Via CBC, Olds College, Alberta, is assigning an ipad game as course material for its new mandatory Discover Entrepreneurship course starting this Fall. At the same time, the provincial government of Ontario has provided Ubisoft, the software developer who brought us the Assassin’s Creed series, a grant of $263 million CAD (~$1935 million HKD) with the goal to create 800 jobs in the province in 10 years.
Video game is one of the biggest and most profitable industries around the world, and it’s becoming an important part of our lives. Not only does a blockbuster game take a lot of money to make, the process involves a lot of people in various professions as well, from motion actors, voice actors, writers, novelists, musicians, illustrators, programmers, computer engineers, historians, to unpaid beta testers and journalists; it employs all the people a Hollywood production would employ and many more.
Furthermore, game development boasters the development of myriad technologies, as a game requires a compact of good hardware and software working together seamlessly to deliver innovative gameplay and storytelling. Artificial Intelligence is one of the frontiers of today’s science, and video game provides a natural fertile ground for research and application. Just like the automobile industry in the industrial age, the video game industry is one of the best candidates for industrial policy in the information age, as it encourages development across all sectors, even the non-tradable ones.
In addition to the ecnomomic and scientific benefits it brings, video game can be a good education tool as well, as demonstrated by Olds College’s decision. A game allows the players to explore and interact in a virtual world., and the player can see in real time how their actions in the game world would lead to what outcomes. Basically, a game allows you to visualize the variables in a model and see the results according to the model’s internal logic. If books, songs, painting, and films can convey important ideas to the audience, video games have the potential to do it better, because the player can clearly see and play with the cause and effect of those ideas in the game world and create their own unique experience by deciding the outcomes with the information the game provides. Case in point, the game America’s Army is a useful training tool to the US Army, as it allows the soldiers to revisit a scenario and play out the possibilities anytime they want.
Suppose we believe that kids should get a head start in life by receiving a solid education as early as possible, then shouldn’t we invest much more in video game and utilise its potential as an educational tool? Just like we want kids to be exposed to literature, arts, music, and poetry, we might also want them to play more good video games as well. If I were the government, I would create a programme to get some poor kids (of certain age, of course) the latest video gaming platforms and allow them to rent the games at the local library. In return, they will have to write a report and critically review the games that they have played on their technical, gameplay, and literary merits. I think that’s a fair programme and everybody wins in this situation.
(In case the readers do not notice, this piece also serves as a thinly veiled attack on the people who heavily criticised a poor family in Hong Kong for buying Gundam models for their kid; these people are unimaginative.)