Decades ago, when the gaming industry was in its infancy, it was common for kids to spend their time learning about classic arcade games such as arcade games Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Donkey Kong. However, since those heralded days of the 70’s, the gambling industry has seen 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 how people play, it has also expanded its uses beyond entertainment.
“Games are more than tools to pass the time and have fun with your friends. We can now find elements of gaming in other areas of entertainment, digital marketing, the workplace and lifestyle. But I believe one of the most effective areas for gamification should be in education,” says Adrian Gimate-Welsh, founder of a full-service game development studio called TagWizz.
Adrian believes gamification is currently underutilized in education, a space he touts could be the most productive area. His company, TagWizz, has supported and collaborated with other video game and business companies, providing services such as 2D and 3D art concept and design, development, quality assurance, backend development, and after-sales services. The nature of TagWizz’s customers allows the company expanded opportunities to develop games and apps with an educational focus.
Below is a condensed version of an interview I conducted with Adrian Gimate-Welsh in which he spoke about his career, TagWizz and his vision of games as an academic tool.
Rod Berger: Thank you for sitting down with me to talk about your 25 years of work in the gaming industry.
Adrian Gimate-Welsh: Good to be here.
Berger: I want to start by learning more about your life before your career. Help me understand the journey that led to your current endeavors.
Gimate Welsh: I was born in Mexico to a Mexican father and a French mother. My first exposure to video games was nothing special. Like other kids at the time, I was exposed to arcade games at the mall and spending my parents’ hard-earned money. I was about eight years old when I first played Pac-Man, and that experience sparked my interest in gaming.
We moved to France when I was ten years old and it took me a few years to settle in. But when I did that, the game error was still there. I eventually ended up at Paris University and graduated with a degree in Computer Science Engineering. Years before TagWizz, I joined Ubisoft mobile games startup Gameloft and helped create some of the world’s first mobile games.
By 2005, I had set up Gameloft’s offices in Mexico, a low-cost, strategic location that helped the video game giant become the undisputed leader in the then-on Java Brew mobile game battle.
Ubisoft is France’s largest video game development company and one of the largest in the world. Gameloft came after my time at Ubisoft. Eventually, I became the global Android production coordinator for Gameloft, based in New York. I was also behind the world’s first iPhone and native Android games.
Berger: Let’s get to TagWizz. What were the origins of the name?
Gimate Welsh: While living in New York, a friend and I thought of this video game where you tagged other players, similar to what would eventually become Pokemon Go. When I moved back to Mexico I wanted to make this game, which is one of the reasons I started my own studio. From this idea came the first part of the company name. The “wizz” refers to magicians as an indication of our experience and skills. Hence TagWizz.
Berger: What kind of games have you and your team worked on at TagWizz? Earlier you pointed out the potential of gamification in education with the concept of the metaverse. Have you been working on any Metaverse projects lately?
Gimate Welsh: Indeed we have. We are developing a Metaverse gaming experience using the Roblox platform which has a staggering number of nearly 58 million daily active users. 67% of their daily user base is under the age of 16. Now tell me, isn’t there a huge potential for education on gaming platforms that is so big? And that’s just one metaverse among many others. So how do we introduce educational material into digital spaces that are already recruiting legions of next-generation citizens? In other words, how do we use metaverse to create more effective virtual schools?
At its core, gamification is the application of game design and mechanics in a non-game context. After all, how else can you keep kids’ attention in today’s world, where social media has shortened attention spans to an average of eight seconds and the need for instant gratification has become so strong?
At TagWizz we have successfully participated in such projects. For example, a Capital Foundation’s app targeted disenfranchised populations in some Central and South American countries by teaching them about personal finance. There was also a project with Fictive’s G-Book that gamified children’s stories to boost reading culture in the US
I don’t see why we shouldn’t stop implementing these concepts in the metaverse when multiple metaverses will most likely be the next internet paradigm.
Berger: Their efforts seem to expand gamification environments. What key benefits for education can you think of from your experience with gamification?
Gimate Welsh: On the one hand, it leads to a higher preoccupation with the topic. People learn more when they are more engaged. They also retain more of what is being taught when presented in an engaging medium such as games.
We’ve talked about attention spans getting shorter and shorter, but kids can sometimes sit in a digital life or play video games for hours. For their sake, we must ensure that the inevitable rise of a multitude of digital communities reflects our values and serves as tools for their knowledge and cognition development. It wouldn’t surprise me if at one point children are citizens of physical countries and at the same time “citizens” of several other digital worlds. That’s what the metaverses will do.
If we don’t use these environments to teach our children in a timely manner, we may be raising a generation who don’t know what they’re learning. Chances are we’ll have different Metaverse societies at some point in the future. They will have their own cultures, values, rules and regulators. They will integrate public services, crypto banking, commerce, jobs, as well as excellent schools. That future may look scary to some, but it’s not necessarily dystopian, at least not if we proactively approach it for better causes.
Gamification has recently been increasingly used in classrooms to boost student motivation and engagement while optimizing teacher workloads. As technology-driven learning tools gain traction, game companies are vigorously waving their hands to be recognized for their future advances. They ask for a seat at the table to bring their knowledge base and visions of a transforming virtual space to the forefront of the educational community.
Adrian Gimate-Welsh sees the expansion of gamification in the classroom as the metaverse continues to update. As a result, he doubles down on game development through TagWizz with an attached pedagogical focus. He envisions a transition where gamification is not just another buzzword, but grows into a ubiquitous influence on education everywhere.
The interviews have been edited and shortened for reasons of clarity.