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Valve, the Bellevue company behind the Steam video-game platform and hit games such as Portal and Half-Life, is developing a new educational game to help middle-school students learn physics. It’s an outgrowth of the company’s Learn With Portals initiative, and it’s slated to debut in about six weeks.

“We’re trying to put our money where our mouth is and build a non-sucky educational game that we’re going to make available to teachers and students,” said Valve co-founder Gabe Newell, who was one of the speakers today at the Washington Technology Industry Association’s TechNW 2011 event.

“If we’re right, we should be able to make a high-quality educational experience, and if we’re wrong we’re about to get really embarrassed,” he said. “We’ll find out out if game developers have anything intelligent to say — or at least if Valve has anything intelligent to say — about education in about six weeks.”

More info on the overall initiative is at

Newell said afterward that the company plans to offer a set of tools that can be used by students to learn such principles as acceleration and friction by building their own custom levels of Portal 2, with students able to get off the ground in less than 5 minutes. The company will also offer teachers a variety of curriculum tools to assign content, track progress, and control access, among other things.

Valve is also involved in the “Digital Promise” education technology initiative recently rolled out by the U.S. Department of Education.

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