ACM - Computers in Entertainment

A word from the editor

By Newton Lee
Theoretical and Practical Computer Applications in Entertainment, [Vol. 1, No. 1]

DOI: 10.1145/950566.950568

Welcome to the inaugural issue of the ACM Computers in Entertainment magazine! The theme for this issue is Educating Children Through Entertainment, with a focus on computer games and education.

To get started, the Interviews section features video interviews with Alan Kay and Roy E. Disney. Alan talked about soft fun versus hard fun, and his research on Squeak for enhancing and amplifying learning in children's education. Roy told us about educators versus entertainers, and his views on traditional and CGI animations.

In the Theories section of this issue, Miguel de Aguilera and Alfonso Mendiz examine the potential of video games as a teaching and learning tool, and offer a critical review of previous research on the subject. Miki Baumgarten looks into planning and developing successful Internet games for children based on research in child development, psychology, education, and technology. Krystina Madej takes us on a historical journey of children's narrative from the Middle Ages to the digital era. She notes that philosopher John Locke introduced in the late 1600s the now-obvious concept: Children are not just miniature adults, but have their own needs. Leslie Wilson draws from her own parenting experience in advocating games that teach children creativity and positive thinking. And John Crocker portrays a school of the future using personalized, adaptive, and emotionally engaging content to educate students.

In the Applications section, Mark Mine, Joe Shochet, and Roger Hughston present the design philosophy and technology for the massively multiplayer game "Disney's Toontown Online," where children learn collaboration, strategy, and creativity while having fun in a 3-D virtual world. Glenda Revelle describes the Sesame Workshop approach to educating children via entertainment media such as television, video games, and DVD software. Henry Jenkins, Eric Klopfer, Kurt Squire, and Philip Tan discuss the prototype games and future classrooms in the Educational Arcade project (formerly Games-to-Teach) as part of the MIT and Microsoft's iCampus alliance. These simulation and augmented reality games exemplify the kind of "hard fun" that Alan Kay describes in the video interview. Jason Everett discusses the educational game "Hot Shot Business," which teaches children entrepreneurship by simulating the adventure of starting and running their own businesses. And Christopher Romero applies some learning principles to a Nickelodeon simulation game in wildlife rescue.

In the Book Reports section, James Paul Gee gives an overview of his book What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, in which he explains 36 principles for designing good games. And Marc Prensky argues, in his book Digital Game-based Learning, that video games are not the enemy, but the best opportunity to engage kids in real learning.

When you read these papers, you will notice that a number of the authors reference each other's work. This is purely fortuitous and not a concerted effort by the editorial board. It only shows that academia and the industry are aware of each other's work, learning from one another, and promoting better entertainment for our children. Recent news articles highlight the important role of computer games in education and social studies: "Educators Turn to Games for Help" http://www.wired.com/news/games/0,2101,59855,00.html, "Computer games: Facts and fiction" http://news.com.com/2010-1071-5065675.html, "Off to College to Major in ...Video Games?" http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0829/p01s04-ussc.html

Continuing the theme of "Educating Children Through Entertainment," the next issue in January 2004 will present insightful papers on interactive theater, dance, music, story room, play sets, virtual reality, entertainment robots, and more -- all aimed for educating and entertaining children. We will interview Quincy Jones and Seymour Papert. You certainly don't want to miss the upcoming issues! In the meantime, check out the Coming Soon section for a sneak preview of the future installments.

Now, who wants to win $25,000? The Liemandt Foundation, in association with the Digital Media Collaboratory at the University of Texas at Austin, has just launched an educational game development contest open to full-time undergraduate and graduate students. Details are given in the Letters to the Editor section.

Looking ahead to 2004 and beyond, we will continue to present many interesting and timely topics in the ACM Computers in Entertainment magazine. As I was judging the Advanced Media Technology Emmy Awards last month in New York City, I was encouraged by the progress made in the interactive television arena. iTV will be one of our upcoming themes. Please send us your ideas on what topics you wish to see in the future issues of the magazine.

Finally, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all authors, interviewees, reviewers, associate editors, ACM staff, colleagues, and friends for their invaluable contributions to this magazine. In particular, I wish to thank Alan Kay, Bob Lambert, Ken Goldstein, Kim Rose, and Roy E. Disney for their encouragement and gracious support.

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