Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari, pipesmoker and granddaddy of the games industry, has big plans.
"I want to fix education in the world," he said, speaking at this week's GamesBeat 2011 conference. "As soon as I work on that, I am going to work on world hunger and then world peace."
He was only half joking; his new startup Speed to Learn aims to get children learning quicker and better by integrating video game concepts and metrics into educational plans. He claims that his free online Spanish vocabulary learning system Wordplay.com works five or six times faster than the popular Rosetta Stone software, and that his games feature adaptive challenges to tailor curricula for individual users.
"The public school system with its bureaucracy and unions and bullshit are stuck," he said. "The pressure is building. There will be an earthquake. That will happen with the bankruptcy of California in two years."
Bushnell predicts that within two years, California will find itself faced with an economic crisis similar to that which Greece is currently facing, and that the federal government won't necessarily be able to help it out. Following the cuts in education that he believes are inevitable as a result of this crisis, Bushnell intends to be ready and waiting with his solution.
"Am I an ambulance chaser?" he said. "No. I will take advantage of an opportunity, called predicting the future. You may think I'm crazy. But I'm the only one who was predicting the Nintendo Wii would beat Sony's PlayStation 3."
This article originally appeared on GamePro.com as Atari Founder Wants to 'Fix Education in the World'