ACM - Computers in Entertainment

Liemandt Foundation launches hidden agenda contest

By Lauren Davis
Theoretical and Practical Computer Applications in Entertainment, [Vol. 1, No. 1]

DOI: 10.1145/950566.950575

The Liemandt Foundation, a nonprofit family foundation focused on promoting technology-enabled education, launched on September 18, 2003 a college student video game development contest with a twist -- students are being challenged to build entertaining games that "secretly" teach middle school subjects.The contest, online at www.hiddenagenda.com, focuses on the notion of "stealth education" in gaming, pushing students to create primarily entertaining games that also teach science and math topics such as forces, statistics, or the solar system. Students have complete freedom in their game designs. They may work in teams of up to eight people, can build the games on and for any platform, and may use existing engines if they choose. Games will be judged in May 2004, with five finalist teams flying to Austin, Texas for their final shot at the $25,000 prize.Advising the contest are experts such as Ultima creator and gaming legend Richard Garriott and educational game visionary Marc Prensky, and the project is affiliated with the Digital Media Collaboratory at the University of Texas. "There is no doubt in my mind that college students can create the next breakthrough educational video game," says Garriott. Prensky agrees, "I look forward to watching these motivated and creative students break through the barriers of historically boring learning games." Among the many benefits of challenging college students to build the game is the notion that once these students enter the professional game development community, they will understand the importance and potential of stealth education.While all submitted games must fulfill teaching and technical requirements to be considered, final judging is based on 70% entertainment and 30% educational value. The uneven split in judging criteria is crucial. In the past, educational games have failed because no matter how well they taught, kids just weren't motivated to absorb information. Children will only learn from the games they want to play.

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