Obama And LittleBigPlanet Team Up, For KidsS

The White House is announcing today a program to improve science and math education with a variety of Entertainment Software Association-backed initiatives including a program to put LittleBigPlanet in libraries as well as a $300,000 game design challenge.

President Barack Obama announced the overarching directive that the gaming plans are part of at a White House press conference that furthers the Administration's commitment to its STEM program, an initiative for focusing on science, technology engineering and math education. The new push is dubbed "Educate to Innovate."

Among the participating private-backed initiatives that are part of the program, according to a run-down in the New York Times, is a two-year focus on science on Sesame Street, a commercial-free science programming commitment by the Discovery Channel, a new website backed by Time Warner Cable, as well as a variety of video game initiatives.

"Our industry's lifeblood is the energy and innovation of new, emerging developers," Michael Gallagher, president of the Entertainment Software Association, the industry's lobbying group, said in a press release today. "To create the next generation's epic titles and incredibly immersive storylines, we need America's youth to have strategic and analytic thinking skills along with complex problem solving abilities. It is my hope that it will produce games that will have a lasting impact on the STEM skills our nation's students so desperately need."

The Sony LittleBigPlanet initiative, Game Changers, is part of a $2 million 2010 Digital Media and Learning Competition funded by the MacArthur foundation. It involves Sony donating 1000 PlayStation 3s and copies of LittleBigPlanet to libraries and community organizations. Participants will strive to create levels that involve science, technology, engineering and math.

A second program, called the Stem National Video Game Competition, was also announced. It is a three-pronged $300,000 contest encouraging entrants to create the best browser video games that teach the STEM disciplines for a trio of age ranges: 4-8, 8-12 and 12-16. This competition is intended to reach "historically underserved populations including girls and minority students," according to an ESA press release. Specifics for this contest will be announced in early 2010, with winners showcased at E3 in June.

The gaming initiatives announced today are backed by the Information Technology Industry Council, an advocacy group. Microsoft and the Games4Change group are also both involved in these plans, according to the ESA release.

More details about both contests will be announced in the next few weeks, according to the ESA.