Video: Donkey Kong Goes to Harvard

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The "research agenda for the '80s," said the conference's guiding spirit, Inabeth Miller, director of the Gutman Library at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, was to harness the dynamic stimulation of the games to foster learning without drudgery. Sylvia Weir, a research associate at M.I.T., showed a film of an educational video game in which the user experiences the principles of Newtonian physics. One scientist indicated that the games are already serving those hardest to educate. Stephen Leff, of the Harvard Medical School, reported preliminary findings that video games' "massive capacity for eliciting attention" helped stimulate the chronically mentally ill.

Alan Kay, chief scientist of Atari, closed the conference with a vision of the video-game joy stick as a magic wand capable of creating new worlds. The video game, he said, aligned with the computer, was "a new kind of kinetic art," a medium that will allow the user to explore his own imagination. "Games are the most important thing ever invented," he noted, "because they allow us to control and amplify our fantasies."

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