STEM Video Game Challenge Winner to Get White House Invite

The winners of the STEM Video Game Challenge this year will get an invitation to the White House Science Fair, Forbes Magazine reports. This is the second year in a row that the winners of the game challenge will be honored with an invitation, a sign – according to Jordan Shapiro – of the Obama Administration’s growing recognition of the importance of games in education.

The National STEM Video Games Challenge invites middle- and high-schoolers to put their game-making skills to the test by creating games that help students learn science, technology engineering and math concepts in a more entertaining and engaging way. In its three years of existence, the nationwide competition – which is presented by Joan Ganz Cooney Center at the Sesame Workshop and E-Line Media – has attracted an impressive lineup of sponsors, including the Xbox 360 maker Microsoft and the Entertainment Software Foundation.

President Obama hosted the first White House Science Fair in late 2010. The fair is part of his Educate to Innovate campaign, which aims to encourage excellence in math and science. As the President said at the first Science Fair, “If you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House. Well, if you’re a young person and you produce the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too.”

The White House invitation sends a strong signal that video games are becoming increasingly recognized as a tool to deliver learning rather than a time-waster that distracts students. This is good news for everyone in video game industry, from consumers to designers, because with the lessening of stigma comes increasing acceptance and investment.

Gamification and game-based learning appears poised to explode in the coming years. By featuring aspiring game designers at the country’s marquee young scientists showcase, the Obama Administration is encouraging more young people to take up technology in general and game development in particular as a career.

Although the common view is that video games are simply entertainment — an escape from the real world — I think video games function as interactive mythology. They can be understood as non-linear stories that help individuals derive meaning from the complicated paradoxes of everyday life. President Obama’s decision to acknowledge excellence among young game designers celebrates the exceptional multidisciplinary thinking that’s involved in making interactive stories.