The Games for Learning Institute (G4LI) seeks to answer critical questions, pointing the way to a new era of game use in education. The Institute was established in 2008 with a prestigious grant from Microsoft Research, and supplemental funding from the Motorola Foundation. Based at New York University, the Institute brings together 14 game designers, computer scientists, and education researchers from 9 partner institutions. G4LI applies a scientifically rigorous approach that uses both quantitative and qualitative methods. Researchers study existing games, identify key design elements and learning patterns, develop prototype "mini games" based on these elements and patterns, test them in classroom and informal learning settings, and evaluate the results. G4LI's initial focus is on digital games as tools for teaching science, technology, engineering, and math - STEM subjects - at the critical middle-school level.