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GaS Works

Advances in the development of video games and simulations, combined with the exponential growth in the digital gaming industry, has attracted researchers from numerous and diverse fields.

Our interest is in connecting existing and emerging expertise to build a community of researchers and practitioners whose work does not normally overlap, but who will benefit from interdisciplinary collaboration.


Eliciting participation from the University of Washington's faculty, students and researchers, our initial goals are to:

  • create a community of interdisciplinary educators, students and researchers
  • develop a shared vision in the community for the future of games and simulations


Usually we like partying, but when we do work, we:

  • research and develop new game and simulation designs through university and entrepreneurial collaborations,
  • keep the education, game and simulation communities at UW current with respect to educational practices, resources, activities and research, including problem-solving with games and simulations.


Video games. A recent Public Radio Station (PBS) show, The Video Game Revolution captured the game culture phenomena in our society, tracing its roots back to the 1952 Noughts and Crosses 2 created by A. S. Douglas at Cambridge University; Tennis for Two invented by William Higginbotham in 1958 at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, and Spacewar! created by Steven Russell at MIT in 1962. The academic origins of the earliest video games reveal the central role of computer science in the video game industry. Table 1 summarizes the process and technologies currently used to develop video games.

Computer programming in education - Logo. Researchers at MIT were early innovators of computer programming for educational purposes. In 1966, Seymour Papert, Wallace Feurzeig and Daniel Bobrow created a simple computer programming language Feurzeig named "Logo" (Chakraborty, Graebner, & Stocky, 1999) to study the effects of young children learning to program as a way to learn about geometry.

Mathematical models and simulations in education - StarLogo. In the 1980s, Mitchell Resnick of MIT's Media Lab created StarLogo based on a multi-agent architecture for students to study emergent behavior of complex systems (Resnick, 1990, 1994, 1999). The computational models of StarLogo simulate the actions and interactions of individual agents over time based on simple rules.

System Dynamics (SD). In the 1960s, Jay Forrester of MIT?s Sloan School of Management created System Dynamics based on differential equations for studying emergent behavior of complex systems in industry, business and social systems. The computational models of SD simulate the actions and interactions of aggregate quantities over time based on cybernetic principles, the most important of which is feedback. When Barry Richmond created the STELLA software in the 1980s, it became practical to build SD models for K-12 students that could teach feedback and other important systems principles, whether the subject was Hamlet (e.g., his motivation to murder) or biology (e.g., the limits to growth). Students who work with either StarLogo or SD models and simulations become emotionally involved and develop an appreciation for the counterintuitive behavior of complex systems whether the components of the system are individual or aggregated elements.

Scientific models and visualizations in education - VPS. Complex and dynamic natural systems ranging from the global climate and oceanographic systems to regional and local systems, are being studied using a variety of one-, two- and three-dimensional mathematical models. At the Human Interface Technology Laboratory (HITL), an interactive and dynamic 3-dimensional scientific visualization called Virtual Puget Sound (VPS), including immersive virtual reality (VR) and desktop versions, is being developed using data produced by a dynamic 3D oceanographic model of Puget Sound. Educational research based on VPS is directing its development as an educational tool for teaching oceanographic systems principles efficiently and effectively, simultaneously applying and advancing educational theories, especially how students learn with technology.

Geographic models in education - GIS. There are also complex but static two- and three-dimensional spatial models, such as those used in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), which are capable of representing the distribution of data across space, but not dynamically changing over time. Types of data range from social, political and economic information such as land use, population and infrastructure, to natural features such as elevation, rivers, rainfall, sunlight, animal populations and habitats.


Ruth Fruland <fruland at>, Eliana Medina <emedina at>