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Role Playing (Games) Entertainment Games

Congress Slashes Funding for Peaceful Conflict Resolution Game 84

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the how-are-our-children-supposed-to-become-warriors-with-this dept.
In a departure from the usual video game setting a recent educational video game called "Cool School" was designed to teach kids peaceful conflict resolution. Unfortunately Congress has decided to slash the funding of this program that has been receiving rave reviews from the testers at schools in Illinois. "Cool School focuses on taking players through a school where just about everything (desks, books, and other objects) are alive and have their own personality. Over the course of ten levels and over 50 different situations designed by Professor Melanie Killen and then-doctoral student Nancy Margie (both of the University of Maryland). The primary goal of the game is to teach students how to solve social conflict through skills like negotiation and cooperation. During the title's development, Killen and Margie were able to work with some talented members of the video game industry, including independent developer F.J. Lennon and animator Dave Warhol." The game is now available as a free download and will play on both Mac OS X and Windows XP.
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Congress Slashes Funding for Peaceful Conflict Resolution Game

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  • by CogDissident (951207) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @03:55PM (#23481142)
    So, they're "done" with the game, effectively. What part of their funding do they still need? The "sit on their asses and collect money for work they already did" fund?

    Thanks slashdot, for providing no link to the article where the funding is being slashed, just two links to a game and people's reviews of it.
    • by Otter (3800) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:05PM (#23481330) Journal
      The Ars Technica article does explain it; Congress funded development of the game but not its distribution. Apparently some sort of computer "inter-network" will be required for schools to obtain it, as if such a thing could ever be!

      That's also what's holding back Duke Nukem Forever, I suppose.

      • Good that they explained it like that in the link. Instead of linking it as if it were a game review. Which the article exactly looks like throughout. With only one tiny sentence alluding to the fact that they can't ship out the disk-copy to those 3 schools that have computers but no internet.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by perdue (1153995)

          the fact that they can't ship out the disk-copy to those 3 schools that have computers but no internet.

          Although TFA [arstechnica.com] is somewhat vague on the point, it seems the problem is not quite that trivial.

          Cool School was planned to be shared throughout every US elementary schools until its funding was slashed by Congress. The game is now being digitally distributed, and its spread through the country's school systems is much slower than originally intended.

          (emphasis mine)

          • by Otter (3800) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:38PM (#23481984) Journal
            Although TFA is somewhat vague on the point, it seems the problem is not quite that trivial.

            No, the problem is as trivial as he said; it's just that the original plan seems to have been much more grandiose. Come to think of it, if they *had* gotten the funding to send a DVD to every school in the country, wouldn't we be getting a story long the lines of "Congress Doesn't Know Internet Exists!!!", with pages of moronic comments about "tubes"?

            I don't get the GGP's complaint about Ars Technica, though. It's not the article's fault that it's not mostly about the one sentence the editor fixated on.

            • by perdue (1153995)

              No, the problem is as trivial as he said; it's just that the original plan seems to have been much more grandiose. Come to think of it, if they *had* gotten the funding to send a DVD to every school in the country, wouldn't we be getting a story long the lines of "Congress Doesn't Know Internet Exists!!!"

              Those headlines would be as cluelessly inflammatory as a typical kdawson post.

              Making something available to everyone != Delivering it to everyone. One approach results in a much, much higher rate of ado

              • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

                by Anonymous Coward

                Making something available to everyone != Delivering it to everyone.
                Oooh, I know this one. "Making it available to everyone" isn't illegal. If the RIAA come after them then Congress have a cast iron case here.
      • That's also what's holding back Duke Nukem Forever, I suppose.

        Really? I heard that Peaceful Conflict Resolution accelerators simply weren't fast enough for Duke's "Resolutions."

      • by shentino (1139071)
        I move that "Duke Nukem Forever" be Godwinized.
        • I move that "Duke Nukem Forever" be Godwinized.
          You know who else didn't like Duke Nukem Forever? That's right, Hitler!!
      • Distribution? I'm scared that a "MC Double Def DP" will appear on the screen the moment I try to copy that floppy. At least thats what I learned in school...
    • by eln (21727) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:24PM (#23481728) Homepage
      Clearly the only way to settle this is to kick ScuttleMonkey's ass for writing a poor summary.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Advertisement funding!

      You didn't think all the advert stories have been posted for free, now did you? Slashvertisement was all they could afford now!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ghostlibrary (450718)
      Getting games into schools is hard... kinda like the difference between coding a game, and selling it as a bonafide product.

      To 'sell' it to schools, you need to a) make them aware of it, usually by presenting at state teacher's fairs and putting notices in periodicals, b) indicate how it supports curricula standards by providing support material and metrics, c) get it into existing channels so the (usual sole) IT person at the school (typically a resource/library person) is allowed to install it, d) support
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Theoboley (1226542)
      Sorry Kids... Looks like you'll have to go back to solving your conflicts the old fashioned way. Guns, Knives and Fists. Hooray Congress !!!
  • Damn! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Slicebo (221580) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @03:56PM (#23481152)
    Let's fight 'em!
  • What good would our military-government-industrial complex be if this sort of thing grew popular? We must act now to stop the spread of such dangerous new thinking! If "tree of liberty" rhetoric was good enough for this country's founders, it's good enough for me!

    Mission Accomplished!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by rjhubs (929158)
      maybe the question that should be asked is, why should congress fund any sort of game development? leave education to the educators, and the moral development to families and communities. the only governmental role in morality should be to protect us, not propagate their morals. Even if in this case it is something we all probably could agree on is good, government still shouldn't do it.
      • What do we have public education for anyway? We should just can all the funding for that, too. Give it to needy families or something. Lol, what am I saying? My brother works in defense, he could use the money.

        Seriously, you're saying the People should not be involved with education for the people. Morality != religion, and especially in the United States people seem to be really keen on legislating the former. Perhaps we not teach in public schools anything remotely related to morality?
        • by rjhubs (929158)

          There is a difference. Funding for education is acceptable because an educated populous is necessary to have a decently working democracy. Democracy requires educated citizens to have the ability to understand how the system works and ability to understand the issues (whether they actually understand them is a different thing, but at least we try to equip them with the ability). Education is great. But to fund a video game to understand how to resolve conflicts? This in a different realm.

          Funding for ed

    • of CONgress being the opposite of PROgress?

      Or, do we blame it on the "mil", or on the US govt/"leadership" "expeditionary/surrender no options" mentality?
    • Well, does it really matter, though?

      1. First of all, the game seems to be about conflict resolution on a small interpersonal scale. You know, better try to make friends with Joe, instead of punching him in the nose.

      I'd say that whatever _external_ policy a military-industrial government may pursue, _internally_ they need a certain social order and people following orders. They don't want their own society to break down into anarchy, even if just because that's bad for business and bad for politics.

      Plus, sta
      • I'm sorry, I was rushed. Next time I'll be funnier, I promise!

        Actually, I feel like I'm so out of touch that my sense of humor is becoming completely random. Soon I'll become a Python, doomed to never again be understood by mortal men.

        Answers!

        1. Probably the relative ease with which a population can be led around by the nose is mostly independent of which morality they've been brought up to accept. "Look, they're different and scary!" "Look, something happened to the Maine/Maddox/WTC!" ...and away we go.

        2.
      • Not only do they not want anarchy internally. They'd specifically want either active acceptance or passive rejection of their views and actions. The last thing a tyrannical government wants is active, armed opposition.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        But teaching people to play nice internally isn't really bad for any government, from Bush to China to whatever else.

        Sorry, I strongly disagree for a broad number of reasons.

        The first and most obvious reason is economic. Let's face it, how many cordless drills do you need on your block? Most people could share with a large number of neighbors and nearly never have a usage collision. How many washers and dryers? I bet your neighborhood could cut that in half if you just shared. See how this works? The reduction in economic activity is potentially serious.

        The second reason, which ought to be obvious to anyone, is that i

  • The Article... (Score:2, Informative)

    by 26199 (577806) *

    ...is on ars technica [arstechnica.com].

  • Really.... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Darkness404 (1287218)
    Really, Congress should not use funds to help support software that it not free/open source. Now, in true /. style I didn't read TFA but I did read the summery and it doesn't say anything about Linux or source code. If a program isn't F/OSS, number 1 some people can't play it and number 2 its use is governed by one person or company, not the world. And if this goes over well in schools, this could be a real problem for Linux adoption if it doesn't work well in WINE.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CogDissident (951207)
      The software "is" free, literally. To anyone who wants to get it.

      They shouldn't have to give away the source code, and it shouldn't "have" to be inter-operable with linux. It is made for schools, and over 95% of schools run windows. Optimizing it so it runs in wine (which it probably does, its not a graphically-complex game) would have cost money, and had very little in returns.

      Now get off your linux soapbox and learn that the real world doesn't revolve around your chosen operating system.
      • But why should the government which is supposed to be in the public interest fund proprietary software? They should have to give away the source code to get government grants for something for use in public schools because it costs the government more money:

        A) The price of the OS which is around $50-$200

        B) Tax money not going to the schools but to the makers of the game

        C) The price of more expensive hardware to run Windows or OS X

        While it is true that most schools run Windows, many are looking
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Seriously. Think about it. It was a game meant to teach the youngins. I doubt much time, if any at all, was put into security considerations for the code. It may work great as a game, but be a horrible vector for anyone who wants to exploit a schools computer systems. And if distribution met its goal, practically every school would have this somewhere. This is one case where keeping the source closed makes sense. And you can't tell me "the issues would be fixed if it was just open source". It is taking too
          • I am not talking about if it secure or not, I am talking about how it is wrong to keep schools tied to Windows/Mac and not move to Linux for the purpose of this game.
          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            It may work great as a game, but be a horrible vector for anyone who wants to exploit a schools computer systems. And if distribution met its goal, practically every school would have this somewhere. This is one case where keeping the source closed makes sense.

            Why, so that only nefarious individuals with a debugger and too much time on their hands will know where the code can be exploited?

            There is no such thing as security through obscurity. Sorry.

            The thing that really makes sense is just to do every damned thing on the web. Schools get cheap bandwidth so this doesn't hurt them any and it lets you stay updated.

          • I doubt much time, if any at all, was put into security considerations for the code.

            I doubt much should.

            Honestly, what is the attack vector here? This isn't a web browser. It's not even a multiplayer game. I very much doubt it needs to talk to the network at all.

            I can imagine that parts of it would be "insecure", but only in the sense that someone who already has access to the system could exploit the game to... get access to the system. Horrors!

            Imagine someone finding a bug, and somehow through magic there is a whole trusted system of which this patch will get reviewed and distributed back to the schools, and have them actually update all copies.

            I know! We'll call it a package manager! In fact, it could even manage more than one "package", and one package could depend on another... Man,

      • It is made for schools, and over 95% of schools run windows.
        ...snip...
        Now get off your linux soapbox and learn that the real world doesn't revolve around your chosen operating system.

        Oh the irony of that statement.....
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by 0p7imu5_P2im3 (973979)

        While I understand your sentiment, I respectfully disagree. I agree that over 95% of the US, and probably the world, use Windows directly. However, indirectly, everyone uses Unix or Linux.

        Today the world revolves around the internet. Something like 65%-70% of internet servers run on Linux and 15%-20% run on some non-Linux version of Unix. (These numbers may have changed since I last checked.) In fact, the root of the internet, some 13 root name servers, all run on Unix/Linux.

        Since the internet revolves

        • Actually, the Internet itself is more dependent on IOS and JunOS than Unix. The root DNS servers are an important service, but not everything on the net uses DNS (though nearly all initial connections to a site do). A far greater portion of packets go through a router or switch than go through a DNS server. DNS as we know it is not the first and may not be the last name resolution protocol, but the network isn't a network without networking equipment.

          Unix is an important server platform, and it's starting t
      • by kjkeefe (581605)

        Actually, the whole thing is a big Flash application. It should be a piece of cake to build it for linux.

        What the GP is trying to say (or should be) is that they should release the code because the FOSS community can rally around it and provide support and greater release options (linux, future versions of OSX and Windoze)...

        Also, I'd like a citation saying that 95% of schools are running Windows. Personally, I think there is a 95% chance that that statement is false [yahoo.com].

      • Development was sponsored by public funds. We all paid for it.

        Give me one good reason the source code shouldn't be released.
    • This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

      http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/download/Coll_FJLennon/CoolCurriki/CoolCurriki.zip/CoolCurriki.html [curriki.org]

      the software was developed by these folks:
      http://www.fmcs.gov/ [fmcs.gov]

      If I'm not mistaken, anything the government develops is public domain - but that's been obscured a lot by the government contracting outsiders to do things.
      • This work, authored by F.J. Lennon, was funded in whole or in part by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service under U.S. Government contract
        Nos. 2006-0039 and 2005-0090, and is, therefore, subject to the following license: The Government is granted for itself and others acting on its
        behalf a paid-up nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide license in this work, to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute copies to the public, and perform publicly and display publicly, by or on behalf of the Govern

    • by courtarro (786894) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:23PM (#23481708) Homepage

      Now, in true /. style I didn't read TFA but I did read the summery and it doesn't say anything about Linux or source code.

      Wow.

      Also in true /. style, I didn't read your whole comment, but I saw something in there about "governed" and "WINE" and you made no mention of "legalized". Frankly I think the US Government has no right to prohibit alcohol sales.

    • by Znork (31774) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:43PM (#23482066)
      this could be a real problem for Linux adoption

      Obviously, someone running Linux or other F/OSS OS doesn't need a game to understand the advantages of cooperation or peaceful conflict resolution. Kernel, license or editor conflicts almost never devolve into physical violence.

      How fun would an appropriate game be?

      "Mark doesn't agree with your indentation style. What do you do?"

      a) Create my own fork
      b) Develop software that will display the code in the viewers indent style
      c) I demonstrate my indentation preference by indenting Marks face with my fist
      d) I write my own new software with a new license allowing only derivative works with the same indentation style
    • by westlake (615356)
      Congress should not use funds to help support software that it not free/open source.

      Congress funds whatever it believes constituents want or need. The primary value of educational software is in what it teaches. If closed source achieves that end, so be it. The world doesn't revolve around the geek.

  • If I wanted to play a game about negotiators I'd want it made my Lt. Rodger Smith...
  • Ha ha (Score:3, Insightful)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:13PM (#23481518) Homepage Journal
    I bet they won't cut funding for that game America's Army...

  • Good... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This hardly falls under what I'd consider the governments constitutionally mandated functions. At a time in history where we are over committed to the tune of $500k/person we don't need to be spending MORE money on non-essential, non-core services. I can think of a whole laundry list of other spending that needs to be done away with, but at least this is a start.
    • See, you're ignoring the whole basis of how our debt system works. If we're "dilligent" and work on paying it off, we can do so in maybe 100 years if we spend our money responsibly.

      So there are two things that economists say:
      One: Debt is funny money, so long as we pay the principle, we can borrow all we want and not worry, because more investments now will bring bigger returns than the interest will cost us.
      Two: OMFG! We're all going to 'splode when people come to collect the debt! (and thus, it doesn'
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      > we don't need to be spending MORE money on non-essential, non-core services.

      The US Army is a non-essential, non-core service. Iraq has nothing to do with you. Neither does Afghanistan. Oh yeah, the Taliban may be resurgent, but if you left they wouldn't bother you. Osama is long gone. Biggest best funded military in the world with massive spy agencies, and they can't get this guy. (Yes, they may read this post and log it, but pro-tip guys: Osama doesn't post to Slashdot).
  • no funding? (Score:3, Funny)

    by jollyreaper (513215) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:19PM (#23481650)
    What would be funny is if they threatened Congress to restore funding.
  • I'm just waiting to see the body count that results from this.

    Gangbanger: "Give me your money, holmes..."
    Peacenik: "How much do you need? I'd be happy to help buy you a burger."
    Gangbanger: *blows peacenik's brains out, takes his wallet*
  • I tried it out (Score:5, Informative)

    by Evets (629327) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @04:51PM (#23482224) Homepage Journal
    I actually have a child in the target group, so I downloaded the game to check it out.

    Game-wise, it's nothing special. It's a flash based game with limited user interaction, less than exceptional graphical content, and it plays at 800x600 regardless of your resolution - no full screen capability. In their defense, most games targetting my kids show the same properties.

    In the five minutes I played, I was able to click maybe 4 times, with the remainder of the time spent listening to the characters walk me through the game. The general idea they are trying to get across - building conflict resolution skills - is very apparent. I think my child will enjoy this game - although I think she won't choose it very often over other games that she has available such as Dora or Care Bears titles. Frankly, I think the commercial titles offer a much more clear educational experience, but that's not to say I don't like the game at all.

    Personally - I think community developed games like those built with Scratch [mit.edu] have a much brighter future. Lord knows how many tax dollars were spent on this game, and if you had 5 involved parents working together for a month and a half, you could have something much better and more open to derivative updates.

    Scratch is still flash, but at least you have the ability to update games developed with it - and tailor them to your specific needs/target audience.
  • Question (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cptnapalm (120276) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @05:02PM (#23482368)
    So which of Congress's enumerated powers did this fall under?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Uncle Focker (1277658)

      Section 8: The Congress shall have power

      To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the ... general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
      Done.
      • by cptnapalm (120276)
        That is not a grant of power. The "common defense and general welfare of the United States" is a limit on the purposes to which Congress may use the money gotten by taxes, duties, imposts and excises.

        The common defense and the general welfare are to accomplished using the powers expressly granted to the legislative branch of the Federal government.

        Don't get me wrong, this is not how it actually works. The constitution never did recover from FDR.
        • by Veinor (871770)

          That is not a grant of power. The "common defense and general welfare of the United States" is a limit on the purposes to which Congress may use the money gotten by taxes, duties, imposts and excises.

          Okay, fine, I'll give you this. I'd then argue that they are spending the money gotten by taxes or whatever on this project, which is intended to provide for general welfare.

          The common defense and the general welfare are to accomplished using the powers expressly granted to the legislative branch of the Federal government.

          Huh? How are you getting that from

          The Congress shall have power To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States

          • Both you and the sibling poster are missing the point. This is a trivial issue of sentence decomposition:

            The Congress shall have power To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises,

            This is what Congress is granted the power to do.

            to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States;

            This is why Congress is granted said power.

            but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States

            Finally, here is a limitation on the manne

        • To provide for common defense and general welfare is part of a grant of power "To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts...". This is taken straight out of the constitution where it is proceded by the phrase "The Congress shall have the power". If that's not a clear grant of power, I don't know what is. I think you're just playing a stupid game of semantics.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by philipgar (595691)
            you neglect to mention that fact that IMMEDIATELY following this statement the constitution lays out a list enumerating exactly what those powers are. If the line "common defense and general welfare" was taken to grant congress power over everything related to the above there would be no need to explicitly list what congress is allowed to do.

            Additionally, if this line was to mean congress could do anything not explicitly forbidden by the first 9 amendments, there would be no need for the 10th amendment whi
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Lets face it, if it got slashed, it's not because of a bunch of warmongers in congress.

    It's because it's arguably the most dull, uninteresting pointless idea for a game ever :p
  • by Sciros (986030)
    Congress isn't using war/oil money to fund video games. And in any case it's taxpayer money. And if it was being spent on this game then it was being spent on rubbish, honestly.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mr_mischief (456295)
      Taxpayer money? ITYM bondholder money. When you're spending trillions of dollars you don't have because you can't collect it in taxes the nonessential parts absolutely count as bondholder money.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tetsujin (103070)

      Congress isn't using war/oil money to fund video games. And in any case it's taxpayer money.

      It's all "taxpayer money". So what? That's what a tax is - they take your money. It's not yours anymore.

      Video games are a medium, like anything else. The point of this project was to try to use that medium to teach - now, there may be numerous reasons this is not a great idea (the fact that kids play games because they're fun, for instance, combined with a game whose primary goal is not to entertain but to teach - the fact that technology changes so fast that the game may have a short practical lifespa

  • To bad the article doesn't tell us anything useful about the funding. Was it a budget item? An earmark? Was it singled out for funding, or bundled in with a bunch of related stuff? How much was it funded for, and for how long? And does "slashed" mean eliminated, or merely reduced? Or simply not extended?

    Substance, please.
  • I downloaded it and I'm playing it now. I wouldn't fund this crap either!

    And it's making me violent...

    actually - it's not bad, but very patronizing. I'll give it a B+ and positive remarks on the report card.

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