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."