A game developer envisions a new era for education with the Metaverse
Decades ago, when the gaming industry was still in its infancy, it was common to see kids spending their time trying their hand at vintage arcade games like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and donkey kong. Yet since those heralded days of the 70s, the gaming industry has gone through countless iterations and changes. From computer games to console games, the future of gaming is more immersive than ever with the advent of virtual reality and the metaverse. However, as the industry has evolved the way people play, it has also extended its usefulness beyond entertainment.
“Games are more than just tools to pass the time and have fun with your friends. We can now find gaming elements in other areas of entertainment, digital marketing, workplace and lifestyle But I think one of the most effective spaces for gamification should be education,” says Adrian Gimate-Welsh, founder of a full-service game development studio called TagWizz.
Adrian thinks gamification is currently underutilized in education, a space he touts could be his most productive area. His company, TagWizz, has supported and collaborated with other video game and commercial companies, providing services such as concept and 2D and 3D art design, development, quality assurance, backend development and customer support services. The nature of TagWizz’s customers allows the company to expand the possibilities of creating games and applications with an educational inclination in mind.
Below is a condensed version of an interview I had with Adrian Gimate-Welsh discussing his career, TagWizz, and his ideas about gaming as an academic tool.
Rod Berger: Thank you for sitting down with me to talk about your 25 years of working in the video game industry.
Adrian Gimate-Welsh: It’s good to be here.
Shepherd: I would like to start by knowing more about your life before your career. Help me understand the journey that led to your current activities.
Gimate-Welsh: I was born in Mexico to a Mexican father and a French mother. My first contact with video games was nothing special. Like other kids at the time, I was exposed to arcade games at the mall, spending my parents’ hard-earned money. I was about eight years old when I first played Pac-Man, and the experience inspired my interest in games.
We moved to France when I was ten, and it took me a few years to settle down. But when I did, the game bug was still there. I eventually ended up at the University of Paris and got a degree in computer engineering. Years before TagWizz, I joined Gameloft, Ubisoft’s mobile game startup, and helped develop some of the world’s first mobile games.
In 2005, I had founded Gameloft’s offices in Mexico, a strategic, low-cost location that helped the gaming giant become the undisputed leader in the Java-Brew mobile gaming battle that was unfolding at the time.
Ubisoft is the largest video game development company in France and one of the largest in the world. Gameloft came after my time at Ubisoft. I eventually became Gameloft’s global Android production coordinator based in New York. I was also behind the world’s first native iPhone and Android games.
Shepherd: Let’s move on to TagWizz. What were the origins of the name?
Gimate-Welsh: While we were based in New York, a friend and I thought of this video game where you tag other players, similar to what would become Pokemon Go. When I came back to Mexico, I wanted to develop this game, c This is one of the reasons why I created my own studio. From this idea was born the first part of the company name. The “Wizz” refers to wizards in reference to our experience and skills. Therefore, TagWizz.
Shepherd: What kind of games have you and your team worked on at TagWizz? You alluded earlier to the potential for gamification in education using the metaverse concept. Have you worked on any metaverse projects lately?
Gimate-Welsh: We have, in fact. We are developing a metaverse gaming experience using the Roblox platform, which boasts a gargantuan number of nearly 58 million daily active users. 67% of their daily user base is under the age of 16. Now, you might say, isn’t there huge educational potential on such large gaming platforms? And this is only one metaverse among many others. So how do you introduce educational materials into digital spaces that are already recruiting legions of next-generation citizens? In other words, how do you use metaverses to create more impactful virtual schools?
At its core, gamification applies game design and mechanics in a non-gaming context. Because how can you hold the attention of children in today’s world, where attention spans are reduced to an average of eight seconds thanks to social media, and where the need for immediate gratification has become so strong ?
At TagWizz, we have successfully participated in these types of projects. For example, a Capital Foundation app targeted disenfranchised populations in some Central and South American countries by teaching them about personal finance. Additionally, there was a project with Fictive’s G-Book, which gamified children’s stories to boost reading culture in the United States.
I don’t see why we should stop short of implementing these concepts in the metaverse when multiple metaverses are most likely to be the next internet paradigm.
Shepherd: Your efforts seem to expand gamification environments. What key educational benefits come to mind from your experience with gamification?
Gimate-Welsh: On the one hand, it leads to higher levels of engagement with the subject. People learn more when they are more engaged. They also retain more of what is taught if presented in an engaging vehicle like the game.
We’ve talked about shortened attention spans, but sometimes kids can sit for hours in a digital life or while playing video games. For them, we must ensure that the inevitable rise of a multitude of digital communities will reflect our values and serve as tools for the development of their knowledge and their cognitions. I wouldn’t be surprised if, at some point, children were citizens of physical countries while simultaneously being “citizens” of several other digital worlds. This is what the metaverses will bring.
If we don’t use these environments to educate our children in time, we risk raising a generation ignorant of what they are learning. Chances are we will have diverse metaverse societies at some point in the future. They will have their own cultures, values, rules and regulators. They will incorporate utilities, crypto-banking, commerce, workplaces, as well as excellent schools. This future may seem frightening to some, but it need not be dystopian, at least not if we approach it proactively for better purposes.
Gamification has been increasingly used in classrooms for some time, helping to motivate and engage students while streamlining teachers’ workloads. As tech-driven learning tools grow in popularity, gaming companies are vigorously waving their hands to be recognized for their future advancements. They are asking for a place at the table to bring their knowledge base and their visions of an evolving virtual space to the forefront of the educational community.
Adrian Gimate-Welsh sees gamification in the classroom growing as the emergence of the metaverse materializes. As a result, he is redoubling his efforts to create games through TagWizz with an emphasis on education. He envisions a transition where gamification is not just another buzzword, but becomes a pervasive influence on education everywhere.
Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.