Making Our Own Stories
Strauss Zelnick, chairman and CEO of Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. and chairman of the ESA Board of Directors, recently addressed the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival. In a one-on-one interview with Kevin Delaney, editor-in-chief of Quartz magazine, Strauss discussed the evolution of video games and the role of storytelling in creating compelling entertainment experiences.
New Alliance Brings Together Top Game Design Programs
At the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival, education leaders from around the country announced the launch of the Higher Education Video Game Alliance (HEVGA), a platform for showcasing the critical role video game programs have in educating and preparing students for the 21st century workforce. Led by Constance Steinkuehler, former White House adviser on video games and current associate professor and co-director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Games+Learning+Society center, HEVGA brings together more than 25 universities that have game design programs, including Duke University, Indiana University, Becker College, and Vanderbilt University.
This first-of-its-kind organization seeks to tackle a number of important initiatives, ranging from raising the profile of schools with game programs and recognizing innovations developed by members’ game labs, to advocating for policies and hosting events in Washington, DC that will strengthen the connection between higher education programs and policy makers. In addition, the group aims to expand the available data on the industry through improvements to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' official information and conducting research underscoring the cultural, technological, scientific, and economic importance of video games. While member universities will benefit from the new initiative in particular, HEVGA will also offer the broader video game industry more access to academic expertise and game design research.
HEVGA is open to university faculty, directors of game design programs, departmental heads, and other campus leadership. Additional founding and executive committee members include Tracy Fullerton, associate professor and director of USC Games at the University of Southern California; Andrew Phelps, professor and director of the Rochester Institute of Technology Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction and Creativity; Drew Davidson, professor and director of the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University; and Katherine Isbister, associate professor and director of the Game Innovation Lab at New York University. ESA provided initial support to the Alliance by helping to construct the membership structure and bylaws.
To learn more about HEVGA, visit: http://www.higheredgames.org/
Video Games Help Kids Manage Asthma
Video games are helping children breathe easier by teaching those with asthma how to successfully manage their illness.
One such game is Wellapets, a mobile app released by Lifeguard Games that challenges children to care for a virtual pet dragon suffering from asthma. Throughout the game, children learn how to avoid asthma triggers, such as dust and smoke, in addition to learning about when and how to take their medication properly. Annie Ryu, who co-developed the game, says that Wellapets is “a very engaging way to overcome the stigma associated with chronic conditions and motivate that positive behavior change.” Children without asthma also play the game, helping them to better understand the experiences of their asthma-affected relatives and friends. The free app is available across several digital storefronts. Lifeguard Games plans to build upon the game's success by developing more apps that help children manage other health issues, including diabetes and food allergies.
Screenshot from the Wellapets app by Lifeguard Games.
Another asthma education game is Lungtropolis, an interactive, web-based experience for children ages 5 to 10. Created by the American Lung Association (ALA), the game puts children in the role of asthma control agents as they defend the city of Lungtropolis from the attacking mucus mob. While playing, children watch videos and learn about the ways in which they can control their asthma. In addition to the game, ALA created a microsite, Lungtropolis Parents, which provides parents with valuable information and resources about asthma.
The Starlight Children’s Foundation has also released an asthma education game, Quest for the Code. Narrated by actor Cuba Gooding, Jr., the game takes children on a tour of the lungs, where they learn how to prevent and relieve asthma attacks. After the tour, players are challenged to fight villains by outsmarting them with knowledge about asthma. In doing so, Quest for the Code tests players on and reinforces the information they learned using the game.
By leveraging the exciting nature of games, developers, parents, and health care professionals are engaging and informing children about asthma in new ways.
New Game to Focus on Civil Rights Movement
Students will soon have the opportunity to learn about the Civil Rights Movement through a new interactive game being developed by iCivics, an ESA Foundation (ESAF) grantee.
DBQuest: Eyes on the Prize will focus on the Nashville Sit-In Movement of 1960, a nonviolent campaign aimed at ending segregation at lunch counters in the city. Through interactive missions that incorporate historical documents, videos, and photographs, students will explore the experiences of those involved, while also learning about the broader Civil Rights Movement. The game also draws from PBS’ Eyes on the Prize documentary series.
Beyond teaching students about a critical event in American history, Eyes on the Prize will enhance critical reading, core literacy and persuasive writing skills by requiring students to creatively summarize their collected content into a sequence of argumentative essays.
Founded by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, iCivics is a nonprofit organization that utilizes a series of 19 web-based games to educate students about American history and government, including the Bill of Rights, the democratic process, international affairs, and more. In addition to developing socially engaging games for students, iCivics produces core curricula materials for educators to support the games’ integration into lesson plans. ESAF has proudly supported iCivics for several years, helping it grow to a network of more than 55,000 educators and that reaches more than four million students every year.
iCivics will share an early version of Eyes on the Prize with a select group of schools and teachers this fall to help test and refine the game before its official 2015 launch. For more information about iCivics, visit: https://www.icivics.org/
This screenshot from DBQuest: Eyes on the Prize demonstrates how students will engage with archival photographs in the game.
In The News
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Calling All Writers
ESA invites members of the video game community to submit original articles for inclusion in our monthly newsletter. Articles should be no more than 500 words in length, and focus on new video game-related research, innovative industry trends, or interesting applications of entertainment software in areas including education, healthcare, business, and social impact. If you are interested in submitting an article for consideration, please email email@example.com with your name, affiliation, and a brief abstract of your proposed piece.
Quote of the Month
"Video games are complex systems composed of rules that interact. Gamers must think like a designer and form hypotheses about how the rules interact so they can accomplish goals and even bring about emergent results. Thinking like a designer in order to understand systems is a core 21st Century skill."
— Dr. James Paul Gee, Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies at Arizona State University, on the educational power of video games
Did You Know?
The second annual ESA LOFT Video Game Innovation Fellowship is now accepting applications through August 15. Offered by ESA in partnership with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) and HHF’s Leaders on the Fast Track (LOFT) program, the fellowship provides grants to minority youths to support their creation of video games or mobile applications which seek to address problems in their communities. To learn more about the fellowship and submit an application, please visit www.LOFTinnovation.org.
Statistic of the Month
According to a new survey from the Games and Learning Publishing Council, nearly 80 percent of teachers who use digital games in their classroom reported that the games helped improve students’ mastery of core subjects, and more than 70 percent said the games boosted student understanding of “non-cognitive skills,” such as cooperation and collaboration.
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