by Joey Lee Ph.D. and the Real-World Games Lab, Teachers College

Illustration: Bree Westphal

Illustration: Bree Westphal


What happens when game-like elements and game mechanics are applied to education?

Scholar’s Quest is a research and design project directed by Dr. Joey J. Lee that explores what happensStudents become players in a “game layer” applied over real-world activities and academic experiences; they earn experience points in the five categories of research, writing, teaching, interpersonal and skill.  Students earn badges and rewards, set goals, and play action cards in a collaborative and competitive experience.  For more information, visit

In collaboration with the Real-World Games Lab at Teachers College, we bring you this game layer to address the challenges of K12 and higher education using game mechanics and tools to promote creativity, collaboration and active learning in classrooms.

Sub-Game: Play It Forward

Play It Forward is a pro-social sub-game within Scholar's Quest. Play It Forward dollars are a structured excuse to compliment a peer on something they are doing, or an incentive to help them out. The complement could pertain something interesting they said in class, something you liked in a presentation they gave,  or simply that you like their t-shirt or shoes. You  give them a Play It Forward dollar as you say this, and then they have to pass the dollar onto a peer, along with another complement or a helping hand.