Games: Not Just For Fun Anymore

Well, I suppose that games haven’t been exclusively fun for a while. The military engages in “war games,” which are only entertaining if starring Matthew Broderick. And I don’t suppose the two incarcerated people in “the prisoners dilemma” think that game theory is a laugh-a-minute riot (although this clip from the British game show Golden Balls based on that concept is highly amusing).

But generally, when we think of games – particularly video games – we think enjoyment. So what if I told you that video games aren’t all, um, “fun and games” anymore? Would you say, “Well, I’d have to see that for myself!”? If so, then you’re in luck, because the next Prosperity Partnership Industry Cluster Tour is coming up on June 3, and it’s focused on the interactive media cluster!

By the way, the punchline to this post title isn’t just “games aren’t only fun, they’re big business!” Although that’s true; our region is “the Hollywood of the gaming industry,” employing huge numbers of people with significant economic impact. There’s the big players like Microsoft, the growing mid-sized ones like Real, Pop Cap and Big Fish and a host of small and start-up companies. Plus, companies like Zynga are opening offices here to take advantage of the talent base. (Although we definitely face pressures, even from our neighbors to the north…damn you, H-1B visa limits!)

But that’s not my entire point. It’s also that games literally aren’t just for fun anymore. For example, the Gates Foundation is making multi-million dollar grants to develop video games for K-12 education:

The foundation is also investing in several game-based learning tools:

  • $2.6 million for iRemix, which is being developed by Digital Youth Network. It will be a set of 20 literacy-based trajectories that allow students to earn badges and move from novice to expert in areas like creative writing.
  • $2.5 million to Institute of Play will build a set of game-based pedagogical tools and game-design curricula that can be used within both formal and informal learning contexts.
  • $2.6 million to Quest Atlantis is creating video games that build proficiency in math, literacy and science.

One of my favorite things about this, by the way, is that people with STEM degrees are using their skills to develop IT that inspires kids to gain STEM skills. And there are plenty of other examples of “educational games” or “training games” (like flight simulators to help pilots) that make up an important part of the industry. Which you’ll have the opportunity to learn about on June 3, when we’ll tour a number of companies and related organizations (like the video game school DigiPen) that are engaged in this cluster here in the region, and get to hear from a variety of industry stakeholders on how we can do a better job of supporting and growing the industry moving forward.

Register now!

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