U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) is taking a bit of heat this week for saying that a $113,277 grant given to Rochester's International Center for the History of Electronic Games (ICHEG) is wasteful spending. He named it as one of a hundred "unnecessary, duplicative and low-priority projects" that the federal government spent money on in 2011. He released his annual report on wasteful spending in this report. Wars were not included in his list of 100 or lawmakers bloated salaries and luxurious healthcare benefits. Coburn also failed to mention video-game related projects being designed for the CIA, training simulations that use game technology, etc. that carry price tags in the millions...
"Video games, robot dragons, Christmas trees, and magic museums. This is not a Christmas wish list, these are just some of the ways the federal government spent your tax dollars," Coburn wrote in a statement, referring readers to a report [PDF format] attempting to call out wasteful federal money spending.
International Center for the History of Electronic Games director Jon-Paul Dyson wrote a rather lengthy response on his blog (reprinted on Gamasutra) defending the grant and the idea of preserving art.
"Can we imagine how researchers in the 22nd century will view the earliest groundbreaking interactive video?," asked Dyson. "Without the work of institutions like The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games the vitality and imagination of early gaming would be lost to future generations.”
"We don’t think this should happen," he continued. "So despite this recent criticism, we pledge to continue, and even to increase, our preservation efforts in the future. Like great novels, movies, music, and paintings of the past, video games are too important to lose."
Critics argue that, despite the noble efforts, it should not be the government's (and by proxy, taxpayers') job to support or preserve the history of video games. They say that the industry should do more to support such efforts, and finding more ways of getting private funding would be the right avenue to take. But supporters point out that, in the grand scheme of things, $113,000 is a drop in the bucket compared to some of the dumb stuff our money is spent on. Both sides make valid points, but does this grant rise to the level of wasteful spending that the Senator thinks it does? No. A good example of wasteful spending is when taxpayers are paying lawmakers a salary - even when they are out raising money for re-election...