The White House's 48-Hour Game Jam Bridges Game Development and Learning

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The White House's 48-Hour Game Jam Bridges Game Development and Learning

The benefits of gaming in education are catching on in the mainstream. Learn how the White House's 48-hour Game Jam shows an increased acceptance of this trend.

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The White House, a symbol of democracy, policy-making, and…gaming? Ok, maybe video gaming isn’t typically associated with the White House, though there’s enough sparring in politics to rival “Mortal Kombat.” Ubisoft-owned game development studio Red Storm Entertainment (“Far Cry 4,” “Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2,”) participated in a 48-hour game jam at the White House in Washington, DC in September 2014.

Hosted by the White House, 2014 kicked off the inaugural 48-hour game jam. A novel concept, the event united a group of game developers who embarked on missions to create video games in a mere 48 hours. However, the ultimate goal wasn’t simply aimed at entertainment. Rather, the White House Education Game Jam sought to explore the link between video games and learning.

As games have become easier to develop and distribute, and hardware has evolved to the point where budget smartphones are capable or handling mild gaming, there’s been an upsurge in gaming. Notably, younger generations have increased access to video games, and according to a blog post by Mark DeLoura, 90% of all American children play video games.

 A team of developers from Red Storm Entertainment assembled to tackle the challenge. Creative Director Brian Tate has a riotously hilarious post on the UbiBlog detailing their experience. As if allotting a mere two days for development wasn’t challenging enough, a party of the harshest critics arrived to beta test: kids. The connection between gaming and learning isn’t new, though it’s often been debated. Lately, the notion that gaming positively impacts education has blossomed.

Non-profit Institute of Play is pioneering the connection between play and learning, and not just with video games. Their fundamental thesis states that the structure of games make for better learning than traditional educational systems. It’s a novel concept, and with interest at the federal level, school systems nationwide could change. Red Storm’s Tate mentioned in his article that one child actually offered a better strategy for playing the game that Brian had helped create. It’s this kind of creativity and forward-thinking that games foster.

Remember that elated feeling you had as a kid when the monolithic black, plastic TV cart majestically rolled into your classroom, the lights dimmed, and you got to watch “Reading Rainbow” or “Bill Nye the Science Guy” re-runs? Well the youth of today probably won’t be seeing 40” LCDs and Playstation 4’s or Xbox One’s carted into their classes any time soon. If this happens, I’ll have to pull a “Billy Madison” and go back to school. What we’ll likely witness though is an educational reform that incorporates tenets of gaming and fuses it with learning. It’s not a new trend, as exhibited like novelties like “Typing of the Dead,” but it’s resonating within the mainstream.  

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