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Economic Prosperity

U.S. students are falling further behind other industrialized countries in everything from math and science scores to the proportion of young people with college degrees. The employment challenges our youth now face in a digitally-driven global landscape require a new set of 21st century “portable” skills which will be necessary as today’s young people enter the job market, transition from job to job, and eventually seek out jobs that do not yet exist. Nearly every major job in the 21st century – whether being a teacher, architect, journalist, mechanic, or construction worker—will be mediated by technology. The ability to harness digital media and technology will be a necessary competence for all. There also are thousands of jobs in America going unfilled every month because of a growing skills gap. This skills gap includes deficits in both “soft” and “hard” skills, each of which is necessary for finding and sustaining employment in today’s world.

At their core games are problem-spaces that are ideally structured to foster, as we pointed out above, 21st century skills. Both playing and making games have the potential to engage players in deep STEM content and problem-solving learning. Games can even be used to engage players in deep financial learning, in managing virtual economies, in optimizing economic systems, and in making investment decisions—and they can inform real policy decisions—all without the high stakes of the real world. Games, just as with other digital media, encourage production (e.g., design, programming, “modding”) and not just consumption, enabling participation and not just spectatorship. More generally, games can be used to foster the necessary science, technology, engineering, and mathematical (STEM) literacies so essential to our nation’s economic future. Further, rather than requiring the memorization of disembodied facts, games can foster these literacies in a manner that also builds passion and an appreciation of the relevancy of the knowledge—necessary if we are going to increase the national pipeline for STEM jobs.

Key Questions: How can we use games to motivate and teach in the STEM areas in ways that lead to deep understanding, real problem solving abilities, and really help youth prepare for careers in the 21st Century? How can we use games to teach 21st century skills like model-based reasoning, design skills, complex thinking, programming, collaboration, innovation, and facility with technical content and technology? How can games help close the skills gap and ensure that there are qualified employees for all open jobs?