Viacom’s newest virtual reality (VR) project is an exploration unlike any other. The Melody of Dust transports you to a castle-like world where every object you encounter (a rose found in a bedroom; a dove descending from the heavens) has a distinct melody to discover and unlock. It blends music, video and gaming into an immersive, interactive experience so groundbreaking that Rolling Stone dubbed it a “new art form.”
The lighting-thumbed gamer diehards will nod in knowing agreement as they glance at Fast Company’s roll call of the 10 most innovative companies in gaming – streamer Twitch, gamemakers 2K and Activision Blizzard, founding father of modern gaming Nintendo. But the name at number nine might teach even the most seasoned gamer something brand new: Get Schooled, the non-profit organization whose primary mission is inspiring students to finish high school and succeed in college.
How exactly does an organization founded via a partnership between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Viacom crash a who’s who of modern gaming giants? By adopting the fearless attitude and experimental dynamic of a Silicon Valley start-up driven to solve an complex problem.
“Get Schooled has a track record of success in part because we have adopted the principles of a high performing tech start up: we value partnerships, use data to continuously improve and have learned how to fail fast,” said Marie Groark, Executive Director of Get Schooled.
Those improvements have hinged upon a bold and vast adventure into gamification, a realm that many high school students know well and require no primer to engage with. The pivot began just two years after Get Schooled launched in 2010, transforming www.getschooled.com into an immersive gamified universe, where competition, point scoring and rules have engaged millions of young people, who can cash out their points for stuff like autographed gear from NBA and NFL stars, calculators or backpacks in a rewards store sponsored by the organization.
Students can also earn scholarships, or celebrity appearances by the likes of DJ Khaled, Nicki Minaj, James Harden, KeKe Palmer, Nick Cannon, Ne-Yo, Chance the Rapper and Ludacris. Check out Kendrick Lamar’s visit to Bethel High School in Alaska, a former “drop-out factory” that earned the visit by winning one of Get Schooled’s national points-based competitions: