Image of Joey R. Fanfarelli

Contact Information

Academic School

School of Communication and the Arts


Lowell Thomas



(845) 575-3650

Joey R. Fanfarelli

Associate Professor of Games and Emerging Media


Dr. Fanfarelli is a professor, researcher, author, and patented inventor at Marist’s School of Communication and the Arts. Prior to Marist, he spent a combined seven years at the University of Central Florida’s Games and Interactive Media Department and Institute for Simulation & Training working on projects with organizations like the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and NASA.

His current research focuses on digital badging and video games, and how these digital entities can integrate educational and psychological theory to enhance design. His book, Designing Effective Digital Badges: Applications for Learning, identifies how digital badges succeed and fail to enhance education, and how these qualities feed into their practical design. In addition to the book, Dr. Fanfarelli’s work has been presented in five countries and has resulted in more than 20 publications. He also holds a patent on an automated system and method for simulating human judgment in the comparison of digital image pairs. This process was originally created to compare simulation-based training systems, and can be used to identify whether or not a human is likely to detect a difference between two similar images.


PhD, Modeling & Simulation, University of Central Florida, 2014
MS, Modeling & Simulation, University of Central Florida, 2012
BS, Psychology, University of Central Florida, 2009

Research Interests / Areas of Focus

  • Game design for entertainment and education
  • Gamification (with emphasis on digital badges)
  • Motivation, engagement, and pedagogy in game design

Selected Publications

Fanfarelli, J.R. (In Press). An educational critique of Blizzard’s Overwatch. In Hubbell, G. (Ed.) Essays on Games Criticism.

Fanfarelli, J.R. & McDaniel, R. (2019). Designing Effect Digital Badges: Applications for Learning. New York, NY: Routledge. Available:

Fanfarelli, J.R. (2019). Impact of narrative and badging on learning and engagement in a psychology learning game. British Journal of Educational Technology. Available:

Fanfarelli, J.R. (2018). Designing digital badges to improve learning in virtual worlds. Journal of Virtual Worlds Research, 11(3), doi: 10.4101/jvwr.v11i3.7323

Fanfarelli, J.R. (2018). Games and dementia: Evidence needed. In Ferguson, C. (Ed.) Video Game Influences on Aggression, Cognition, and Attention, 163-171.

Fanfarelli, J.R. & McDaniel, R. (2017). Exploring digital badges in university courses: Relationships between quantity, engagement, and performance. Online Learning Journal. Available:

McDaniel, R. & Fanfarelli, J.R. (2016) Building better digital badges: Pairing completion logic with psychological factors. Simulation & Gaming, 47(1), 73-102.

Selected Presentations

Fanfarelli, J.R. (2018). Using digital badges to foster curiosity: Adjusting the knowledge gap through strategic design. Foundations of Digital Games ’18, Malmö, Sweden.

Fanfarelli, J.R. (2017). How to transition into the coding world: Lessons learned from teaching humanities students. HASTAC ’17, Orlando, FL.

Fanfarelli, J.R. (2016). Medulla. Shizuoka Game Expo, University of Shizuoka, Shizuoka, Japan.

Crossley, C. (Student), Fanfarelli, J.R., & McDaniel, R. (2016). User experience design considerations for healthcare games and applications. 4th International Conference on Serious Games and Applications for Health (IEEE SeGAH ’16), Orlando, FL.

Fanfarelli, J.R.(2015). Teaching the brain through games – Medulla. Proceedings of IEEE Games, Entertainment, Media Conference, Toronto, Canada.

Fanfarelli, J.R. (2015). Bridging the gap between user and information: A case study of a serious game. IEEE ProComm ‘15, Limerick, Ireland.

Selected Creative Works

Fanfarelli, J.R. (2014, PC and Mac). Medulla. (Video Game)

Fully developed video game to teach brain structure and function to college students. Experimentation showed that the game promoted significant and substantial learning gains in its players, and that the game was engaging. Medulla is a full-fledged game with animation, music, sound effects, and level-based gameplay that features increments of difficulty, an achievement/badging system, and a narrative.