Pattern number within this pattern set: 
Jim Brazell
Nicholas Kim
Honoria Starbuck, Ph.D.


"… not only is change a constant, but the pace of change is accelerating. It's growing exponentially. And it's about doubling every decade. And so in the next 25 years we'll see 100 years of progress at today's rate of progress… It's not just a matter of dealing with one revolution. We have many intersecting revolutions in biology, information science, materials science with nanotechnology and so on. We're going to have to deal with this panoply of intersecting, accelerating trends." --Kurzweil, Voices of Innovation, American Association of Engineering Societies

Free download with more info on transdisciplinarity, Games and 21st Century Science from and :


How Digital Gaming Connects 21st Century Science, Education and Workforce


We are witnessing the consilience (


You may be surprised with the answer: the world’s network gaming youth culture and the video game industry. Network gamers engaged in “hacking”, “moding” and “skinning” video games are natural transdisciplinary knowledge workers. Modding is the act of creating new levels, objects, or systems for a game, or building an entirely new game using engines from other games; “skinning” is the act of retexturing characters, objects, or environments (Pearce).

John Seely Brown, former chief scientist of Xerox Corporation, obseves that the “wired generation”—children who grew up with the network as a primary form of socialization—have shifted from linear deductive reasoning to Renaissance, lateral, bricolage (jack of all trades) reasoning (Brown, 2003). Additionally, US Army studies indicate that the learning styles, skills, and attitudes of this generation are different from its predecessors (Macedonia, n.d.). According to Macedonia and the US Army, characteristics of the wired generation include:
• Multiprocessing, the ability to perform several tasks concurrently.
• Attention span variation resembling senior executives exhibiting fast context switching.
• Information navigation changes that define literacy not only as text but also as images and multimedia.
• Shift in focus of learning from passive listening to discovery-based experiential and example-based learning.
• Shift in type of reasoning from deductive and abstract to the concrete.
• Intelligence organized in easily accessible databases.
• Communities of practice emerging from shared tasks.

Network gamers are both consumers and producers of digital content; they also are learners and teachers. At the Austin Gaming Expo, a well-attended, annual game convention targeting consumers, we surveyed 62 gamers for their level of involvement in game development, learning, self-organizing communities of practice, and innovation networks. We asked, “Which of the following formal or informal game development efforts are you involved with?” Of the 62 respondents, 45.2% answered that they were “not involved in any of these activities.” However, of those surveyed who were involved, “hacking games to learn” ranked highest, followed closely by “providing feedback to game companies.”

Consumer Experience in Game Development


See: games-nano-bio-info-cogno-envro:
How Digital Gaming Connects 21st Century Science, Education and Workforce

Network gamers involved in these activities as a community of practice form an identity and are bound together by a shared sense of purpose—solving complex problems related to creating or modifying virtual worlds. It is essentially a creative process where gamers learn by doing. Network game teams who mod and construct games often straddle learning and commercialization—a key aspect of transdisciplinarity. The process of modifying a game is in effect social construction of knowledge and technology. This is characterized as self-organizing innovation networks:

“… [self-organizing] innovation networks provide artifacts with the design of visions of usage and subject them to the learning processes […] In this sense the production and application of new technologies is no longer a process of trial and
How Digital Gaming Connects 21st Century Science, Education and Workforce error involving variation and selection but, rather, a coordinated process of learning and designing by producers and users […] Research into the genesis of technology focuses on the role of collective actors who combine technical variation and selection within technology production, which no longer can be equated with the construction of artifacts. Instead, it involves the anticipation and construction of new contexts of application […] This new conceptualization of ‘innovation within a net’ replaces biological principles of variation and selection used in evolutionary economics with social construction, that is, the construction of new artifacts and new contexts of application.” (Kuppers)

In this constructivist process, gamers learn by fusing artistic, scientific and engineering techniques in order to create new games, new game levels, new game art and in some cases new applications for games within non-entertainment markets. It is the application of gaming technologies and skills to non-game markets, problems, research questions and technologies that is most compelling in the context of 21st Century science, education and workforce issues.

Self Organizing Innovation Networks for Gaming R&D


See: games-nano-bio-info-cogno-envro:
How Digital Gaming Connects 21st Century Science, Education and Workforce

Formal analysis of the video game industry indicates that game design includes art, informatics, production and business domains, however, the majority of employers consider: knowledge skills and abilities in multiple disciplines; ability to integrate scientific and artistic concepts and ability to communicate and work effectively in multidisciplinary teams important to critically important.
Functional Domains of Commercial Game Production
Source: IC2 Institute

The practice of “fusing” artistic, scientific and engineering techniques is not new, however, the unification of R&D and production is novel. As it relates to the game industry, outside of major game publishers and major console manufacturers, the game industry is not typically-characterized as research-intensive. R&D is usually addressed through game development projects. The mutual reinforcement of R&D and production accelerates innovation in the industry. Game developers constantly push technological boundaries through unified production and R&D. We term this process “production R&D.” Production R&D is the transdisciplinary process of real-time learning, adaptation, and innovation within the context of production.

Disney, Pixar and Industrial Light and Magic are exemplars of this transdisciplinary process. Walt Disney’s “Imagineering” is perhaps the best known and most successful model. Disney’s Imagineering is the master planning, creative development, design, engineering, production, project management and research and development arm of The Walt Disney Company. The dotcom creator-type companies that emerged between 1995-2000 also used this concept of unified R&D and production. Interestingly, the global network game youth culture exhibits these traits of real-time learning, adaptation, and innovation within the context of hacking, modding and skinning games. For these communities of practice; work, learning, and play are one.


Educational programs, economic development initiatives and workforce programs should recognize the relationship between the popular youth culture of network gaming, the needs of 21st-Century Science and the pressing need for new engineering and science-related teachers, executives and R&D professionals. Like gaming, 21st-Century Science needs whole brain, adaptive leaders able to cope and even flourish in uncertain, complex situations requiring fusion of traditional academic disciplines and effective human collaboration in network environments. Game-related learning and production are transdisciplinary, and the learning and workforce needs of the game industry reflect the structure and needs of 21st-Century Science.

Gaming and 21st-Century Science are related in the following ways:
• Underlying mathematics, modeling, and computer technologies are similar or the same.
• Cybernetics and systemics are essential.
• Emergence of a distinct culture and practice.
• Real-time learning, adaptation, and innovation within the context of production—“production R&D.”
• Highly adaptive teams exhibiting the formation of new language, tools, and processes.
• High rate of innovation and resulting disclosure of new knowledge, technologies and techniques (“Disclosing New Worlds”, Flores).
• High variety of academic disciplines and experiences of team members.
• Similar workforce and education requirements.
• Driving a confluence of other related industries, processes, and technologies.
• Market and technology disruptions representing qualitative leaps over existing science, technology and economies of scale and use.
• Require unification of learning, R&D and commercialization.
• Transdisciplinary by nature.

Gamers represent a bridge to the types of learning systems and creativity needed to cope with the increased velocity of new scientific and technical knowledge flooding the world. It is time for us to take transdisciplinary action. We must recognize the unity of all things and be able to live with the requisition—we must learn as we do!

Note – This document is based on the Digital Game Forecast. For full bibliography and report, please download from:

Gaming, A Technology Forecast:
Implications for Texas Community and Technical Colleges.
Authored by: Jim Brodie Brazell, Nicholas Kim, Honoria Starbuck
Program Manager for Research: Eliza Evans, IC² Institute
PET Program Director: Michael Bettersworth, TSTC
Published February 2004.

Pattern status: 
Michael Bettersworth