Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

MIT's Game Lab

Once the province of hackers, gaming has grown into a thriving field of research.

On a computer screen in the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab at MIT, a bubble-­blowing redhead leads a parade of gum-chewing followers through village streets, pied piper-like. Suddenly, police officers attack the parade. The gum girl fights back, trapping the officers in her bubbles.

A sly commentary on politics in Singapore, where bubble gum is sold only in pharmacies for medicinal purposes, the game known as Gumbeat is just one result of a collaborative effort between MIT students and their counterparts in that country. Founded in 2006, the GAMBIT lab fosters a hybrid community of academics and industry professionals, who explore new directions for video gaming.

Far enough from the center of the MIT campus to blend in with the growing number of technology companies that have flocked to Kendall Square, the lab seems more like an office than a classroom. The open, colorful space above Legal Sea Foods has an unmistakable aura of fun, but it’s also clear that the lab houses plenty of serious research. Posters on the wall warn students of the dangers of overworking. “I do kick people out of the lab on occasion,” says Philip Tan ‘01, SM ‘03, GAMBIT’s U.S. executive director. “Game developers and students have a tendency to work very hard and burn themselves out.” The effort, however, pays off. The lab developed a dozen game prototypes in 2008 and produced finalists in the Independent Games Festival and a winner in the 2008 Dream-Build-Play Challenge.

Such industriousness is a long way from the unofficial playing that gave birth to gaming at MIT. But official MIT projects such as GAMBIT and the Education Arcade, which works to build fun, addictive games that also aid learning, draw on that hacking tradition for inspiration while giving students an opportunity to take gaming seriously.

Become an MIT Technology Review Insider for in-depth analysis and unparalleled perspective.

Subscribe today
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.