Video Game Programs Draw State House Attention

Published on Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

The plans of former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling to move his video game company, 38 Studios, to greener pastures, the commitment from Penny Arcade to bring its sold out expo, PAX East, back to Boston, and the placement of three Massachusetts colleges on the Princeton Review’s top eight schools for video game design (Becker #4, WPI #7 and MIT #8) have gotten the attention of government officials.

Mass. Rep. Vincent Pedone recently toured Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo (pictured right with Becker President Robert Johnson), and a number of State House colleagues, to Becker for a demonstration of video game technology, featuring students and faculty of the College’s video game development programs.

On display (see photo below) was a computer game which portrays safety behaviors and everyday dangers for elementary school children, completed for the "Mobile Safety Street" bus, as part of an internship with UMass Memorial Medical Center pediatric staff and the City of Worcester. Another sample was a game that teaches a bit of Egyptian history as players solve a mystery, which was completed for a competition.

Games aren’t solely for entertainment anymore. Today’s games have transitioned into a wide-array of other intersecting industries including education, defense, language, corporate training, healthcare, advertising and emergency management. The U.S. Army recently committed $50M to make training games, last year a Massachusetts venture firm co-invested $7 million in an online social networking game for teaching people in China to speak English and 27% of Fortune 500 companies plan to adopt learning games by 2012.

The Commonwealth’s unique mixture of higher education, talented human resources, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists has led the nation in creating successful industry clusters such as biotechnology, telecommunications, healthcare and next generation manufacturing.  By virtue of that same mixture, a new industry cluster – video game design and development – is rapidly taking shape.

Rep. Pedone has partnered with Becker President Robert Johnson for MASS Impact, a forum to be held at the college on October 19 that will bring leaders in education and the video game industry and government officials together to discuss future collaboration to develop an environment that will foster growth of the video game industry in Massachusetts.