White House launches educational video game competition

Experienced developers, grade schoolers invited to compete for more than $100,000 in money and prizes by designing science, tech, engineering, math software.

Last November, the Obama Administration announced the National Video Game Competition as part of Educate to Innovate, a campaign designed to promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Details on the initiative were supposed to arrive earlier this year, with winners announced by the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo in June.

The STEM prize should not be confused with a Stim pack.

That timeline proved to be a bit too ambitious, as the Entertainment Software Association sent along word today that the National Video Game Competition will begin accepting entries October 12, with submissions closing January 5. The annual competition is being held this year by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and E-Line Media in partnership with sponsors AMD Foundation, Entertainment Software Association, and Microsoft.

"Our success as a nation depends on strengthening America's role as the world's engine of discovery and innovation," President Obama said in a statement. "I applaud partners in the National STEM Video Game Challenge for lending their resources, expertise, and their enthusiasm to the task of strengthening America’s leadership in the 21st century by improving education in science, technology, engineering and math."

The National Video Game Competition has seen some tweaks since it was first announced nearly a year ago, as it now encompasses only two groups. The first group will compete for the Youth Prize and is available to middle school students in grades 5-8. Students from any US school can compete by designing an original video game, and the total prize pool for the competition amounts to $50,000.

Winners of the Youth Prize will receive AMD-based laptops, game design books, and other development tools. Cash prizes will also be doled out to the winning students' sponsoring organization, with underserved rural and urban communities receiving additional money.

The Developer Prize is aimed at professional game designers, challenging them to design an original game for children in pre-Kindergarten through grade 4. The goal of the design is to effectively teach the youth group STEM concepts, as well as cultivate an interest in the technical fields of expertise.

Game designers stand to win a $50,000 grand prize, while two $25,000 awards will go to the top entries submitted by developers currently enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program in the US. An additional $25,000 award will go to the top design aimed at underserved communities, with the example given of a game "built for basic mobile phones that address urgent educational needs among at-risk youth."

A full list of details and guidelines can be found on the Joan Ganz Cooney Center Web site and the National Video Game Challenge Web site.

President Obama could be said to have a love-hate relationship with the games industry. While he has on occasion criticized gaming in general--saying in 2009 that parents need to start "putting away the Xbox [and] putting our kids to bed at a reasonable hour--the Wii-owning commander-in-chief has also relied on in-game advertisements to support his election in 2008.

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Discussion

32 comments
Zangan_Zack
Zangan_Zack

I believe games are educational in a lot of their own ways, I remember playing RPGs and things of that sort when I was younger and it helped in increasing my vocabulary and sentence structure. Games seemed to be deemed "un-educational" and "brain-rotting" helping to create "violent & unstable" individuals but it really helped me expand my horizons and imagination honestly.

meleekill989
meleekill989

behold the dark rise of the accursed "edutainment".

nogaems
nogaems

Release a sequel of Typing of the Dead in America. Auto win.

Mickleohb
Mickleohb

@ Reiken37 Out of curiosity how is it possible for "Obama, go be black somewhere else" to be said in a non-racist way?

ShaizanHgh
ShaizanHgh

This is what happens when politics is discussed on a video game site.

Reiken37
Reiken37

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

GameBeaten
GameBeaten

I think I'd rather see the prize money pay off the national debt.

kakashi552
kakashi552

oh, wow, i can't remember the last time i played something "educational." i remember thinking every time my parents said that word, i coupled it with "no fun at all." hope this changes things.

stEElyDaN909
stEElyDaN909

I wish the media would actually cover some of the stuff he says. The man is a joke.

Brilliant_R
Brilliant_R

@ExtremePhobia I agree with you completely. It's not HUGE cash, and it's not like he's just forking it over to the gaming industry. I remember him saying something about "put away the video games" in one of the debates in 2008, so I feel sure that he wouldn't want to be putting cash toward this cause if he didn't think it would help children educationally. It has potential to work. Also, I don't see how Obama has hate already. I personally agree with stuff such as Universal Health Care and the Economic Stimulus, but even if you don't, it's still not like he steered the country nearly as low as Bush has. And it's not like he's nearly as unqualified or dumb as Palin. I personally hoped for Hillary Clinton, but I still can't complain. 4-8 more years of ANOTHER Republican like Bush is not something I could even imagine wanting.

IRoxxorUrSoxxor
IRoxxorUrSoxxor

That caption was stupid as hell when I first read it, but it's growing on me :D.

James00715
James00715

Sounds like a good way for a indie developer to get started. Education games don't need all the fancy graphics leaving more time for good game design and fun gameplay.

darklord1294
darklord1294

Seems like a good way to educate/reach kids and to inspire both kids and adults to get active in the gaming industry in some way.

plm3d_basic
plm3d_basic

The winner of this government taxpayer's paid prize will be the one that teaches/indoctrinates children about global warming, greatness of socialism, universal health care, unions, living and breathing Constitution, growing the size of government, appointing government czars, filling Supreme Courts with liberal drones who ignore the Constitution, assisting George Soros the anti-Christ destroy nation'S (emphasis on plural) currencies, and the evils of capitalism.

DrKill09
DrKill09

Quick, someone make a game where you play as Obama, running around making racist remarks and destroying the economy! :P Instead of coins, you collect barrels of oil! :roll:

stziggy
stziggy

I wish this program all the luck in the world. I work IT for a school district. The software we have for kids is over priced and poorly written. For example, we spent $100k on a program/game called "Reading 180." Our $100k only covers the cost of 60 students. Even though we have the latest version, the software will not run on Vista or Win 7 without compatibility mode. It requires Adobe Flash 9 (it will not work with version 10). This is what $100k of your tax dollars buys. BTW, we used stimulus funds to buy this turd.

monson21502
monson21502

i never made it out of the 8th grade. i was 16 in the 8th grade and my classmates used to ask me if i would ride them to school. games and gaming sites have helped me read and spell alot better.

daabulls23
daabulls23

"The Developer Prize is aimed at professional game designers, challenging them to design an original game for children in pre-Kindergarten through grade 4." I hope Activision doesn't come out with MW3 for this. :D

maxwell97
maxwell97

If Obama wants to help the youth, he shouldn't be running deficits three times as large as in any year before he took office. Today's youth are going to be paying that bill, after all.

ExtremePhobia
ExtremePhobia

I really don't see the issue here. He's trying to get kids flexing their mental muscles in a constructive way and trying to get developers helping kids. And for $150,000? If it works, it's a hell of a bargain. We're talking an 1/100000000 (that's 8 zeros) of the national debt on something that could have great results. And you people complain?

SDBusDriver1979
SDBusDriver1979

With each month kind of getting more irritated at Obama and wishing we had hockey mom as president. Kind of depressing that there is no hope.

Poodger
Poodger

Stupid idea. As a teacher, I would much prefer them to use this money on resources for schools, instead of something like this.

FidelSarcastro
FidelSarcastro

Spending tax dollars on educational video games when in a major recession where people are spending less on luxuries such as video games and even if the market wasn’t slumming educational games aren’t really hot sellers historically speaking. FAIL

xdude85
xdude85

I guess spending the money on real education would make too much sense.

GodsPoison
GodsPoison

Yknow instead he could have put the money for this idea towards actual Educational needs.....

blackwingzero
blackwingzero

Sounds like an interesting proposal in general in that it gives both the youth and young developers something to stride for and hopefully further their carrer in the game industry or even give them a chance to enter it. While at the same time it promotes ideas that could have the potential to help both struggling youth or people with disablitys who may stuggle in certain aspects but understand video games help improve their skill range. Way to go Obama.

monson21502
monson21502

i bet they can make game useing kinect. im shocked a elmo or a dora type game wasnt made for it yet.

user_93475765
user_93475765

Hate to say it, but educational mobile phone apps aren't going to help at-risk youth. Sounds like your typical politically-motivated empty gesture to me. If Obama really wants to do something to spur engineering education, in particular, he should go after the Autodesk monopoly--even with educational discounts, that software is still outrageously overpriced (due largely to lack of competition).

foxrock66
foxrock66

"facepalm" doesn't begin to describe my feelings on this.

Evenios
Evenios

lets just hope they have people who know about games to judge for the prizes and not just some politician who knows nothing about video games.