Inspire a New Generation of Game Experiences for Children

As "Avatar" smashes box office records and new science-fiction action
video game "Mass Effect 2" seems to be lighting up the global gaming
community, an international competition to inspire a new generation of
game experiences for children is being announced.

It is the hope of the contest supporter, the MacArthur Foundation
Digital Media and Learning program
, that the contest draws out edgy, gripping 21st century gaming
experiences that leverage the incredible popularity of games (one
recent national survey indicated that 90% of U.S. teenagers have
played video games) with the creative and highly engaging learning
potential of games.

In fact, the winning game adventures will be made available for free
to the game playing community -- with special attention being given to
libraries in low-income areas.

News of the competition has been making its way through the gaming
community, and a number of contest proposals have already come in.
They contain some provocative creative plots and adventures: finding
a missing genius scientist, repelling invaders of human consciousness,
and the proper care and feeding of aliens. There are some intriguing
new potential heroes, too, including: "Sackboy," a Geico-like lizard
named "Sal," and an invisible time-traveling professor named "Momo."

Winners of the "Game Changer" competition will receive cash awards
ranging from $5,000 to $50,000.

Winners will also receive recognition from leading game makers, Sony
Computer Entertainment of America and Electronic Arts, who are
partners in the competition.

All of the contest details can be found at the contest
Web site
. Deadline for entries is Feb. 15. The public is also invited
to comment on the proposed entries and, at a later time, will even be
able to vote for their favorites. In fact, contestants will actually
have a chance to review all of the public's advice and incorporate it
into their final proposals.

One other goal of the "Game Changer" competition is to take advantage
of the immensely popular educational video games, LittleBigPlanet
(winner of numerous "Game of the Year" awards in 2008) and Spore
Galactic Adventures. In fact, it's expected that the winning entries
will be added as new levels into those games.

Contest submissions will be judged by a panel drawn from the
LittleBigPlanet and Spore game playing communities, as well as experts
recruited by the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced
(HASTAC). HASTAC is run by
David Theo Goldberg, director of the systemwide University of
California Humanities Research Institute
based on the Irvine campus, and Cathy Davidson at Duke University.
There are 12 different categories, so there are many opportunities to
win. A crucial criterion will be the potential for the game experience
to deliver excellent learning content in the areas of science,
technology, engineering, and math. These disciplines have been
highlighted in large measure because the Obama administration has made
education and America's standing as a leader in areas like technology
and science a top priority for the nation and his domestic agenda.

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