October 18, 2010 (Washington, DC) Seventeen winners of the Game Changers Kids Competition were announced in Washington, DC today at the White House Science Fair, with President Barack Obama congratulating 13-year-old Jack Hanson of New Mexico, for scoring the highest marks in this competition for young game designers. Hanson created the Live or Die adventure for the popular science learning game Spore. He was accompanied to the White House by his mother Lori Hanson and his sister and fellow teammate, 15-year-old Haley Hanson, who will also receive an award for her LittleBigPlanetTM entry.
Funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and administered by the virtual network of learning institutions HASTAC (www.hastac.org), the Game Changers Kids Competition was part of the third annual $2 million Digital Media and Learning Competition, dedicated to Reimagining Learning. This year, MacArthur teamed with Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA), the Entertainment Software Association, and the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation to support new and creative user-generated levels and adventures to engage young people in learning in the two games. The intention of the Competition is to promote participatory learning, which operates under the notion that individuals, specifically young ones, learn best through sharing and involvement.
Kids learn by doing, and the Game Changers Kids Competition encourages them to learn science and technology by making it themselves in an environment that is fun and challenging, noted Connie Yowell, Director of Education at the MacArthur Foundation. In the digital age, the learning environment is turned on its head its no longer just the dynamic of the student, the teacher and the curriculum. Today, kids learn and interact with others even from around the world every time they go online, or play a video game, or engage through a social networking site. This Competition is helping us to identify and nurture the creation of learning environments
that are relevant for kids today and will prepare them for a 21st century workforce.
Kids were challenged to develop new levels and adventures for the popular games SporeTM (EA) and LittleBigPlanetTM (Sony). Winners who designed adventures for SporeTM will be hosted, along with a parent or guardian, on a trip to Electronic Arts (EA), the game design company that developed SporeTM. Kids who won for creating new levels for LittleBigPlanetTM will receive a Sony PSP-3000 system.
Jack Hanson's SporeTM adventure, titled Live or Die, was chosen both for its challenging, entertaining game play and the scientific principles required to create and play it. Judges praised the way all the actions in the survivor adventure have consequences, and the way Hanson uses Artificial Intelligence and randomizing principles to make the game replayable, with new situations arising from each choice the gamer makes and a new game scenario developing each time one plays. "I wanted my level to be interesting and new each time someone plays it," explained Jack. "I made it so that there are different problems, but there are lots of different ways
to solve those problems."
"Jack and Haley each brought a different set of skills and strengths to the creation of the adventure and the challenges its creation presented. The Competition offered a great opportunity not just for them to learn together, but also for them to learn from each other," commented Lori Hanson. She continued, "Spore is a great cross-curricular learning platform. It provides kids with a new way of engaging with content and conveying larger educational concepts, whether it is math, science, geography or literature, in a way that is compelling to them." Jack agrees: "Working with video games like Spore is a fun and interactive way of learning. It motivates me to learn more." Haley adds, "Spore offers a place to reinforce what you are learning. Making educational programs that other people use to learn gives you a real sense of accomplishment. It makes you feel like an expert."
The Kids Competition promotes learning by doing, a total immersion in the way to think through and with technology, said Duke University Professor Cathy N. Davidson, who along with David Theo Goldberg, Director of the University of California Humanities Research Institute, is co- founder of HASTAC. "Games help kids to reimagine and expand their understanding of learning across all domains of knowledge," Goldberg notes. Davidson and Goldberg manage the annual Digital Media and Learning Competitions as a team.
The Digital Media and Learning Competition is part of the MacArthur Foundations Digital Media and Learning Initiative, designed to help determine how digital technologies are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize, and participate in civic life. Now in its third year, the Competition is an annual effort to find and to inspire the most novel uses of new media in support of learning. This year's Competition was launched in collaboration with President Obama's Educate to Innovate initiative, challenging designers, inventors, entrepreneurs, and researchers to create learning labs for the 21st century, digital environments that promote
building and tinkering in new and innovative ways. Aneesh Chopra, the Chief Technology Officer of the United States, announced the nineteen winners of the adult Competition in May 2010. Full information about the Competition can be found at www.dmlcompetition.net.
The seventeen winners of the Game Changers Kids Competition are:
William Cuddy, Canada
Team: Rush! (Richasackboy)
Haley Hanson, USA
Team: VolcanicStardust (VolcanicThor, Stardust_Gal)
Cole Hildebrandt, USA
The Elements . . . and Bombs
Team: 42 Donuts (Cole H. and Non W.)
Paras Mehta, USA
Team: ninjakids (Paras Mehta, Kevin Mehta)
Kirk Miller, USA
Team: Team Miller (Kirk, Dominic)
Samuel Barch, USA
Team: Team Doomsday (Gengar114)
Davey Barron, USA
A World Devoid
Team: doozercrew (doozerdude)
Brock Carter, Canada
Saving Private Roto (Spore)
Team: Team Nurv (Brock)
Caleb Craig, USA
Team: Team Areon (CoolCaleb7800, elizabeth705)
Philip Greene, United Kingdom
The Tomb of Khafra
Team: Evolution (Conquest1600)
Robert Groome, USA
Island of Illusions
Team: Malacinator (Malackasurus, Geckonator97)
Jack Hanson, USA
LIVE or DIE
Team: Thor_In_The_Sky (pelicanthor, bunny_in_the_sky)
Khloe Ilsley, USA
The Ghost Ship
Team: Dreamweaver (Khloe14)
Aidan Robak, USA
Aronzo and the Treasure
Team: TheGreatOcean (Arsonfire)
Demetri Sofides, USA
The Lantern Bearer
Team: Team Fezonn (Fezonn)
Aaron Thomson, USA
Team: Star Master (Aaron Thomson)
Henry Williams, USA
Team: Droid (Inferno7, Jaconan)
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A consortium of humanists, artists, scientists, social scientists and engineers from universities and other civic institutions across the U.S. and internationally, the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC) is committed to new forms of collaboration for thinking, teaching, and research across communities and disciplines fostered by creative uses of technology. More information is at www.hastac.org.
About the MacArthur Foundation
The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society. More information is at www.macfound.org.
Mandy Dailey, HASTAC, email@example.com, tel. (919) 681-8897
Jen Humke, MacArthur Foundation, firstname.lastname@example.org, tel. (312) 726-8000