Together with secondary school students we investigate how concepts from the field of game-based learning can be used to develop learning methods and materials covering the topic informatics and society. Starting with a detailed analysis of existing learning and mainstream commercial games, students step by step conceptualise and develop games and game-like materials to support teaching areas including copyright and intellectual property, privacy, surveillance, social media, and big data. The project leads to a transfer of academic skills to students, who gain expertise in the areas of game design and serious games as well as in social science research methods intended to assess and reflect on their creations.

The students' contributions to our project––11 board games and 7 digital games––were finished in June. At the end of the school year we organized the second and final meeting of all three participating school classes (onboard the Schulschiff). There, the students presented their games, tested the others' games and gave each other feedback. 

Key results of the project include a commented collection of existing games supporting learning about informatics and society, new games and game concepts developed by students, and bottom-up insights into how game-based learning can be used in schools. Sparkling Games strives to expand the potential of games as media for learning, reflection and for teaching media literacy. We further hypothesise that the process of creating learning games itself constitutes a highly valuable learning experience.

Project Team: Fares Kayali, Gerit Götzenbrucker, Naemi Luckner, Peter Purgathofer, Vera Schwarz


Gerit Götzenbrucker is Associate Professor at the Department of Communication and Vice Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Vienna. Her scientific field of work comprises media innovation and technology assessment as well as critical game studies, social network research and evaluation. In the „Sparkling Games“ project she is responsible for building and keeping the contacts between scholars, teachers and university as well as evaluation of the innovation process and games’ ideas predicted impacts.

Fares Kayali is a game designer, postdoctoral researcher and lecturer at the Vienna University of Technology and the University of Applied Arts Vienna. Fares has headed the design of several digital games, which were finalists at IndieCade and the Independent Games Festival and has presented his research at renowned international conferences including Games for Change, GLS and DiGRA. His research interests include game design, music and interactivity, serious and positive impact games, media, and game art as well as topics around HCI at the intersection of health care and technology. He is principal investigator of the Sparkling Games project and will focus on game design tasks, coordination and dissemination.

Naemi Luckner is a research assistant, project assistant and PhD student at the Vienna University of Technology’s Human-Computer Interaction Group with a focus on game design, e-learning and AAL technologies. Her PhD will be in the area of skill and knowledge exchange in sharing economies for a sustainable lifestyle. Within the "Sparkling Games" project she will facilitate workshops with students and contribute in the evaluation and dissemination.

Peter Purgathofer is associate professor at the Institute of Design and Assessment of Technology at Vienna University of Technology. His research is focussed around questions of design and technology, with game design and positive impact games as one of the major focus areas. He is coordinator for the media informatics bachelor and master curriculum. He teaches core bachelor corses in informatics and society and in HCI, as well as a number of master level courses on explorative design, gameful design and related areas.

Vera Schwarz is a political scientist and Ph.D. student at the University of Vienna, writing her dissertation about "The intersections of classism and racism, specifically among Viennese youth". Her research topics include Migration & Integration Studies, Austrian politics & contemporary history, Feminist theory & practice and Intersectionality. She works as a lecturer at the University of Vienna as well as a workshop and seminar facilitator. Within the "Sparkling Games" project she will coach teachers and high school students regarding their tasks and will furthermore play an active part in the evaluation, interpretation and dissemination of the collected data.

Pupils from the three participating schools presented their board and computer games to other school students during the school day of the GameCity 2016 held at the City Hall of Vienna. The games were played together and the pupils also communicated how they made the shown games.

The project is hosted at the Institute of Design and Assessment of Technology (Vienna University of Technology) and will be carried out in close collaboration with the Department of Communication (University of Vienna) and the Viennese schools GRG 21 Bertha von Suttner (Schulschiff), HAK/HAS des BFI Wien (Margaretenstraße) and HTBLVA Spengergasse. The project is funded by the Sparkling Science program of the Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy.



Publications and Dissemination

  • F. Kayali, V. Schwarz, G. Götzenbrucker, P. Purgathofer: “Learning, Gaming, designing: Using Playful Participation to Create Learning Games together with High School Students”; Conjunctions: Transdisciplinary Journal of Cultural Participation 3 (1).
  • P. Purgathofer, V. Schwarz (2016): "Sparkling Games” Lecture and plenary discussion: 10th Vienna Games Conference FROG 2016, Vienna, AT; 23-09-2016 - 25-09-2016.
  • F. Kayali (2016): “A Reflection of Game-based Learning Approaches for Secondary School Students”, Abstract and Talk: InSEA Regional Conference Vienna 2016 Art and Design Education in Times of Change, Vienna, AT; 09-22-2016 - 09-24-2016.
  • F. Kayali, V. Schwarz, G. Götzenbrucker, P. Purgathofer (2016): "Identifying Learning Contents in Commercial Games”; Abstract and Talk: 10th Vienna Games Conference FROG 2016, Vienna, AT; 23-09-2016 - 25-09-2016.
  • Kayali, F. (2016): “Sparkling Games"; Invited lecture: Sparkling Science-Conference "Sparkling Impacts – Von Sparkling Science zu Open Innovation“, Vienna, 14-11-2016.
  • Sparkling Games student game projects shown at Schule@GameCity, GameCity 2016, City Hall, Vienna.

Fresh from the project blog