Developers Adapting Educational Games to New U.S Standards

New U. S standards in education are changing the way developers create educational games. GET YOUR EDUCATIONAL STANDARDS CORRECT, MATHBLASTER.

Common Core, a set of K-12 educational standards in math and language arts, has been adopted by 45 states across the United States, leading to new standards and guidelines in teaching. These new standards are an issue of hot debate right now, as many states are receiving push back and negative feedback to these newly adopted standards. According to multiple sources, including Education World and The Hechinger Report, game developers are racing to develop games that meet the standards laid out in common core.

This isn’t surprising for anyone tracking the development and implementation of video games in the  classroom. Recent research estimates that the market growth of educational games will increase substantially in the coming years; the industry of educational game is   a big and profitable one. The goal for these companies is to see their games be implemented into the classroom, which isn’t a lofty goal considering that over 70% of classrooms were found to incorporate video games in someway.

New on IOS: “Putt-Putt Reforms Education”

The number is only likely to rise in the coming years as more and more schools implement new technology into their classrooms, possibly fundamentally changing how children retain and learn new information. This is really interesting stuff, as just in the last decade we’ve seen how video games can be used as positive tools for educational reinforcement. From personal experience, educational games were used as a positive reinforcement tool in certain classes I took in elementary school. They worked, as students eagerly wanted to get their work done to be able to have more time playing games like “Sticky Bear” and “The Electric Chalkboard”. That was nearly 20 years ago, so I can’t imagine how complex and useful the games are now and days.  If this is to become a norm in education, we’ll have to track and evaluate the potential changes it has on both education and socialization.

Was there an educational game that really made a difference for you or a family member? Let me know, I’m interested to know how games shaped different learning habits.

Report on the Status of Teens’ Use of Technology in Social Life

The PEW Research Group has recently released their 2nd  of 3 reports on “Teens, Technology &  Friendships”. PEW, which describes themselves as  “a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world”,  has conducted extensive research to academically confirm something we all probably know: Teenagers are using technology  to maintain social relationships.

thispos

If you’re mind has just been blown, please take sometime to compose yourself and in the near future you might want to reconnect with society (Google has self-driving cars now, don’t be scared). The report itself is actually pretty insightful and explores how teenagers use video games in their social life more thoroughly than any study I have seen previously. It’s obviously isn’t going to be ground breaking conclusions, but a big part of sociology is academically documenting and observing trends in society.

There’s a lot of information we could go over, most of which dealing with how teens are using social media sites and apps like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to create and maintain social ties, but for the sake of only going over what most pertinently concerns this blog we’ll only be delving into the report as it concerns video games. LET’S JUMP IN:

“52% of all teens spend time with friends playing video games; 13% play with friends daily.”

In line with what the ESA reported on video game usage for 2015, this statistic doesn’t surprise me. Gamers in general are becoming more and more social, so it’s only natural that you’d see teenagers take advantage of this as well. Games like World of Warcraft and Halo are cited as specific games that have been used as tools for socialization within teen social groups.

“Overall, 72% of teens ages 13 to 17 play video games on a computer, game console or portable device. Fully 84% of boys play video games, significantly higher than the 59% of girls who play games. Playing video games is not necessarily a solitary activity; teens frequently play video games with others. Teen gamers play games with others in person (83%) and online (75%), and they play games with friends they know in person (89%) and friends they know only online (54%). They also play online with others who are not friends (52%).

This is a little confusing to read because of all the numbers. The way to read these numbers is the percentage of respondents that fell into that group. Don’t try and add them up, as individuals may fall into multiple categories (for example, a teen may respond  that he plays online regularly with friends he met online AND plays with people who are not friends).

What’s interesting here is to examine just how much video games have pervaded our culture. On whole 42%* of Americans play video games regularly, so for 72% of teenagers to play video games  regularly one can hypothesize that the number of Americans who play games regularly will probably continue to go up year to year. Likewise, just the sheer number of teens playing online is remarkable. 10 years ago that amount probably would have been halved. It’s not all that surprising, what with all major consoles being online  and the majority of AAA games having some sort of online mode, but it’s dazzling to see for someone who grew up in an era in which video games were mostly a solitary activity.

  • -38% of all teen boys share their gaming handle as one of the first three pieces of information exchanged when they meet someone they would like to be friends with; just 7% of girls share a gaming handle when meeting new friends.

  • -Of teens who have met a friend online, 57% of boys have made a friend playing video games. That amounts to 34% of all teenage boys ages 13 to 17.

These two are particularly interesting, just because these aren’t the type of statistics most studies will look into.  It makes sense that a good portion of teens making friends online would do so in a video games, as it’s a common ground for people to meet and share something they’re both interested in.  If anything, I’m more interested what the relationships of people meeting in others  online grounds would be; forums potentially have the same effect, but social media sites are more of an oddity in my mind. Regardless, it shows that technology is being used in various ways to strengthen and even create relationships.

When playing games with others online, many teen gamers (especially boys) connect with their fellow players via voice connections in order to engage in collaboration, conversation and trash-talking. Among boys who play games with others online, fully 71% use voice connections to engage with other players (this compares with just 28% of girls who play in networked environments).

This one is the statistic I found to be the most interesting, as one might be able surmise a bigger problem at work.  With 59% of girls playing video games, it’s surprising that only 28% responded that they play with voice communications. In a interview by Kotaku, a lead author of the report concluded that this means only about 9% of girls playing video games are using voice communication in online games. Why the low number? The study unfortunately does not go into why this may be, but if I had to guess I would say they may be a mix of practical and troubling reasons for the community. I don’t want to make assumptions, but it wouldn’t surprise me if one of the reasons found were because teens girls had negative experiences when playing online with others. I’ll leave it there.

This chart is exemplifies this gender difference between how male and females are using video game communities. For boys, video games are being used as social outlets in the same way text messaging and social media is being used, which is something one might not automatically assume.

There’s much more in depth analysis in the report itself, which can be found here in its entirety. The grand take way to the entire report is that technology isn’t causing the social relationships of teens to diminish. Yes, teens aren’t connecting the same way they did 20 years ago, but they’re still connecting and the social bonds they create aren’t any less real or solid. Technology, in many ways, is augmenting the ways we connect with others and even allowing us to reach groups and people that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to connect with.  So, the next time you see a teen on their phone don’t scoff or dream of the “good ol’ days”, just realize that society advances and restructures how we socialize.

*Data from ESA 2015 Report

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Time’s “Everything You Know About Boys and Video Games Is Wrong”

A new Time’s piece is claiming that everything you know about boys and video games is wrong. I don’t know if exclusive knowledge on either subject is false, but you may as well throw away all of your beliefs about both boys and video games. Rosalind Wiseman, whose work you probably have experienced without even knowing it (Her book was the basis for the movie “Mean Girls” for example) explores how middle school and highschool boys view sexism in video games. Should we care? Is this study worth your time?  “Forget Everything You Know About Research Studies”

The interest in the subject matter began when she started noticing her students being annoyed by overly sexualized characters in their handheld games (Candy Crush 3 features some real bosomy candy bars). She specifically mentions “Game of War” which is an incredibly popular mobile game that has, as its mascot, Kate Upton dressed in a outfit very inappropriate for the battlefield. Thus, she decided to team with her research group to survey kids from across the country to get their perspective on sexism in the video game industry. She surveyed  more than 1,400 middle and high school students with a questionnaire that asked them to agree or disagree with certain statements relating to sexism and objectification of females in gaming. The results, she claims, will stun you (They probably wont).

To preface, I want talk about the presumption the article takes: it assumes that young boys are drawn to games that features women in scantily clad clothing and feature a male protagonist.  This assumption is an odd one, as teenagers and middle school students aren’t the target audience for games that feature these characters. Obviously puberty is difficult and young boys hormone are insane, but that doesn’t mean they want sexism or objectified women in all aspects of their lives. If anything,  I would argue that young men have more shame when it comes to characters being over sexed because they  feel embarrassed to play games with on-screen characters they don’t want their family seeing. Adults, on the other hand, could care or less, which is why they are the target audience for games with more explicit characters. As such, I don’t think a results that claim that boys are “more progressive” than we believe is a stunning new finding.

Terrible anecdote time: From my own personal experience, I wouldn’t have wanted to play or had games around that featured sexist characters.  For example when I was a teenager, I wasn’t particularly proud of playing Final Fantasy X-2 at points. It’s a perfectly harmless game that features the games heroines in ridiculous outfits, but otherwise it’s actually a pretty solid game. Being a fan of the original I naturally wanted to play the sequel, but was embarrassed at times because some of the silly and ridiculous scenarios and outfits the game would place the characters in. I also knew others who chose not to play the game as a result (Probably more so because it looks like a girls game, but regardless). FFX-2 is also a very low offending game, so I can’t imagine how others would feel with more explicit characters and games.

Nevertheless, back to the claims:

Boys believe female characters are treated too often as sex objects

47% of middle school boys agreed or strongly agreed, and 61% of high school boys agreed or strongly agreed. “If women are objectified like this it defeats the entire purpose of fighting,” Theo, an eighth-grader who loves playing Mortal Kombat, told us. “I would respect the [female] character more for having some dignity.”

This one is the that’s garnering the most debate. It’s a difficult thing asking middle-school children about objectification, as it’s a complex concept that a lot of them may not understand. That said, the results aren’t as overwhelmingly positive as piece seems to make them out to be.  If only 47% of middle schoolers and 61% of highschoolers agreed with the statement that women are being objectified it leaves a healthy portion of kids that either don’t agree or have no particular opinion on the matter.  I have other issues with the research method (or lack there of in terms of description), but we’ll come back to those issues.

Both boys and girls aren’t more likely to play a game based on the gender of the protagonist

70% of girls said it doesn’t matter and 78% of boys said it doesn’t matter. Interestingly, boys care less about playing as a male character as they age and girls care more about playing as a female one.

With more female characters in gaming becoming the norm, it’s positive to see this response.  I have a sneaking suspicion that this question was influenced by the wording however, as the results are almost too overwhelmingly in favor of not caring whether the protagonist is male of female. Likewise, I’ll discuss that a little more in a bit.

Girls play a variety of game genres

26% played first-person shooter games like Call of Duty and HALO, 36% played role-playing games like Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto, and 17% played sports games like FIFA and Madden. (19% did not play games, compared to 3% of boys.)

This one if the most straightforward, and represents a lot of the data that the ESA reported on with their yearly findings.

The survey isn’t currently available and I haven’t been able to find a copy of it. If I had a better sense of what was asked I could make a more informed decision on this study, but as of right now it’s all conjecture. I bring up that I’m unsure of the answers, as the statements seem like they could have been led in some way. The way someone phrases a question can dramatically effect the way someone answers it. For example, a questionnaire that asks “Do you care if the video game protagonist is your same gender” is a radically different question than ” Who do you prefer to play as: Male, Female, or it doesn’t matter”. This isn’t to suggest that the results would be different, but if you’re going to make bold claims that claims everything we know is wrong, you should have a strong methodology to back up your research. This takes us to the surveys bigger issue:

roswise

The gaming community is questioning some of the research methods, as it seems that a portion of the respondents were distributed via twitter and using Survey Monkey.  That right there is a red flag, as one’s twitter following is clearly not representative of a general population and  survey monkey in no way  prevents people from lying about their age to take the survey.  These two facts alone are grounds to throw the whole thing into question, as it’s just not proper science.

It’s a shame, as this is an interesting question and one that, with a proper methodology, could potentially yield similar results. If video Games  are to become an academic medium then we must adhere to tried and true forms of scientific methodology. Faux science isn’t going to cut it.

League of Legends Players Write Open letter to Parents

A few days ago a forum post appeared on The League of Legends Official forums stating that is was “Open Letter to Parents of League of Legends Players”. In the letter the author urges parents to think about their effect on other players when they force their children to stop playing due to playtime restrictions, bedtimes, etc. Kotaku later reposted the forum post, calling it sensible reading.

Some quotes from the post:

This is an online game. In most cases, your child is playing with real people.Please take a moment to understand how this game’s person-to-person interaction functions. In the past, I have seen numerous stories of children who routinely disconnect mid-game because it’s bedtime, or their parents decide that they’ve played enough for the day. Some of these stories have come from parents themselves, proudly stating that they are firm about making their children stop playing at a specific time.

If a game is in progress, do not interrupt it unless it is an emergency. You are affecting up to 10 people, not just your child.Feel like checking your e-mail on the same computer? Please wait until the game is over so you don’t completely ruin things for the real people on your child’s teamIs a game that started 90 minutes before bedtime somehow still in progress at 87 minutes? Please allow him to finish the match so you don’t completely ruin things for the real people on your child’s team. Games almost never last that long, and if people lose due to a teammate quitting after spending that much time on a match, they are likely to be more upset than usual.

It’s not the most insane thing to write: people are tired of their League of Legends games being disrupted and ended when people drop out. However, when should a video game be prioritized over the desires of parents or guardians? Probably an uphill battle you’ll be fighting there LOL players. I’ll admit, it is a cordial way of writing about an issue plaguing many LOL players, but should parents really have to amend their parenting to adapt for a child’s gaming habits? That’s a hard to thing to push for. I haven’t personally played League of Legends, but I can’t imagine the problem is great enough to declare that parents need to amend their parenting to accommodate players.

Parents have a hard enough time raising their children without having to worry about the schedule and feelings of their children’s online friends and groups.  Believe it or not, something are more important in the long run than a League of Legends ranked matched. A parent has the right to enforce the rules that they put forth.

The forum post points out that it is the responsibility of the parent to teach their children proper etiquette when it comes to having responsibilities to others and scheduling game sessions for when they know they can complete them, but there’s only so much a parent can do; there’s not much stopping a child from starting a game, even if they know the potential consequences. Life happens and sometimes a League of Legends match may be stopped midway because someone dropped out. Worse things can happen than your ranking suffering.  The post then comes off somewhat ignorant and bossy to parents, since it’s assuming that something in their parenting is causing the problem. In the end it’s probably a deceleration to no one, as it’s highly unlikely that the post will ever reach the ears of parents.

I find this issue really interesting, as seeing gaming and parenting conflict in such a way  really goes to show how much games have developed in the last 10 years. Years ago you would hear kids scream “I can’t save yet!” or “I’m in the middle of a level”, situations in which the consequences only really effect the child, but now parenting and turning off games can effect people thousands of miles away. An action in one’s video game has much bigger social ripples than it has in the past.

Who knows how the next generation of parents will be changed having grown up with similar scenarios; will they be more receptive to dilemmas facing online gaming communities?

Can Video Games Help Alleviate Dyslexia?

Can Video Games Help Alleviate Dyslexia?

A recent study out of the University of Padua in Italy found some interesting findings on the results that video games have on those with dyslexia.  The study, although very small, found that participants with dyslexia had their reading speeds increased after sessions of playing action-based video games. This begs the question: Can video games help kids with dyslexia improve their reading ability?

The Study: A research group at the University of Padua measured the improvements in reading scores of 20 kids with dyslexia after playing video games. One group had nine 80 minute sessions of playing an action-based video games, while the other group had nine 80-minute sessions of playing a non-action based video games. Essentially, one group played something akin to Sonic and one group played something akin to Professor Layton

Stay away from my dyslexic kids LAYTON!

The Results:

The study found that the kids who played action-based video games had their reading speeds increase moreso than those who played the non-action-based video game. Likewise, the scores outpaced the normal improvements children with dyslexia naturally gain over the course of a year. Thus, there seems to some evidence to suggest that playing action-based games that require a lot of shifting of attention may help kids with dyslexia improving their reading speed.

It can’t just be Krato’s menacing stare that is causing these improvements with action-based video games and not others. The researchers suggest that action-based video games hone visual attention skills, which are lacking in children with dyslexia. Action-based video games help hone these skills by constantly making the player shift their attention and focus in game. This could mean that children with dyslexia can actually benefit from scheduled playtime with games that are more action based. An issue for many parents with kids with dyslexia, the article points out, has been keeping their children’s interest in the programs meant to help alleviate dyslexia, an issue video games typically don’t have with kids.

Obviously more study will have to be done on this issue before anyone can call it definitive evidence, but it is interesting to say the least. I would be interested to see how video games rank in helping dyslexia compared to the gains found in organized programs, if such results are found. But who knows, maybe this is something parents with kids with dyslexia look into- they’ll be playing video games already most likely, so why not choose something a little more action based like Sonic or Mario Kart