Be Prepared, the motto of the Boy Scouts of America, once referred to skills like Pathfinding, Lifesaving, and Orienteering. But the introduction of a new merit badge indicates that the organization might be following their trail compass away from fire-starting and towards the digital future.
Announced today, the Game Design merit badge will encourage Scouts ages 11 to 18 to "analyze different types of games; describe play value, content, and theme; and understand the significance of intellectual property as it relates to the game industry," according to a statement from the Boy Scouts of America.
"Boys love video games, boys play video games and so we wanted to take it to that next level with things they already have a natural curiosity about, to go ahead and help think through how that game started from the concept, to a game they play now," Renée Fairrer, Public Relations Manager of the Boy Scouts of America, told Inc.
To earn the badge, Scouts design and pitch a concept for a new game, choosing to develop anything from traditional board, card, and dice games to smartphone applications. After the concept is approved, Scouts build a prototype and test it among their troop members.
The Game Design badge underlines the emphasis the Boy Scouts have placed on technology-based skills over the past five years. Scouts can already work towards badges in Inventing, Robotics, and Entrepreneurship; later this year, the organization plans to introduce badges in animation and programming.
But does a move towards digital achievements diminish the organization's longstanding reputation for introducing boys to the wonder of the great outdoors?
The Boy Scouts say no.
"We're not bringing kids in from the outside, we're not saying, 'Sit at home and do this,'" said Fairrer. "We are encouraging boys when they develop their games to test them out at scout camp with peers or even adults. This falls in line with what the program is about: meeting young people where they are, and giving them an opportunity to work on things that reflect all aspects of their life."