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ESA, Sony, Microsoft Respond To Obama's Call For STEM Education
ESA, Sony, Microsoft Respond To Obama's Call For STEM Education
November 23, 2009 | By Chris Remo

November 23, 2009 | By Chris Remo
More: Console/PC

Several game industry publishers and organizations, including Microsoft, Sony, and the Entertainment Software Association, have announced educational initiatives as part of President Barack Obama's call for progress in science and math education.

The President's "Educate to Innovate" campaign aims to foster a greater nationwide focus on "STEM" (science, technology, engineering, and math) education, partially in response to the United States' lagging childhood and teenage rankings in science and math.

"I'm committed to moving our country from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math education over the next decade," Obama said during an event launching the project, at which he announced a $4 billion education reform investment fund.

The participating game industry entities have announced two education-driven competitions along with the MacArthur Foundation and the Information Technology Industry Council.

MacArthur, Sony Computer Entertainment America, the ISA, and the ESA are launching the Game Changers competition, which will give multiple awards to entrants who use Media Molecule's heavily customizable LittleBigPlanet to create game levels with "new game play experiences that enhance STEM principles."

The contest is part of MacArthur's existing annual $2 million Digital Media and Learning Competition, which encompasses numerous game-related avenues.

The ESA and ISI are also partnering with Games for Change, E-Line Ventures, and The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop on the STEM National Video Game Competition, which aims to attract browser-based educational games for age groups ranging from 4 to 16. Its total prizes are valued at $300,000. Formal rules are forthcoming, and winners will be announced at this year's E3 Expo in June.

The nature of Microsoft's participation in the initiatives was not specified, but the company appears to be involved by way of its association with the ESA.

"Computer and video games are one of the most effective ways to reach America's children and encourage them to stay interested in vital STEM principles," said ESA president Michael Gallagher. "We are honored to have President Obama recognize the unique ability of games to act as a catalyst in generating new areas of growth in education."

During last year's United States presidential campaign, Obama briefly made headlines in the video game press when he recommended parents take time to "turn off the TV, put away the video games, and read to your child."

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David Tarris
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"We are honored to have President Obama recognize the unique ability of games to act as a catalyst in generating new areas of growth in education."

I would have liked to have seen this "recognition of the unique ability of games" referenced somewhere else in this article. Not saying it didn't happen, but without additional research, I have no idea what he's referring to.

Veronica Castillo
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"turn off the TV, put away the video games, and read to your child."

Video games can help, but parents need to take an invested interest in their child's learning if we're going to make it to the top.

Tom Newman
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I am very happy with Obama. During the campaign when GTAIV was released, instead of bashing this game as a cop-killing sim like past poloticians have done, he recognized that this game was never intended for children, and instead of saying this game is irresponsible, he said PARENTS are irresponsible if they are not aware of what their children are doing/playing/watching. This is obvious for almost all of us on this site, but is a bigger attitude shift from washington than I have seen yet regarding video games. Hats off to Obama!!!

Bart Stewart
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Jeffrey, you won't get much argument from me on the background points you make regarding the current Administration.

I also have to admit to a certain amount of irritation with Gamasutra over what seemed to me to be free political advertising for a particular candidate whom I assume was personally favored by the editorial staff -- by writing only positive stories about that candidate with respect to the game industry -- during the last U.S. presidential election cycle.

But I have to say I think you're being unnecessarily hard on Chris Remo regarding his reporting here. There's no reason to think he did not accurately report what ESA president Michael Gallagher said.

Certainly we can praise or criticize Gallagher for his comments or whatever motivation we may impute to him for making those comments. But that's a not a failure of reporting by anyone at Gamasutra.

If you wanted to try to make the larger case that Gamasutra's reporting on political issues that affect the game development industry tends to be slanted in favor of liberal policies and politicians, you might have some grounds for that argument. I would follow that discussion with some interest. ;)

I don't think Chris or Gamasutra have done anything wrong in this particular story, though. Other than perhaps being a bit uncritical in reporting on the promised benefits of big-government spending, this story seemed fine to me.

Chris Remo
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I don't really see it as my duty on this website to espouse an opinion as to whether Obama has lived up to his campaign promises. It certainly isn't my duty to look at his pre-election activities and take them into the remotest consideration when it comes to an entirely unrelated story like this.

And you're right; Gallagher's statement seems completely at odds with Obama's apparent complete absense of statements to that effect. That's why I included it; in my reporting on this site, I frequently deliberately include PR statements that don't seem to line up with the events being reported, because I trust that people reading the article will be able to make a similar observation. It's also why I followed that paragraph up with a mention of Obama's "put away the video games" line. To me, the juxtaposition was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. But I don't think it's my place in a straight news story like this to call that out more explicitly. I'm not going to start including snarky slams on Obama or Gallagher or anyone else. Anyone, like you, can read this story and form his or her own conclusions.

Bo Banducci
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I assumed that these companies had either volunteered or won bids for part of the 4 billion he's investing in education reform - that the government was subsidizing creation of the educational games. I had that idea after I failed to see the connection, I guess.