Obama: Games can make education relevant for young people

US president believes interest in games could lead to interest in maths and science

President Barack Obama has endorsed the introduction of computer programming courses to the US school system.

In a Google+ Fireside Hangout, President Obama cited the importance of video games and the internet in modern culture as compelling reasons to educate high-school children in how to create programmes, apps and games.

"Part of what I'm trying to do here is make sure that we're working with high schools and school districts all across the country to make the high school experience relevant for young people, not all of whom are going to get four year college degree or advanced degree," he said.

"Given how pervasive computers and the Internet is now and how integral it is in our economy and how fascinated kids are with it, I want to make sure that they know how to actually produce stuff using computers and not simply consume stuff."

And video games could be the catalyst necessary to engage students. Obama pointed to Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg as someone whose interest in games led him toward programming and, ultimately, enormous success.

"And there are a whole bunch of young people out there I suspect who, if in high school are given the opportunity to figure out 'here's how you can design your own games', but it requires you to know math, and it requires you to know science, or 'here's what a career in graphic design looks like'. We're going to start setting those programmes in our high schools, not waiting to go to community college," he added.

Obama's comments echo the driving ideas behind the Livingstone-Hope Next Gen Skills campaign, which led to broad changes in the UK national curriculum - including the addition of computer science to the English Baccalaureate.

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Latest comments (10)

Andrew Animator 5 years ago
Great to hear such positive comments about our industry.

It would be a refreshing change to have someone like Obama in politcs in the UK.
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Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer 5 years ago


You know he's not talking about GTA and Call Of Duty right! These are separate issues related to violence in video games. The educational games wouldn't be what you are thinking. The argument that is being raised here will directly lead into the "What type of games should kids be creating/playing" debate. Then on to how games should be more educational in nature, teaching morals, social interaction etc. etc.

A general curriculum for teaching games programming to kids is going to be space invaders and pong. It's going to be about conforming rather than creativity because you can't put a score on creativity. In the end this may end up turning more kids off programming than on to it.
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Ben Gonshaw Game Design Consultant, AKQA5 years ago
Watching pixels leap into being and bow to your command is intoxicating, enthralling and empowering. The first time you make things move on screen is sheer magic. This is maths and logic made concrete, forming cause and effect into a tactile and immediate experience. It's a far better vehicle for teaching logic and maths than abstract lessons.

If it's pong or space invaders I don't care, because this is about giving people a command of concepts and an ability with tools. In time this will allow them to unleash their creativity however they like. People are turned off STEM subjects and this could turn them back on.
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Show all comments (10)
Chris Madsen5 years ago
Assassins Creed and Total War series are the only ones I know provides a lot of historical facts and some bits of filosofi.
Most games teaches language and writing, mostly english.
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Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer 5 years ago

I got into computers when my Science teachers did an after school programming club. This ignited my need to create games but, I also did computer programming in the same school. There was no freedom to do what you wanted because how do you judge that in an exam. The computer lessons may lead to creating a game but, they will have to be geared towards teaching the child how to program. This involves logic, patterns etc. etc. Without the computer club, where I COULD let my imagination run wild without any consequences and get help when I was stuck, I would have been creating the next big spreadsheet not the next great set of indie games!

Every few years this "We need to get the kids involved" mantra gets wheeled out and it ends the same way, with no exciting classes, no creative way to get kids into the games. In fact the closest I've seen and so am supporting is the Raspberry Pi initiative.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Peter Dwyer on 19th February 2013 4:45pm

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David Serrano Freelancer 5 years ago
Games can be great teaching and motivational tools. I hate to admit it but I learned what a trireme was by playing Civilization. I learned more about the advanced concepts of baseball and football through Madden and All Star Baseball than I did by playing the sports when I was young. I started going to batting cages after I got hooked on All Star Baseball. And I wanted to go to Africa after playing Farcry 2 lol.

But... there's a flip side to this which the industry must also acknowledge. If game designers and developers have the ability to create gameplay which can have a direct, positive impact on a player's abstract thinking and problem solving skills... then by default, they also have the ability to create gameplay which can have a direct, negative impact on a player's abstract thinking and problem solving skills. And the reality is both types of games are currently available on the market. So while the industry should aggressively promote and explore the positive aspects of video and computer games, it must stop denying there are very real negative and harmful aspects to a number of high profile video and computer games. I'd encourage everyone, especially members of the ESA and IGDA, to reread or read the Designers Have Certain Responsibilities chapter in Jess Schell's A Book Of Lenses and the Ethics Of Entertainment chapter in Ralph Koster's A Theory Of Fun.
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Joel Deziel Audio Lead, Electronic Arts5 years ago
Wait... Are you guys saying that both the US and UK don't currently have computer science classes in high school? Surely I skimmed this article (and comments) and missed something. In Canada, we've had computer programming in high school for almost twenty years now.
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Andrew Animator 5 years ago

I wasn't drawing any connection.

I am still allowed an opinion aren't I ????
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Adam Learmonth Studying BSc (Hons) Computer Game Applications Development, University of Abertay Dundee5 years ago
Peter, what would you propose as an alternative way to get children interested in computer science? Abertay University has a dropout rate of almost 33%, the second-highest rate for a Scottish university; for the Game Design and Production course that figure is over 60% some years. This is why people need a sample of what they'd be getting into, before taking the plunge at university and realising that constructing games is very different to merely envisaging them - I've seen it happen time and again to (former) colleagues.

Any extra support for computers and computer games in education cannot come soon enough, but we seem instead to be regressing. When I was at high school in the Scottish Borders, there was perhaps one PC in every other classroom, and about 20 in the designated computer lab. The year after I left (2009) the only specialist computer science teacher took "voluntary" retirement at 56, and Computing to any grade-worthy standard was taken off the curriculum. Without classes the only use for all of that technology is Facebook, YouTube, casual gaming etc.,if the school censor programme allows for even that.

Then again, it's only the Borders - half of the pupils are destined to be farmers or handymen anyway. ;)
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David Serrano Freelancer 5 years ago
Adam Learmonth

"what would you propose as an alternative way to get children interested in computer science? This is why people need a sample of what they'd be getting into, before taking the plunge at university and realizing that constructing games is very different to merely envisaging them"

I think getting kids interested in a subject and exposing them to what working in a field is like are separate issues.

I don't think the goal should be to get kids interested in subjects they may not be suited to work in. The goal should be to early on, identify a child's inherent skills and interests and then create a course of study which emphasizes the subjects most relevant to working in the related fields. For example, when I was in grade and high school I was always drawing. I wasn't naturally skilled at free hand, but I was very good at creating detailed drawings with rulers, compasses, etc... Amazingly, nobody in the system, on any level ever notice this. If they'd focused my study on art instead of general interest classes, I would gone on to major in graphic design or illustration in college instead of communications.

As far as allowing someone to experience what working in a field is like, a great way to accomplish this would be to create the equivalent of high school newspaper projects in any given field of study. However, the sad reality is most schools don't have the money or resources to do this. But given the fact that the ESA promotes video and computer games as a next gen. teaching and learning tool, it seems like MMO / virtual world environments could be use to expose large numbers of students to the day to day tasks and responsibilities of programmers, designers, production managers, etc...

Edited 2 times. Last edit by David Serrano on 26th February 2013 3:37pm

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