Atari founder: games will revitalise classrooms

The BBC Micro Model B - remember that?
The BBC Micro Model B - remember that?

Atari founder Nolan Bushnell has claimed that the traditional classroom "as a concept died 12 years ago" and that educators must embrace videogames as an essential tool to revitalise the learning experience in schools and colleges.

Bushnell was on hand to give the opening address at this year's Game Based learning conference in London, telling the conference attendees that the virtual classroom "has to be part of any curriculum" and that gaming in the classroom is an essential part of education of vital importance to both teachers and the games industry.

Games and learning have a "long and important" future together, noted the Atari founder and Pong inventor.

Policy makers and thought leaders

According to its own publicity material, the Game Based Learning Conference brings together "policy makers, thought leaders, innovators and key practitioners meet to exchange ideas, knowledge and experiences as part of a unique ongoing conversation."

The creator of Pong was also speaking at a Q&A session at BAFTA in London this week, claiming that he found the online gaming experience "stilted and flat" and that social gaming was the future.

The Atari founder noted that online 'social' gaming experiences were not necessarily worth the amount of attention they currently receive from developers and gamers alike.

Dark rooms and pants

"Sitting in a dark room in your underpants talking to thousands of people might seem social, but it's not cool," said Bushnell. "The public space is always going to be here."

Bushnell was speaking about his latest gaming venture, 'uWink' – an "entertainment dining experience" based around touch-screen coffee tables a la the Microsoft Surface PC.

"US schools are in disarray; it's just horrible," said Bushnell. "I think the next big wave of value is in education - games are good for you. I want to leave a legacy of more than just fun."

Stay tuned for more from the Game Based Learning conference over the coming days.

Adam Hartley