physiology with current and cutting edge sensor technology that permits players to use a greater range of responses â€” including those not readily observable, such as electroencephalography (EEG) â€” in game interaction. We will create integrative platforms, tools and best practices for developing and delivering games for education, therapeutic intervention, and cognitive improvement. Simultaneously, we will develop tools for capturing and analyzing the wealth of data created from game play, feeding it back into the game to enhance play as appropriate.
Bavelier D., Green C.S, Pouget A., and Schrater P. (2012) Brain Plasticity Through the Life Span: Learning to Learn and Action Video Games. Annual Review of Neuroscience. 35:391-416.
Franceschini S., Gori S., Ruffino M., Viola S, Molteni M., and Facoetti A. (2013) Action Video Games Make Dyslexic Children Read Better. Current Biology. 23(6): 462-466.
Finley K. (2014) New Minecraft mod Teaches You Code as You Play. Wired. August 14. [The article refers to ThoughtSTEM, a company started by UCSD graduate students created software to share how to learn to mod Minecraft.]