Video Games Help  Tagged Articles RSS Feed | Video Games Help  RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network Video Games Help Teach Empathy Fri, 06 Dec 2013 16:52:47 -0500 Coatedpolecat

Kids can be so cruel sometimes

I remember the first time I felt rejection, I bought a hand crafted, beautiful leather-beaded bracelet for my 3rd grade crush across the hall in school. I saved up the money for weeks (that's a long time in kid days) then got my teachers permission to go across the hall and present the gift to the unsuspecting girl. Upon receiving that gift, she immediately turned around and threw it in the trash. My little heart sank and I ran back to the classroom crying. Kids can sometimes be cruel, and be completely unaware of this. How else are you supposed to learn things like empathy, sympathy, or just waiting for someone to leave before you throw away their gift. As sad as that story is, imagine if either one of us had practice with social que's and knew how to act in those situations; or at least how to cope with the outcome. What if I told you someone is making a game to help with kids' empathy.

So... it's not a football game?

Trip Hawkins, formerly of Apple, left to create what we now know as EA Sports. Mr. Hawkins left EA and has another company, a new idea, and is tackling it head on. He wants to help kids learn empathy and how to deal with different situations in real life. That's right, the man who helped make the most known football simulator, is creating an emotion simulator. Trip has established a new company called "If You Can" and is making their first game - an app for the iPhone called If.. The game If. gives multiple choice answers, à la Mass Effect, as you save the local town with the help of magical creatures.

In the Mass Effect series, the creators adjusted each iteration and its mechanics based on feedback gathered through players choices and how they played the game, thanks to the Internet. Hawkins plans on harnessing this technology and all it's information. Trip suggests we can now use this data for both social and educational purposes, he explains:

"In the past you couldn't do it at all because the customer was playing a game in the basement on a machine that's not hooked up to the Internet. Once you bring the Internet into the equation, it's much easier to figure out what your problem is and how to improve the product."

The data compiled will bring the town called Greenberry to life. This town's made up of both cats and dogs. Unsurprisingly these two townsfolk don't get along very well, and your goal is to resolve their problems. As you help your fellow Greenberrian, you are collecting magical animals (like Enchanted Arms or Pokemon) to battle others. At times you might fail. That means your animals may perish. But the game helps you through that loss. It teaches you that it's okay to lose, and how to cope with failure. One of the co-founders, Berlinksi adds:

"The messaging that kids get in real life and certainly in schools is not that failure is OK -- but in-game environments, 80 percent of the time, gamers are failing, yet they are completely motivated to keep going," she says. "So something is going on there that is very positive. And we need to capitalize on that."

Coping with loss and teaching how to learn from failure is something some people struggle with well into adulthood. With proof that simulating emotions can help kids make better decisions, coupled with streaming results to the developer, this project shows a lot of promise. Supposedly there's appropriate staff to help with the psychological aspects of this. I'm really looking forward to the finished product these people come up with. I hope it does what it aspires to, which is to help teach empathy and dealing with emotions of loss/failure with kids.

We've come a long way, but still much further to go

There's more and more games showing us their ability to educate our kids, I think we'll see more games also replicate real social circumstances, like If. As much as I loved Number Munchers and Oregon Trail, I have nothing but excitement knowing my children will be in the middle of this video game reinvention. To think someone is collecting data on how to develop my child's emotions is a little odd. But as long as we have the right people working behind these projects with the best of intentions, I'm okay with it. And hopefully this game will spare at least one kid the experience I had in 3rd grade.



Video Games Help Families Stay Together Tue, 19 Nov 2013 20:59:44 -0500 Coatedpolecat

Fortunate Son

As a child I was fortunate to have a mother who understood the positive side of gaming. The hours spent trying to get past levels together, that "one more game" of an intense Tetris series, finding out Samus from Metroid was really a woman. All those memories and conversations helped build an incredible bond that we still share today. One that was also shared with my only brother, a common ground that we enjoyed and still celebrate together today - video games.

I'm not alone in this experience, nor does it pertain to just family. I can't begin to count on either hand how many friends I've made from playing games. If nothing else having that in common as a conversation starter helped. For instance my wife (we were dating at the time) and I bonded immensely while playing sports games cooperatively, competing in golf tournaments, and taking turns playing Oblivion for hours. I can even recall being hit in my sleep for several consecutive nights. My wife would swing her arm like a sword in her sleep, yelling "I swing! I swing!" as she fought mountain lions in her dreams.

You said I need to do what Doc?

Those kinds of stories and memories are lasting and plentiful amongst the gaming community. There's even a study that helps support the idea that video games can help bring people together. Over at Queensland University of Technology they've published a study saying that games indeed do help with socialization and can help families and friends bond. The Daily Telegraph interviewed the director of QUT's games research and interaction design lab, Doctor Daniel Johnson. Dr. Johnson had this to say about the effects of gaming together:

"We are seeing clear evidence of improvements in mood, stress reduction, increased feeling of competence and autonomy and really strong feelings of being connected with the people they are playing with,"

Does this mean you should let your child play games all day? Absolutely not. In both my opinion and Dr. Johnson's, kids should only "play 5-10 hours" per week. There's a need for a well balanced media diet. TV, movies, books, and video games are all media ingrained in our culture, so why shield a child from culture? Wouldn't that make it even more difficult to have those conversations some "94% of children ages 6-15 play[ing] video games" are having? Dr. Johnson had this to add:

"But how you play is more important than how much or what you play - so if kids are playing with friends or family and playing cooperatively, then that's really going to help them build relationships."

If you have nothing nice to say...

It would seem that since video games have become such a predominant entertainment medium, it's a good thing socially to always be on the up-and-up about video games (I would've never thought that as a child). What we can take away from this research is that our video games can do more than just entertain us... they can bring us closer together and help mold real bonds. There are many more stories out there besides mine. I've even interviewed other journalists and podcasters  that drove this point home. But nothing's quite like complied data to help sway the masses.

The next time you sit down to play a game, see if someone wants to take turns, or play with you; maybe just plug in your mic, you never know when you might meet another friend or just a good gaming buddy online. Having conversations is where it starts. I hope more studies like this surface to help highlight the positive side of gaming. It reinforces why I'm so passionate about video games, it's not just the software or hardware, it's the people I experience it with.