Interview with Thomas Kunze
Founder @ Games Institute Austria

Games Institute Austria helps bring games to new contexts, not only by demonstrating how, but also by developing content and products to create a tool set for those who want to use games and a playful mindset in their work. They make tools more playful, they teach you how to use play and games and they create products to embed games and play into teaching and communication.
Hi Thomas! Could you please introduce your work with Games Institute Austria and tell us a bit more about how you built up the company out of your own love for gaming?
Hi everyone, I'm Thomas. I'm the founder of Games Institute Austria, a small company in Austria that focuses on the use of video games and playful approaches in learning and training. And I would like to tell you a little about how we started the company. I started out as a teacher and became an expert in supporting challenged kids that were struggling with education. And we pretty quickly found out that they are not lacking skills, that they are not lacking intelligence, but they are lacking interest in what is presented and how it is presented in schools. And when you have a closer look at their hobbies and their biography, most of them are into gaming and I share that passion with them. And then I started using games in my classes and found out that it actually worked out pretty well. And I delved a little deeper into the topic and and found universities to work with, and that's how the whole thing started a few years ago. And the longer we work in that area, the more interest is growing in the new field of using games in learning settings. So we are actually pretty busy doing a lot of different stuff, and I will tell you more in the upcoming questions.
What are some of the main misconceptions the academic community has regarding the potential positive impact of bringing games into education?
When it comes to academia - or rather, pedagogy specifically - there are quite some misconceptions when it comes to the positive impact of bringing games into education. Here in the German-speaking countries we still have a lot of, or some people still have a lot of prejudices when it comes to what gaming looks like, and what the typical gamer looks like. People are still talking a lot about addiction and about the potential of making people aggressive and stuff like that. But the academic community around games has long gone past this, and there are a lot of potential goods when it comes to the use of games. A major problem with academia in general is that they think that the academic approach, the text-based approach, is the best way to teach specific topics, especially when they are rather complex. But the use of systems in games is a way better approach to understanding how complex systems work, and there's a lot of benefit that is sort of an extra to the use of games: like being social, learning a specialist language and also working on skills that are rather important in today's society and for your professional career too, like communication cooperation, digital skills, cultural awareness and stuff like that.
What are some of the companies you've seen have the greatest success with implementing gaming into the workplace?
Well, this is a question not that easy to answer. If you're asking for some of the companies that are successful with implementing gaming into the workplace, there's actually not many names to be said. The first one that comes to mind is probably Microsoft, or Mojang with Minecraft: even though it is a children's game, it is used in a lot of different contexts. Some universities work and cooperate with it and through it, and it is a good tool for sketching out things in a 3D environment. And there's also a project that is in cooperation with U.N. Habitat, which is called Block by Block - and there, people use Minecraft to sort of imagine how they are megacity could look like in the future, if they were able to participate in city planning. And this is actually a pretty amazing project. There are, of course, quite some other companies - one of the major fields at the moment is the use of of e-sports, or bringing the benefits of e-sports to learning contexts and the workplace, and there are a few companies that we cooperate with. One is called Learn to E-sport in Sweden, and they bring an e-sports platform to teaching at schools. And another one is a French company, they have developed a co-op multiplayer game called Play Cinq. And they are still pretty new, but it is a very promising game to teach team building and leadership skills.
How did you develop the curriculum and programming for Games for Good? What did this process look like?
The project that we started, called Games for Good, is a pretty new one. We started last year and the goal of the project is to make it possible for teachers, and for learners, and for trainers, to be able to use games - or specifically, digital games - in a teaching and learning setting. So what we are aiming for is to develop material that makes it possible for a learner, or for a gamer, to find the proper competencies that are trained with the game, and to connect them to the curricula that are existing. We did not develop a real curriculum ourselves: we just go for games that offer the possibility and then we approach the publishers. And if they are interested, then we try to connect the game to the curricula, and find material that might be interesting for the gamers to learn and practice for school and for education, but at the same time get better at the game, and and that's actually what Games for Good is used for.
What's next for your work with Games Institute Austria? What are the main projects and partnerships you'll be focusing on throughout the next year?
So what's next? We have a pretty full schedule at the moment, and there are quite some projects that just came up - or are coming up - and there's a lot that we do. We started cooperating with some other companies, for example one is called Seppo: it is a location-based gaming platform from Finland. Another one is called Teacher Gaming: they offer an all-in-one classroom solution to use successful games in the classroom. We have developed our own escape room case, called Best Case, which is used for learning at school, or for corporate training. We just started out working with a VR company to gamify the VR training solution. And we also started a few months ago with doing a YouTube channel and Twitch streams - I'm wearing the t shirt, maybe you can see it - It's called Preplay TV. And we tried to combine all of them and focus on the added value that gaming can offer to gamers, but also to learners and the society. So have a look, you can find us on all social media platforms, Games Institute Austria, and you can also find us on our webpage called gamesintitute.at. And I would really, really appreciate any questions or remarks that you have concerning our work and the things that we are up to. Thank you for the opportunity and see you. Bye.