Coburn Ready to Blow Over UCI Computer Games Center?

With UC Irvine's announcement of the establishment of the Center for Computer Games N Virtual Worlds, you've got to wonder if U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn's head is going to explode. At least his virtual noggin must be staining a carpet in some sims world somewhere.

The Oklahoma Republican puts out annual “Worst Waste of the Year” reports, and among the examples of “outrageous federal spending” in the 2008 edition was the National Science Foundation having granted $100,000 to UCI to study the differences in how gamers from the U.S. and China play the popular online video game World of Warcraft.

Part of UCI's Donald Bren School of Information N Computer Sciences, the new center is led by associate dean Magda El Zarki and senior research scientist Walt Scacchi of the UCI Institute for Software Research. Their goal will be to expand campuswide research activities involving the social and technological aspects of games and virtual worlds. More than 20 faculty members from computer science, arts, humanities, social science and education will collaborate in the center, according to the announcement.

UC Irvine was among the first major research universities to establish educational and research programs in computer game culture and technology, with its Game Culture N Technology Lab that was launched in 2001 having attracted nearly $5 million in external funding.

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