Institute of Play

Transforming education through play.


Institute of Play was a non-profit design studio founded in 2007 by a group of game designers in New York City. An interdisciplinary team of designers, strategists and learning practitioners, IoP created learning experiences rooted in the principles of game design. The Institute’s research and design work has been widely featured as an innovative and accessible approach to transforming education through play.

The Institute of Play closed in 2019 but you can access their catalog of free resources here.

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Quest to Learn

Pioneering a new model for schools that fully engages and empowers students to survive and thrive in the twenty-first century

Bring the Quest model to your classroom

Tools and methods to remix the Quest to Learn model of game-like learning in your own school.

Curriculum Design Pack

A curriculum planning resource based on the Quest Schools model of game-like connected learning.


School Design Pack

A school design resource based on the Quest Schools model of game-like learning


Systems Thinking Design Pack

A systems thinking integration resource based on tools used by teachers and students at Quest Schools.



These Game-like Units of study illustrate Quest to Learn’s approach across a range of grades and subjects.

Dr Smallz

(Science, Grades 6-7) Students play the roles of designers, scientists, doctors, and detectives as they explore cellular biology and the human body.


Shark Tank

(Math, Grade 9) Student entrepreneurs develop convincing business plans, and pitch them to potential investors.


I Spy Greece

(Social Studies, Grade 6) Students apply knowledge and skills in geography, culture, government and warfare as council members for Emperor Darius of Persia.


Self on the Stand

(ELA, Grade 9) Students step into roles of authors, actors, and artists as they explore questions of identity through various forms of media.


Game-Like Learning Principles

Our work is guided by a set of 7 Game-Like Learning Principles that bring together the principles of game design and learning design to make learning irresistible.

Everyone is a Participant

A shared culture and practice exists where everyone contributes, allowing students to contribute different types of expertise.

Failure is Reframed as Iteration

Opportunities exist for students and teachers to learn through failure. All learning experiences should embrace a process of testing and iteration.

Learning Feels Like Play

Learning experiences are engaging, learner-centered, and organized to support inquiry and creativity.

Learning happens by doing

Learning is active and experiential. Students learn by proposing, testing, playing with, and validating theories about the world.

Feedback is immediate and ongoing

Learners receive ongoing feedback on their progress against learning and assessment goals.

Challenge is Constant

A “need to know” challenges learners to solve a problem whose resources have been placed just out of reach.

Everything is Interconnected

Students can share their work, skill, and knowledge with others across networks, groups, and communities.


Institute of Play has collaborated on the research and curation of games and learning reading lists and tools for designers and educators. Check out featured research below.

In addition to the resources found on this page, the Strong Museum of Play has acquired IoP’s collection of digital and physical artifacts, which they will make available to researchers soon.

Assessing Quest to Learn

Researchers Valerie J. Shute and Robert J. Torres engaged in a two year study of the Quest to Learn school. This link will bring you to book chapter that presents some of their findings.

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Connecting Youth: Digital Learning Research Project

Independent researchers at New York University worked with Institute of Play to measure the impact of the Quest learning model.

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Learning Games

Institute of Play game designers and curriculum specialists partnered with teachers to design, produce, playtest and refine games and other learning materials that engage students in exciting new ways. Here are some of the most popular resources, free for viewing and download.

Play an Institute of Play designed game

These teacher-tested, student-approved games were designed collaboratively with educators around difficult-to-learn skills and concepts.

Absolute Blast

A multiplayer math board game for grades 6-8 to practice their calculation skills and hone their understanding of operations with integers and absolute value.​


Socratic Smackdown

A versatile discussion-based humanities game to practice argumentation around any text or topic for grades 6 through 12.​


Games and Learning Design Pack cover graphic

Learn how to design your own learning game!

This game design resource provides tools and templates for designing a learning game.

Nintendo Labo Teacher Guide

Nintendo LaboTM kits provide the tools (software, cardboard, grommets, string, etc.) to make DIY creations called Toy-Con. The Nintendo Labo: Variety Kit, featured in this guide, includes materials to create a Fishing Rod, Motorbike, House, Piano, and two RC Cars. With these Toy-Con creations, kids can play games through a mix of physical and digital experiences, discover how Nintendo SwitchTM technology brings it all to life, and even create and program original Toy-Con projects.