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Parsons, Nonprofit Org Launch Social Games Lab

The New York-based college Parsons the New School and Games for Change have teamed up to create a lab that will focus on using games and interactive media for social betterment. The initiative, called PETLab, is well supported by a near half million dolla
Parsons the New School for Design and Games for Change, an organization supporting games for societal good, have teamed up to launch PETLab, a public interest game design and research lab for interactive media. The new initiative officially began in December. PETLab, which is supported by a $450,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, will focus on prototyping new games, simulations, and play experiences that encourage experiential learning and investigation into social and global issues. The grant was part of the foundation’s digital media and learning initiative, established in 2006, to help determine how digital technologies are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize, and participate in civic life. “We're encouraged by PETLab’s capacity to support educational institutions in adapting to the challenges and opportunities of the digital age,” said Connie Yowell, director of education at the MacArthur Foundation in a press release. “We look forward to seeing the research arising from young people's uses of new media tools for creative and civic activities.” In its first year, PETLab will focus on a number of high-level projects with strong industry supporters, such as the Xbox on Campus project in conjunction with Microsoft’s XNA Express toolkit in which universities across the U.S. will use the Xbox platform to make public interest games. In addition, the lab will undertake a project called Think.MTV.com, an online community where young people, their friends, and celebrities come together to bring about positive change. The MTV project will tackle controversial issues such as sexual health and immigration. According to Parsons, the lab will also develop a set of game development prototypes for the design and distribution of public interest games, with an emphasis on creating systems for remixing, modding, and manipulating games for personal expression; and developing a curriculum for teaching game design at a variety of levels, including youth, undergraduates, graduate students and other professionals in both informal and formal learning environments.

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