Hello iD Nation,
Most of you know that we teach many different aspects of game design at our summer camps to kids and teens ages 7-18. There is a lot to be learned when making a video game--probably more than meets the eye. The distinction here is MAKING a game versus simply playing games. With the new emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) that you might be hearing about in the news--it is important that our curriculum embody STEM principles. Call it a head fake, but as long as kids are learning in new and fun ways, and developing new problem-solving and team-building skills, who cares how the skill development is packaged?
But where do we draw the line as parents? I can tell you that I certainly never played video games when I was 4 years old. I had my Atari 2600 when I was 12 years old--and that was a fun console with many timeless arcade classics like Centipede, Donkey Kong, Frogger, and Ms. Pacman. But certainly, times have changed. Games and apps are everywhere. Mobile computing has changed the game. So what is a parent to do? Where's the line? Here's a little story that describes what goes on at my house.
If I can't find my phone around the house (it happens pretty regularly), I often know where to look. Usually it means my 4-year-old has run off with my phone to sneak a few games of Angry Birds into his "very stressful day." It is certainly important for young kids to unwind after a few hours of preschool, no doubt. But playing video games? Where does it end? Where's the line? Maybe a better question is..."Where will it lead? How can I channel it?"
It will be fun, down the road, to see where my sons take their interests in video games. As a parent, I just want my kids to be exposed to many different activities and experiences--from soccer, to biking, science class, acting, and yes, even making or creating their own iPhone apps someday. I know the general thinking is that it is hard to learn to create video games--but I am in the business of exposing kids to all sorts of fun and engaging technologies. There is tons of creativity and problem-solving when conceiving and implementing your own video games. So, I am not going to worry if my sons sneak a few games of Angry Birds in at the young ages of 4 and 6. I just wish they wouldn't be able to beat me! Which they do regularly--despite my sincere desire to win.
So, the next time you are on a plane, in the car, at home (or even just looking for your phone) and you are debating whether to let your little one's be occupied with a few minutes of game time--I say let them. As long as you balance it out with other activities. Society is evolving, for better or worse. We have seen a digital revolution in recent years--and casual games and apps work seamlessly and elegantly on your iPhone or Droid (making them ubiquitous in society--and challenging to us as parents). A few games of Angry Birds never hurt anybody. Who knows where that interest could lead? Just make sure you beat your kids at Angry Birds once in a while!
Have a great week!
PS...If you have children that are really interested in making video games, and if you want to learn a little more about the game design field, please click here.
Main image courtesy of Melinda Seckington.