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Obama: Let's give more kids the opportunity to make games
Obama: Let's give more kids the opportunity to make games
February 18, 2013 | By Mike Rose




"I think given how pervasive computers and the internet is now, and how fascinated kids are with it, I want to make sure that they know how to actually produce stuff using computers, and not simply consume stuff."
- U.S. President Barack Obama discusses how he is in favor of bringing lessons in computer programming more prominently to high schools.

As part of a Google+ discussion, the president noted that computers and video games in particular are now a substantial force in exciting young people enough to learn, and that is something he is keen to tap into.

"You look at someone like Mark Zuckerberg [co-founder of Facebook]," said the president, "and he taught himself programming, primarily because he was interested in games."

"And there are a whole bunch of young people out there I suspect who, if in high school are given the opportunity to figure out 'here's how you can design your own games', but it requires you to know math, and it requires you to know science, or 'here's what a career in graphic design looks like' - we're going to start setting those programmes in our high schools, not waiting to go to community college," he added.

Obama noted that engaging the younger generation with this sort of initiative can work to get the best out of them.

"What it does is not only to prepare young people who may choose to not go to a four-year college to be job-ready," he said, "but it also engages kids - they feel like 'I get this, this is not just me sitting there slouching in the back of the room while somebody's lecturing.'"


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Comments


Tyler Shogren
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Hear Hear

Johan Wendin
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Great initiative.

Next, go talk with Braben and the rest of the Raspberry Pi foundation and you're on the right path.

Arjen Meijer
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Learning how to program in schools needs to be made fun, right now there isn't any experimenting going on. I think the Pi and some freedom is a big step in the right direction for any school!

Jonathan Jennings
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this is my biggest worry, I had several programming professors in COLLEGE who were terrible at presenting programming constructs to minds not yet molded to the logical models of programming. So I fear there won't be many high school programming instructors who care ot or can do the same successfully. I mean if an instructor can make programming fun I am sure the kids will love it but if not.... I worry.

[User Banned]
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Craig Jensen
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@Andrew:

Socioeconomic and cultural issues are still the leading predictors of success in school. School reforms that do not address these issues but strictly focus on the classroom can help at risk students (and can be useful!) but are probably not getting to the root of why some students are not succeeding.

Still, it is better to make a topic in school interesting than to make it boring. To the extent that fun topics are interesting, introducing fun topics in the classroom can't hurt.

As a university educator who has been involved in professional development programs for success in public schools for K-12, I have to say that I think it is a very complicated problem. Anyone who thinks there is a "simple", "easy", "obvious" fix to problems in K-12 public schools is probably deluding themselves.

Jonathan Jennings
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I absolutely agree With Craig I feel like the best way t o reach younger minds is to make education interesting, engaging , and usually a teacher who can make learning fun is good at doing all of those things. one of my favorite courses during highschool was international relations, a class that i felt my teach made very fun in providing us with several international case studies and global situations to study and act as members of the U.N. at one point.

now if I compare that to my programming professors I had several different ones. I had ones that were very stale and uninteresting , that were literally hard to listen to and would go home and learn more studying by myself in class, I had energetic ones that...didn't know what they were talking about or how to engage or reach their students. then i had those that made learning interesting and were great at guiding an undeveloped mind to a conclusion without giving them an answer.

Fun is a relative term education isn't supposed to be a party I most definitely agree but how making an effective programming curriculum works if you can't at least interest or engage the majority of your students is beyond me . especially if these are kids who are still figuring out exactly what they want to do in life and probably won't approach programming with the same intensity / tenacity as a college student who has decided towards making programming their profession

Thomas Gullen
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We make Construct 2 (http://www.scirra.com) which aims to do exactly as Obama says. This is great news that he recognises the value of game making in education.

Starting off making games does not pigeon hole you as a game developer your whole life, it's a great introduction to computers and logic and is an engaging and exciting way to teach.

Alan Youngblood
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My name is Alan Youngblood and I approve this message.

Daan Brinkhuis
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Seriously, love this guy. Obama for presid~ oh wait.

Adam Bishop
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I learned to program because I wanted to make games and now I write code in another industry, so this certainly rings true for me.

Elizabeth Boylan
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Creation over consumption and there we have it: 'Hope' & 'Change'.

Trent Eckstein
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I'm saddened that you people beleive a single word he says.

Brian Bartram
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Couldn't agree more. That's why I volunteer with groups like Crossing the Digital Divide and The Inneract Project to teach STEM skills to disadvantaged youth using video games for inspiration.

Ramon Carroll
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Until I see Obama push actual systemic change in our country's education (instead of trying to repair or patch up the current model), then this is just another example of more talk and even more wasted money.

I agree that there should be more programming classes for younger students, however, our education system is so ridiculously outdated that simply throwing more money at it, or adding more technologically relevant courses is not going to just make its problems go away. If a kid wants to learn how to make games, there are more than enough resources available online for him/her to learn. There are books (some that are even written on a child's level), and there is a growing amount of free resources to get started. One has already been mentioned above (Scirra Construct 2, which is an excellent program for beginning game developers to start with). Don't just continue to pour more of my tax money on top of an archaic model that is rapidly losing its relevance. Fix the foundation.

There has been more than enough research in the area of cognitive neuroscience, self-determination (motivation), and behavioral science to know that we are far behind in the area of education. In a 2010 report, Pearson ranked the United States as 17th in the developed world for education. That is sad.

Look at our presidential track record. Every president, at some point, "lobbies" for better education, yet none of them ever really tries to get down to what is wrong with our educational system in the first place.

Some links:
http://tinyurl.com/c2k96xc
http://tinyurl.com/au9chrz

Jonathan Jennings
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very well said Ramon!

Amir Sharar
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While I agree that there are more fundamental issues here, I don't think this talk was meant to solve all the issues with the American education system.

Sometimes all it takes is a vision backed by political will, and from there everything else follows. I'm sure NASA wasn't completely capable of putting a man on the moon, when Kennedy announced that it was a goal.

It seems that in this particular case Obama was tackling the issue of apathy. His encouragement for people to become producers than consumers doesn't really cost a lot, it's merely proposing a different way of looking at things.

[User Banned]
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Ramon Carroll
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Amir,

No, this talk wasn't about solving all of America's problems. It was just another example of a President saying a few things to appease the people standing in front of him, instead of tackling the true problem. These days, I tend to throw up in my mouth every time a president starts to talk about our education system, whether it's the system as a whole, or just one element/facet. And, just FYI, Obama, as well as a whole line of past presidents, have indeed spent billions on education, yet it continues to decline.

Secondly, our ENTIRE economic system is built around consumption. People stop consuming goods, and this planet will basically stop spinning. That's a serious problem in and of itself, but don't, for a second, start to think that Obama is against such a model.

I understand what the goal is to do. It's to prepare younger students for the future by making sure they are more technologically trained. The problem is that the reason that kids are not prepared is because of the faulty educational system we have, including its ridiculous obsession with tests, and the outrageous dropout rate that our country suffers from.

Brad Borne
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Give the kids Flash, and tell Adobe to stop breaking it and making it more and more complicated.

Chris Moeller
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Yeah I agree- I hated a lot of school because none of the stuff you learn is actually practical knowledge.

Even in college, I learned more "theoretical" information than applied. Who's interested in a crap ton of information that you'll never learn, never mind the teachers can't explain why you would ever need to learn it in the first place?

There's a lot of wasted potential due to people being burned out on school, because the system as a whole isn't meant for what it is supposed to be: "learning".

[User Banned]
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[User Banned]
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Amir Sharar
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What sort of "concrete details" would you like made explicit in a Google+ chat room?

He did state that, "...we're going to start setting those programmes in our high schools, not waiting to go to community college...". So I'm assuming you wanted more details on how that would be carried out?

Did you expect a timeline? Perhaps budget details? I'm not saying that what you are requesting is unfair, but I do think that expecting that during a G+ chat session a little unreasonable.

At the same time it benefits the industry if they did request details and held the President accountable to an implied commitment, in the coming years.

[User Banned]
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Larry Hendrix
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@Andrew - The sub line to this website is "The Art and Business of Making Games. Let's repeat this again. THIS IS A GAME INDUSTRY WEBSITE. Agree or disagree with what the President has stated about video games. If you want to discuss other things, there are dozens and dozens of other sites to do so.

Larry Hendrix
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And Andrew check this out:

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/118774/Warren_Spector_TX_Gover
nor_Rick_Perry_to_Speak_at_Game_On_Texas_Symposium.php#.USLGF6X29
BM

I was at this event. Was sitting 5 feet in front of Gov. Perry about building up the Texas game industry. I don't agree at all with his politics, but he's been really diligent about building up the game industry here in Texas.

Try separating the professional from the political.

Ian Bogost
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Great idea! Now that means you're gonna fix our underfunded schools. Right? Oh.

Carlo Delallana
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Bypass the schools and open up your development studios! How about our rich game dev community host local "kids nights" where kids pair up with professionals on a 1 day to 1 week game project?

Ramon Carroll
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Jeferson,

Stop acting as if this was any more than just political appeasement. The defense budget increased under his administration. Obama expanded the military industrial complex. Speeches mean diddly squat when not joined with meaningful actions.

This isn't an issue with just a few politicians here and there. It's our entire system that is broken, and Obama is a part of that system.

Ramon Carroll
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Jeferson,

“Ramon Carroll - And you are part of the problem! You can try to post whatever intellectual-looking material that you want, but at the end of the day, you are just being an armchair politician at best.”

Perhaps you should take a breath. When you are done with the ad hominems, you can let me know whether or not you actually agree with the “intellectual material” that I posted. Do you question its validity?

“I know that President Obama isn't perfect, but then again, nobody is perfect. The ones that are perfect are in heaven (for the ones that believe in heaven) and no longer walk on Earth.”

Ok.

“However, the President is, at least, trying to help this country, even against the opposition at the Congress and at the Senate from both parties (and they are the ones that have a say on what law should be passed). I have been keeping up with the President's actions in the last 4 years, having to deal with the critics from the right, the left, and the center (especially the extremists/haters on those areas).”

You should check out the writings of people like Chris Hedges, Cornel West, Noam Chomsky, and others. Obama… and I say this with sadness and frustration, is just a part of the establishment. As quick as you are to defend this guy, can you just as quickly defend the fact that he hasn't sought to prosecute ONE Wall Street banker yet? What about the NDAA, the suppression of whistle-blowers, the president’s personal hit list (with non-tried US citizens on it), or the many innocent lives that his drone attacks have claimed? We can go there if you want, but otherwise, stop trying to paint such an overly rosy view of this guy.

“Also, the President is the one that wants for the bloated defense budget to be cut and even the Pentagon admitted that it doesn't need the extra money, but there are people in the Congress and the Senate (especially in the Congress) that don't want to cut the defense budget and would rather cut education funding, Social Security, and Medicare instead. A president's job is not easy and he/she (there will be a female president someday) has to make choices that will be either easy or hard to do.”

Apparently you missed the presidential debate on foreign policy. The president has no qualms with increasing the military budget. He actually appears to brag about the fact that military spending has gone up significantly since he’s been in office. Sure, he may be making some serious proposals about it now, but I don’t know, I fail to take him seriously anymore these days, and I’m not alone.

“As for you, did you even read the article before making the post with the links that you did much earlier? Because you apparently didn't and just decided to jump the gun when you saw that the article was on what President Obama said. As Amir pointed out before, President Obama was tackling with the issue of apathy, which is a huge problem in the US right now… there's a huge difference between economic consumption and time
consumption and time consumption was the issue discussed...even if all the problems within the educational system are fixed (with or without the help from the US government as well as from the state governments), there's still the problem that some kids don't like going to school….with the right teacher and class structure, a game creation class can show kids that math and science are not bad.”

Yes, I read the article completely.
(1) I’ve answered Amir about what I think Obama was actually doing (as opposed to tackling any real issues).
(2) The concern of the kid wasting time is that he develops no skills, becomes economically deficient, and fails to produce anything. Obama specifically states that the point is to prepare young people to go to college and be “job-ready”. He’s talking about jobs, so he is talking about the kid's ability to compete in the...yep, you guess it...economy. Is that so difficult to see?
(3) There are good teachers everywhere in our system, but the problem isn’t some minor issues in class structure, or the need for a video game class (because kids like video games!). The problem is the system as a whole. Yet, this is something that is rarely talked about, especially by Obama.

“P.S.: To paraphrase what Larry said to Andrew, try separating the professional from the political.”

Ok then, here's mine: P.S.: Try separating your biases from the facts.

Ramon Carroll
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@ Jeferson

- Personal prejudice? What “personal” issues have I brought up about the president? I don’t know the guy personally, so I can only criticize his leadership. Not sure what else you’re trying to get at here.

- I said that anytime A PRESIDENT speaks on education, I wanna throw up. Not just Obama. I think that pretty much every president sucks on education. I’m just talking about people, like you, who think that he’s doing something different from past presidents.

- Chris Hedges and Noam Chomsky are “left-wing extremists”? Cornell West is a “right-wing extremist?” First of all, Chris Hedges is a respected journalist who knows more about politics than you know about your own left ear. Don’t even get me started on Noam Chomsky. Cornell West is a democratic socialist---FAR from your “right-wing” extremist accusation. And he’s also a Princeton professor and political activist. All of them are political activists. I don’t agree with everything they say, but the fact that you can so confidently write them off, before even checking to make sure your assessment of them is even accurate, shows me how biased you actually are. Want another example of your bias? Here it is: you actually used a comedian’s criticism of Cornel West, as if it has some type of intellectual/political authority, as a reference for why you think West is unreliable. So what books has Steve Harvey (comedian/entertainer) written on politics? Speeches? Any interviews on a major network? None?

- Real story behind the issues? Like what, that Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky, and other activists just recently won a federal court case against Obama himself concerning the indefinite detention clause of your precious NDAA? The judge ruled it unconstitutional. Apparently, there are people who take these guys more seriously than you do.

- Wow, did you just gloss over the thing about drones killing innocent women and children, and then try to focus on the fact that it means less American soldier deaths, as if drones are the only option we have? How about no more unjust wars, especially those that the public doesn’t agree with? Bam, no more American soldier deaths. You do realize that unjust war is the primary breeding force for next generation terrorists, don’t you? Stop killing kids’ families, and perhaps some of them will stop growing up with a hatred for the West. Or maybe that’s too revolutionary or “left/right wing extremist” for you…? Check out Ron Paul's speech on America's wars: http://tinyurl.com/c72jjn

- Oh, so the reason that nobody on Wall Street has been prosecuted is because “things need to be done right and by the book?” Really? That’s your response? Are you even reading this before you post it? Pray tell, what is it that is keeping the Obama administration (or the government, period) from going after criminals for a major crime committed over six years ago, a crime that pretty much the whole world knows all about? Is there some legal clause that you know about that everyone else missed? You and I both know that if we were the ones who committed this crime, we would already be several years into serving our sentence by now. Are you even serious?

- I love how you just made up an explanation (a wrong one too) on the spot, regarding the presidential debate on foreign policy, without even bothering to look into it. Classic.

- Of course our economy would fall apart if people keep consuming, yet are not producing. That’s what’s happening right now! We are consuming, while production jobs are being given to overseas competitors (at least that’s just one of the issues). What I’m saying is that Obama’s policies won’t attack this problem, because attacking it requires challenges to the actual system, not just adding a silly little programming course in Junior High. Obama is not serious about dealing with this issue.

- Apparently, you aren’t keeping your eyes “peeled” enough, because all you can see are the “good things” that Obama has done, yet you pretty much ignore any of the bad, and when you don’t have a good answer, you just blame it all on “the Senate and the Congress”. Yep, Obama's always the clean one, right?

P.S.: Yep, our current party systems are part of the problem in the first place.

Randall Stevens
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Now, more than ever, is the time when you don't need math and programming ability to make games. So many engines have been used to make good games without the heavy programming and math background that was previously required. I have some personal reservations about this future, but it seems to be far more good than bad.

Not that I think anything will change in our education system, but now is a great time for anyone to have the ability to make games and hopefully a few kids will be saved by it.

Steve Fulton
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"You look at someone like [insert name of 90% of the indie programmers here]," said the president, "and he/she taught himself/herself programming, primarily because he/she was interested in games."

Joseph Caddell
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Funny, I am an Environment Artist looking to go indie. It's the total revers for me. I'm teaching myself to be a programmer. I have the art training...Just need some logic :p.

Jeferson - I totally agree, I (including others) could have saved a lot of money if there were more of that in public schools. Not saying I don't regret my path in College...but sometimes I wonder...

Sam Minnis
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This is awesome. I personally feel that games are excellent teachers, especially for teaching individuals the inner workings of a system. To excel at a game, players must learn intimate details on the system - their role within it, how to maximize returns (points, money, exp) while minimizing costs (deaths, money, time spent.) What's even better, is that a game's design reflect the capabilities of their creators, so many games offer players a special peek into the mental processes of a programmer/designer.

I agree that more effort should be made to lower the barrier of entry to game design, because game design branches out quite nicely to other forms of design. I am a game developer, and the project I'm currently working on is a community sourced deck builder/CCG game. The entry point to game development is low in my game environment, as players can recombine card abilities to make up entirely new cards, no programming, math, or intense logic required. I'd call it "gateway" development, all the fun of the process with none of the headache. Check it out! http://www.samthewebsiteguy.com/galacticcouncil/promo_content/abo
ut_this_project.php

Sam Minnis
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Sam Minnis
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Sam Minnis
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sorry I have no idea why this posted 4 times


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