Edutainment failed me

Treasure MathStorm“… it felt like being told you had to eat your vegetables before you could have a single bite of weird, unappealing fruitcake.”

— Aroon Karuna

Many people … look back fondly on legitimately-entertaining educational games like Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and The Oregon Trail. But the Learning Company games my parents bought me were marketed to and designed for parents and educators, not children. Rather than marrying learning to play, they crudely grafted educational material to rudimentary “game”-like behavior.

For children forced to play such games, it felt like being told you had to eat your vegetables before you could have a single bite of weird, unappealing fruitcake. You’d typically have to suffer through some convoluted fractions or a reading comprehension portion before you could be “rewarded” with a small slice of entertainment. The message ended up being that education was supposed to be a slog, not something you’d want to pursue for its own sake.

[Source: BoingBoing]

California lawmaker proposes colleges offer video-game design

The LA Times reports:

Assemblywoman Marie Waldron (R-Escondido) has introduced legislation that could someday have California universities offer a degree in creating and designing video games.

“Video game design is a growing industry that is in need of a highly skilled workforce,” Waldron said Monday. “These are well-paid jobs for a young generation that is struggling for economic opportunities. We should work with the entertainment industry to make California a leader in this rapidly growing field.”

AB 255 would create the digital arts pilot program in the California State University and California Community College systems. Waldron hopes to work with the gaming industry to tailor the program to their need for skilled workers.

[Source: LA Times]

See also AB 255 @

Scholarships awarded by Entertainment Software Association

The Entertainment Software Association recently announced the recipients of scholarships for college courses in video game design and related topics:

Entertainment Software Association FoundationThe Entertainment Software Association (ESA) Foundation awarded 30 students with scholarships for the 2011-12 academic year recently. The purpose is to expand educational opportunities for aspiring game designers and impassion the next generation of industry innovators. Totaling $90,000, 15 college students currently enrolled in video game-related programs, as well as 15 graduating high school seniors aspiring to pursue a degree in video game design or development received scholarships ….

This year’s grantees hail from a diverse collection of 21 colleges and universities from across the nation, including DePaul University, Rochester Institute of Technology, George Mason University, and Drexel University. Additionally, this year’s recipients have academic and artistic concentrations in a wide array of video game-related fields, consisting of computer science and programming, software engineering, graphic design, animation and digital entertainment ….

The wide spectrum of schools and concentrations reflects a growing trend among institutions of higher education to offer video game-related programs ….

Generating over $25 billion in revenue in 2010, the video game industry has proven to be one of America’s fastest-growing business sectors ….

Game Industry News

Congratulations to the recipients!

See also Entertainment Software Association Foundation.

Big wins for University of Houston game design teams

It was a big day for University of Houston computer science department game design teams: Team Big Impact Bear won first place in the U.S. finals, with two other UH teams also placing:

University of Houston design team @ 2011 Imagine Cup

Tackling deforestation, water pollution and poverty earned University of Houston (UH) students top honors in computer game designing at the U.S. finals of the 2011 Microsoft Imagine Cup competition. With the annual contest drawing more than 74,000 of the nation’s brightest technology students to Microsoft’s headquarters, UH made quite an impact with three of its four finalists winning in game design.

Lisa Merkl @ University of Houston

Perfection versus Mortality in Games and Simulation

The New Cultural Form: Perfection versus Mortality in Games and Simulation at Rensselaer
Becoming (2007), Silvia Ruzanka+Ben Chang

Willy Nilly’s Surf Shack offers a cure for the idealized virtual world of Second Life. The online shop, a project of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Associate Professor of Arts Ben Chang and collaborators, endows otherwise flawless avatars with real-world foils like clumsiness. A project allowing avatars to visibly age over time is in the works.

The shop is one of several projects Chang uses to explore humanity in technology. Chang, an electronic artist and recently appointed co-director of the Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences program at Rensselaer, sees the dialogue between perfection and mortality as an important influence in the growing world of games and simulation.

“There’s this transcendence that technology promises us. At its extreme is the notion of immortality that — with artificial intelligence, robotics, and virtual reality — you could download your consciousness and take yourself out of the limitations of the physical body,” said Chang. “But at the same time, that’s what makes us human: our frailty and our mortality.”

Link @ Rensselaer

Career Colleges, Toxic Choices

From a Seattle Times editorial:

For-profit colleges have successfully marketed a compelling story in which they star front and center as benevolent purveyors of the American dream through education and gainful employment.

The reality is the complete opposite. Former students testified before a U.S. Senate oversight committee this month about exorbitant tuition costs and unfulfilled promises of good jobs. One student spoke of completing a program in video-game design and ending up in the video games section of a Toys R Us.

Seattle Times: March 27, 2011

Students Making Games Out of Math, Science

University students in Guelph, Ontario will be showcasing their original games based on math and science:

University of Guelph engineering students have designed games for children and teenagers aimed at making math and science fun.

Area students will be able to test out 65 new games at the Guelph Civic Museum Oct. 18-29 [2010]. More than 300 students from Guelph elementary and high schools have signed up to visit the game displays. Members of the public are welcome to drop in, particularly Oct. 23 and 24.

The game design project is part of a first-year engineering design course on campus.

“This is the first year we have done this, and I am very impressed with the games that have been designed,” said engineering professor Khosrow Farahbakhsh, who teaches the course along with engineering professor David Lubitz. “The students all came up with original ideas.”

The only rule: no videogames. Most are board games, card games or another hands-on activity. Math and science components match curriculum levels between Grades 1 and 10.

“We chose children’s games because designing games is a sophisticated process that incorporates all aspects of design from sketching the design and building the toy to writing the game instructions and creating the box the toy comes in,” said Farahbakhsh. “Plus, games are something that all the students are familiar with.”

Canada Views

Burlington, Vermont: Art Hop 2010

If you’re in the Burlington, Vermont area, check out Art Hop 2010:

A creative mix of art will showcase the talents of Champlain College students, alumni, faculty and staff during the 18th annual South End Art Hop on Sept. 10 and 11, 2010.

Showing during the weekend … a movie featuring Game Art student work from Amanda Crispel, Champlain College’s program director of Game Design, and Game Art and Animation.

Champlain College’s Emergent Media Center will showcase its new online game Breakaway, a collaborative project with the United Nations and Population Media Center and its Google Map project in partnership with the City of Burlington.

Champlain College Partners With South End Art Hop @ Champlain College

Trailer for Breakaway! – Chapter Two:

Game Design and Higher Education

Laurentius de Voltolina meets Pac-Man
Above: Laurentius de Voltolina meets Pac-man

Students who may have been scolded by their parents for spending too much time playing video games are turning their passion into a promising career, thanks to more universities offering degrees in video game design and development.

The Entertainment Software Association reported last week that 300 American colleges and universities are offering courses and degrees in video game design, development, programming and art this academic year, a nearly 20 percent increase over last year.

Johanna Thompson @ Ashland Daily Tidings: August 24, 2010


Replacing Grades With XP

In a game design class at Indiana University, traditional grades have been replaced by Experience Points:education-game-idol

Students of Indiana University’s game design classes start as Level 1 avatars with 0 XP, and progress by completing quests solo, as guilds, or in ‘pick up groups.’ Course coordinator Lee Sheldon says students are responding with ‘far greater enthusiasm,’ and many specifics of game design could also be directly applied to the workforce. These included: clearly defining goals for workers; providing incremental rewards; and balancing effort and reward.”


Employers: Look to gaming to motivate staff