Video game designer wants to turn games into educational tools

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Dec 5, 2013 1:04 PM

Photo by Ben Allen/witf

(Landisville) -- A video game designer known for his work on such hits as Call of Duty and Farmville is turning his attention to the classroom.

James Portnow aims to change people's fundamental thinking about a video game.

Portnow wants to create games similar to this one, called Reach for the Sun.

Players actually are a plant and learn about photosynthesis, the life cycle of plants, and climate in the game.

Through his Games for Good initiative, Portnow wants to get people thinking about games that can be used as educational tools.

In a visit to Centerville Middle School in Lancaster County, he worked with seventh grade art classes as they designed games.

"So I challenge you: get the person who doesn't care."

Portnow says just because it's a video game doesn't mean it doesn't have value.

"Like any media, whether it be television or music, certain things are more or less artistic, have more or less value, no question in my mind. But there are things to be gotten from them. And to dismiss the medium as a whole simply because some of the experiences may not have the same standards as the very best things we look for in art to me is a tragedy."

Portnow says it's important to get people thinking of games as educational tools, and wants to foster that kind of culture.

"I hope they take away that not only do their choices really matter, that they really do have some options in their life, and looking forward, just like the decisions they make in games, the decisions they make in their lives have consequences."

Portnow's visit to the midstate also includes stops at Harrisburg University and the Pennsylvania College of Arts and Design. 

His work on Games for Good is expected to take up much of the next year.

Published in Lancaster, News

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