GAME ACADEMY

Educating through Gaming

aka The Game Academy   |   San Rafael, CA   |  https://www.thegameacademy.org

Mission

The Game Academy creates and supports game-based education that empowers life-long learners to achieve academic, social, emotional and personal success.

The Game Academy serves the greater San Fransisco Bay Area for our educational services, and serves a worldwide audience for our educational products.

Ruling year info

2016

Co-Founder / President

Mr. Joshua Geoffrey Archer

Co-Founder / Curriculum Director

Mr. Herbert Christopher Holcomb

Main address

7 Mount Lassen Drive Suite C122

San Rafael, CA 94903 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

47-5552672

NTEE code info

Arts Education/Schools (A25)

Educational Services and Schools - Other (B90)

Youth Development Programs (O50)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The Game Academy (TGA) uses online role-playing games and collaborative storytelling experiences to build social, emotional, and academic success in Bay Area youth ages 8-18. TGA’s enrichment gaming program (EGP) that wields the pedagogical power of tabletop role-playing games to provide an immersive and entertaining educational experience. In 2020, TGA’s seventh year, in response to the need for physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the nonprofit shifted its offerings from 10% online to 100% online. Traditionally, TGA has served students in the greater Bay Area. With services now exclusively available online, our audience is increasingly geographically diverse. TGA also pursues education research projects on the benefits of combining educational role play, world building, and technology. Furthermore, TGA produces proprietary game content around specific themes and educational outcomes. Games include a direct guide for the parent or educator implementing the role-play.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Enrichment Gaming Program (EGP)

Participating students join EGP once a week online (formerly at our educational center or at a hosting location) for a two-hour game session that engages them in collaborative storytelling. A maximum of six participants and one or two educators (who serve as the narrator and game master) populate each session.

Population(s) Served

Adventure Gaming Summer Camp Online, offered in four two-week sessions, features all-new unique and collaborative worlds of imagination. Participants enter these worlds through tabletop role-playing games with themes of fantasy, science-fiction, and comic-book heroes. The online camp provides fun and innovative ways for students to enjoy tabletop role-playing games, physical athletic activity, and hands-on, "maker" projects in an interconnected, immersive session of play and learning.

Population(s) Served

In August 2021, TGA will embark on the in-person, safe, and socially distanced Social Wearables Edu-Larp (SWEL) Summer Camp, a three-year, million-dollar edu-larp STEM education research project serving 30 low-income Bay Area middle school girls. Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the project takes place in collaboration with the University of California at Santa Cruz Social Emotional Technology Laboratory (UCSC SET Lab).

SWEL Summer Camp will employ edu-larp, a structured, live action roleplay experience that teaches through social enactment and reflection as the primary mode of engagement, with a focus on social wearable devices aimed at augmenting the girls’ interactions during the camp experience.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
People with learning disabilities
Children and youth
People with learning disabilities
Children and youth
People with learning disabilities

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of clients served

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Age groups

Related Program

Enrichment Gaming Program (EGP)

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Enrollment for EGP and the summer camp held steady from 2018 to 2019. New clients increased significantly in 2020, but retention decreased due to pandemic-related life complications.

Number of people trained

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Age groups

Related Program

Enrichment Gaming Program (EGP)

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

TGA's 1:5 staff-to-student ratio requires increases in program staff as enrollment increases.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

TGA’s primary goal is increased social, emotional, and academic support for students. Role-playing games like those used in TGA’s immersive, engaging, and fun EGP (enrichment gaming program) foster 21st century skills such as empathy, creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking.

TGA’s secondary goal is to expand its reach and refine its praxis. Expansion is defined as accessing increasing numbers of students both directly and through school partnerships. Refining is defined as informing program metrics through collaborations with educators and academic studies of the enterprise.

The Game Academy creates collaborative worlds of imagination that participants inhabit through tabletop role-playing games, with themes of fantasy, science-fiction, comic-book heroes, and strange mystery. TGA’s programs blend the experience of tabletop role-playing games, physical athletic activity, and hands-on, skills-based learning projects in an interconnected, immersive praxis of play and learning.

TGA carefully crafts the narrative for the role-play experience of participants months in advance, creating character sheets, general plans for the narrative arc, and guidelines for staff to follow, as per standard larp and RPG designer practice. The story arcs are written by game designers, but individual players determine the details of how the story plays out.

TGA’s strategies to achieve its goals also include contributions to the academic body of research related to role-play games (RPGs). In addition to its project with UCSC, TGA is also working with the University of Michigan, informing curriculum on a university course that trains educators to use RPGs as educational tools. TGA is pursuing additional funding and partnerships to study RPG learning objectives. We posit that students who play a game with learning objectives (e.g., role-playing the American Revolution) will retain information better than those who use a textbook to learn. A study would assess this pedagogy by testing for comprehension and retention at six months and a year after learning a subject.

TGA anecdotally tracks the growth of participants through the program, using lessons learned to shape adventure designs and develop pedagogical primers. Our strategies include partnering with educational institutions and academic groups and continuing to build partnerships in the education and gaming industries, with the goal of expanding access for students and alumni.

Key Leaders:

Joshua Archer, M. Ed., Co-founder and President of the Board of The Game Academy (he/him) brings six years of overseeing immersive role-playing camps to the project team, as well as technical expertise from years of working as a software engineer. Archer has a Masters of Education with emphasis in Teaching, Curriculum, and Learning (TCL) from Sonoma State University (SSU).

Credentialed educators on staff:

All members of the TGA educator staff hold, at minimum, a bachelor's degree. Our Lead Educator / Program Manager Bert Holcolmb (he/him) is credentialed as a teacher with a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from Sonoma State University (SSU). Interim Executive Director Sean Borelli (he/him) has an MA in Practical Philosophy and Applied Ethics from University of North Florida. Curriculum Developer Jasmine Florentine (she/her) has an MS in Mechanical Engineering from MIT. Curriculum Developer Aaron Vanek (he/him) has a Master of Fine Arts degree in Cinema Art and Science: Cinema Directing.

Board of Director affiliations:

Joshua Archer (President, Chair of Board, he/him): A gamer for 42 years, Archer is well connected in the gaming community and with multiple game publishers (Paizo, Wizards of the Coast, Monte Cook Publishing, Evil Hat). He is a member of the board of directors of the Organized Play Foundation and a former organizer for the Pathfinder Society organized play community.

Bert Holcomb (Former Secretary, current Member, he/him): For over a decade, Holcomb has worked with Bay Area K-12 students as a classroom teacher, athletics coach, tutor, and summer-camp director.

Michael Azzolino (Member, he/him): A gamer for over 40 years, Azzolino is very well connected in the gaming community (players, creators, writers, publishers) and has served as the host of Chronicles Pathfinder, an Ennie Award-winning podcast. He is a former organizer for the Pathfinder Society, a former organizer of KublaCon and DunDraCon (popular game conferences in the SFBA), and a writer for Storm Bunny Studios game publisher.

Martin Caplan (Member, he/him): For over twenty years, Caplan has served as member and creator in the game publishing industry, working for companies including White Wolf Publishing, Wizards of the Coast, Play Studios, Robot 11, Zynga, Sega, Bioware, Sixense, Mosaic, and Pixar. He is the Founder of Paragon Games and Co-founder and producer of The Mystic Midway performance art and gaming nonprofit.

Ron McElroy (Treasurer, he/him): McElroy works at Chevron Corporation as a Financial Analyst.

Fiona Rene (Member, he/she/they): A professional actor in Los Angeles, Fiona Rene is also an immersive director, voice artist, and on-camera actor in all mediums. They are the creator and educator of their own curriculum, "Method for Being: Acting in Immersive Entertainment".

What began as a three-person start-up operation serving 12 students has evolved into a local employer serving over 150 students. TGA’s operating budget doubled in the past year. While our target participant pool is from 8 years to 18 years old, our students typically join us around the age of 10 or 11, and stay with us for five years or more. Our attrition rate has typically been much lower than our new student inductions, allowing for a 30-50% growth each year from 2016 to 2019. Our experience of 2020 and 2021 have been anomalous, due to COVID-19, where our attrition rate and new student inductions appear to be roughly balanced.

In August 2021, TGA will embark on the in-person, safe, and socially distanced Social Wearables Edu-Larp (SWEL) Summer Camp, a three-year, million-dollar edu-larp STEM education research project serving 30 low-income middle school girls. Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the project is a collaboration with the UC Santa Cruz Social Emotional Technology Laboratory (UCSC SET Lab).

SWEL Summer Camp will employ edu-larp, a structured, live action roleplay experience, with a focus on social wearable devices for coding education. The camp experience will enhance middle school girls’ computational literacy and motivation. The project takes a fresh approach to an ongoing, pervasive, and persistent societal issue: women are still drastically underrepresented in computing careers as compared to their proportion in the general population. The struggle to create and maintain a robust pipeline of women in computation begins early--middle school is a time when many girls lose interest and confidence in pursuing technical education and careers.

At an individual camper level, the camp is designed to raise girls’ interest, perceived competence, and involvement in computation and ubicomp design. At a group level, the camp will increase a sense of computational community for the girls that makes pursuing computational skills more relevant to their identities and lives, and that helps scaffold their continued participation in computing. Once demonstrated, in its third year, this project will publish materials for broad replication.

Other Local Partnerships:

The Rainbow Community Center staff are collaborators with TGA on a LARP curriculum meant to demystify and communicate the LGBTQAI+ community experience to advocates and allies.

Canal Alliance social service nonprofit in Marin exists to break the generational cycle of poverty for Latino immigrants in Marin and their families by lifting barriers to their success. The partnership with Canal Alliance provides TGA with access to an immigrant Latino student population in search of innovative avenues to academic success.

National Partnerships:

The University of Michigan has invited The Game Academy to inform curriculum design intended to train educators who would use role playing games (RPGs) in the classroom, as part of a four unit class the University is developing.

Financials

GAME ACADEMY
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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GAME ACADEMY

Board of directors
as of 4/22/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mr. Joshua Archer

The Game Academy

Term: 2016 -

Bert Holcomb

The Game Academy

Aaron Vanek

Ronald McElory

Chevron

Fiona Rene

Martin Caplan

Zynga

Michael Azzolino

Joshua Archer

The Game Academy

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? No
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? No
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? No
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? No
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 04/22/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person with a disability

The organization's co-leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender (cisgender)

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data