How does society teach people to care? Is it something that comes to us naturally as we grow up? Do we learn it from our families, or in the classroom? Are we just born with this intuitive sense of what matters and why?
Though, the majority of people would describe themselves as caring, what does that mean when subjects that should be universal focal points of care are brushed aside by so many, so frequently?
Nowadays children growing up are spending more time alone in their rooms playing video games, detached and disconnected from what’s happening around them in the real world. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, children in the United States spend 4–9 hours a day using screens. We know that overuse of screens may lead to problems, like poor academic performance and sleep problems. Unfortunately, the pandemic has exacerbated this issue even more.
As a parent, watching this trend makes me worry about the future of the next generation and raises the question of how to best combat this issue? This has led TIME TO ACT Entertainment to focus on linking the virtual world to the real world to get children acclimated to the issues that are threatening us all.
Consider the environment, for example. We all exist in it, by default. We all breathe air and drink water. So how can environmentalism still be controversial for massive swathes of the population? Also, what about combatting race-based prejudice or the dangers of digital anonymity?
The answer lies in how we teach the next generation to think about intersectional social challenges but teaching does not mean providing information and expecting children to digest it themselves. The National Center of Biotechnology Information’s study of brain connectivity shows that the key to successfully engaging both intellect and empathy is simple: Storytelling. When we read a good book, our brains take on and process new perspectives as if they were already our own. Books can teach us empathy, but many young people crave more direct engagement. As a mother and as an activist, I believe that the future of developing socially aware, engaged young people lies within interactive media. However, more of a focus is required from the leading game publishers and studios.
Last week E3, The Electronic Entertainment Expo, was the talk of the gaming world where dozens of mostly PC and console games were announced highlighting their improved game mechanics and showcasing better graphics than the previous iteration. However, not one minute was spent discussing how to harness the power of video games to foster a generation of kids who truly care about the world around them, this is what TIME TO ACT aims to change.
We plan to combat this issue by focusing on assembling a powerful team of veterans in the gaming industry who share a similar passion for a new genre of games. This will assist in producing digital content that never sacrifices the essential elements of an amazing video game but still guides young audiences as they learn about topics ranging from online safety to environmentalism. Instead of “educational games,” the goal is to create something brand-new and distinct: “Advocacy focused interactive media.”
Games for Change has spent almost 20 years empowering video game creators who focus on driving real-world change through immersive media. Similarly, the Playing for the Planet Alliance has brought together some of the top video game studios in the world through a commitment to integrating “green activations” into their games, as well as reducing emissions and supporting forestation in the physical realm as well. Their years of innovation have made a massive impact in helping audiences rethink the relationship between games and the real world.
In my opinion, the most valuable lesson we can teach with video games — and with all media — is advocacy, social awareness, and teaching children to care about the world around them.
Gaming has already become a fabric of everyday education, with nearly 84 percent of teachers reporting that they use digital games at least once a week for their lessons. As the efficiency of video games as an effective tool for teaching is questioned less, another question arises: What are we teaching, and why?
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