To Leslie Redd, one of Valve's rare employees with an actual job description and title
, education is little more than an extension of what games are already good at. "When the developers/designers/programmers [at Valve] talk about what's good game design – the 'scaffolding' (that's of course the education word) has to happen – you're teaching the player how to ... they're learning the game mechanics as they go through it. So even though the game designers use different verbage, it's exactly the way educators talk about real growth learning and mastery of knowledge."
Rather than looking at education as the primary goal, Malaika and Redd see it as a byproduct of the gameplay experience. Their job, then, is to facilitate that gameplay. "Our job is to empower teachers to be able to do the same thing in a way they couldn't otherwise, in another medium," Malaika said.
Redd echoed that sentiment moments later. "What we're doing is we're exposing in an easy on-ramp way how that good game design is actually good learning that happens for anything at any age. So I think what we're actually doing is revealing it a bit more. We're putting the building blocks in place, we're putting the framework and the destination in place to say, 'Hey, look, these actually have relationships here. This actually has meaning.' The game that the student may be playing at home, they know that they're learning as they're doing it. I feel myself learning and my brain plasticity changing as I play Portal 2
and use the puzzle maker. And I think what we're just doing is trying to make those connections more obvious."
Steam for Schools is currently in beta on both PC and Mac, and Valve hopes it'll be ready for full release by the fall semester. "The way we release things at Valve ... we're constantly considering ourselves in a development mode. So when we release it to public, it's just one in a long series of progressively larger releases to wider audiences," Malaika said.