A list called "Government Waste: 20 Of The Craziest Things That The U.S. Government Is Spending Money On" finds several projects funded by the government related to video games. Of course lists that are considered "waste" by some groups actually have a deeper purpose than what is listed in the descriptions, but the people that put this particular list together (I hope) would know that.
At #17 on their list is a $600,000 grant given to the Minnesota Zoo by the National Science Foundation to develop an online video game called "Wolfquest". Located at WolfQuest.org, the project is actually a single-player game that is broken into two episode and a multiplayer component. In the first episode of the game players "explore the wilderness, hunt elk, and encounter stranger wolves in a quest to find a mate." In the second episode players "find a den, establish a territory, raise pups and defend them from predators such as coyotes and grizzly bears." The multiplayer component lets up to five players form a wolf pack. The point of the game is to teach players about learn about wolf ecology.
The second video-game related items land at #17. A professor at Dartmouth University received a grant for $137,530 to create a "recession-themed" video game entitled "Layoff". Located at www.tiltfactor.org , the game is not a new project by any stretch of the imagination. According to the site, "LAYOFF uses a simple casual game paradigm to comment on the current state of the US financial crisis. Both friends and strangers face tough times in an unstable economy. Part dark humor, mostly grim portent, in the game players play from the side of management needing to cut jobs, and match types of workers in groups in order to lay the workers off and increase workforce efficiency."
At #14 we find $5,000 dollars given to an unnamed Tennessee library to host a series of video game parties. We assume these are somehow related to the Wii.. Libraries love the Wii.
So what was the most outrageous distribution of federal grant money, according to the list? At #1 on this list is a study of World of Warcraft and Second Life. Around $3 million was given to researchers at the University of California at Irvine to play and study online games such as World of Warcraft. The goal is to study how "emerging forms of communication, including multiplayer computer games and online virtual worlds such as World of Warcraft and Second Life can help organizations collaborate and compete more effectively in the global marketplace."
A multitude of these entries come from Wastebook, a publication of wasteful spending put together by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). While well intentioned, these reports do not tend to do any research beyond some cursory reading of the lead description for each study they unearth. Usually there is a deeper level of research going on. To be fair, some of the entries on the list are a real waste of taxpayer funds.
Read the list with commentary here.