boy scouts badge

The Boy Scouts of America have recognized the importance of games in culture by offering a merit badge in game design for the first time. That’s a plus for the game industry’s mass appeal reach, and it also makes the Boy Scouts relevant in an age of new diversions for young people.

The youth group has spent the last two years crafting a program to enable scouts to do the work to earn the badge.

The group skirts the issue of violent video games by limiting scouts to making card, board, and dice games. But they’ll be able to create smartphone apps and generally be eligible for the badge even if they don’t code the game. Instead, they can write their ideas in a design notebook. They need to express their concept for the game and iterate upon it to get feedback from people.

The badge requirements also include analyzing games, describing what’s good or unique about them. It will also remind them of the “significance of intellectual property” in the game business. That means they won’t be able to snatch somebody else’s design and still get a merit badge. (Maybe this should be enforceable across the commercial game business?)

The Boy Scouts of America will share more at the SXSW game expo in Austin, Texas. The Boy Scouts said, “Whether it’s soccer, a family night board game, or a handheld electronic device—playing challenges us to overcome long odds, tell compelling stories, and work with or against one another. Games motivate both young and old to find creative solutions, practice new skills, and keep their brains active. Scouts who work on the Game Design merit badge will likely look at the games they play differently and with a new level of appreciation.”

The scouts have 2.6 million members between the ages of 7 and 21.