Video Games With Positive Aims For Kids

Monday, September 5, 2005
By Kate Shatzkin The Baltimore Sun
Video games have been blamed for making kids fat, introducing them to sex and violence, luring them away from family conversations and shortening attention spans.
Now a small number of game makers are creating games meant to encourage young players to exercise, focus, monitor their health and even relax.
A computer game called Play Attention is used in school districts around the United States to help kids with attention-deficit disorder to focus. A company called Digital Praise — whose motto is “Glorifying God Through Interactive Media” — is selling adventure games that teach players about values such as patience and trust.
Konami’s exercise game Dance Dance Revolution, which some players say has helped them lose weight, has spawned a number of imitators. A Minnesota father has developed a glucose meter called GlucoBoy — which will hook up to Nintendo’s Game Boy — to motivate young people with diabetes by rewarding proper monitoring of blood sugar with video games.
If well-designed, the games should make parents and kids happy. Sam Groves, 15, says his parents like the nonviolent theme of Dance Dance Revolution — and the fact that the game gets him moving. He has lost 15 pounds since he started playing in December.
“They’d rather me play DDR than anything else,” said the New Windsor, Md., teen.
Marc Prensky, a game designer and author who tracks “social impact games” on a Web site, says the number of titles in that category has grown from 50 in 2000 to more than 500.
“I think there was just a growing realization that this medium is a useful one for education, that it’s already educating.”

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