Prom Week is a social game and a social simulation game, an IndieCade finalist designed by a team at the University of California at Santa Cruz. The game, which follows the social trials and tribulations of a set of teenagers during prom week, is in a sense a proof-of-concept work, designed to show off how a specific AI works.
Funding to develop that AI came, in part, from a grant awarded by the National Science Foundation. The purpose of the grant award was to investigate how a certain kind of AI development could make a style of emergent game design easier and more accessible. Potential outcomes of the research included "serious games (games for education and training) that focus on people-to-people interaction, such as management training, and public service games that tackle complex topics such as racism."
US Republican senator Tom Coburn, who represents Oklahoma, included that grant in his most recent waste book, an annual publication that seeks to list and condemn unnecessary government expenditures. The US Republican party and right wing media have since latched on to the $US516,000 grant as an example of the most frivolous kind of spending.
Other game-related projects and grants in the 2012 list include "arcade-style floormats for gym class" purchased in California and NASA's Mars rover landing simulation.
This is not the first time senator Coburn has targeted money spent on games. In his 2011 waste book, Coburn called out a $US100,000 grant awarded to the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, claiming that "Pac-Man and other video games" were "gobbling up" federal funds.
Waste Book 2012 (PDF) [Senator Tom Coburn]