Video game

Social Distancing and Video Games: A New Way to Learn and Interact – Observatory of Educational Innovation

Last March, one of the most widely used platforms worldwide to play online games, Steam, surpassed 20 million active users, while the “Call of Duty: Warzone” game reached 15 million. In May, “Animal Crossing” attained 11 million players.

An unprecedented digital exodus is happening in the community of gaming fans. However, how does this relate to social distancing and the mental health of children and young people?

Because of the precautionary measures that have closed millions of schools and college campuses around the world, students find themselves not only in need to continue learning but also in search of interaction and socialization outside the school to continue developing their social skills and emotional intelligence. Surprisingly, that space is being filled with video games.

A change in the gamer community

Before the pandemic, the interest of video game fans dominated the dynamics of the gaming community. People meeting each other in multiplayer video game sessions usually became friends after playing the same title and joining the game consistently in the multiplayer modes. Nowadays, we are experiencing the phenomenon in reverse. Young girls and boys use the gaming platforms to have contact with friends from school from whom they have become estranged because of the social distancing measures.

The video game creation platform Roblox is one of the most used by students to engage in cooperative online activities, be creative, and maintain a healthy frequency of social interaction with other children and young people.

Roblox is similar to Minecraft in the sense that it provides users with a set of tools to create various environments from scratch. Yet, Roblox takes it a step further, facilitating the creation of complete games that can be shared and sold on the platform. In this way, the players are not only having fun and sharing with other users but also learning the basics of how a game is structured based on code.

A game with a purpose

The response of children and young people to games that allow them to be creative and social has been enormous. Roblox has 120 million active users per month. According to company statistics, 52% of adolescents are spending more time with friends they previously knew in person, and 69% are playing more because of the isolation conditions imposed by the pandemic.

Besides the positive effects that this exercise of creativity and socialization is having on students, these types of games offer the possibility not only of learning to program video game designs but also really earning an income by creating a new game.

Success stories about young programmers who used Roblox to potentialize their intellectual properties (IPs) show the power of the platform beyond its use as a creative pastime and a vehicle for interactions to alleviate the effects of isolation.

Josh Correira, who will begin his second year at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, already receives $4,000 per month income through a video game design he made in Roblox. Alex Balfanz was able to pay his tuition at Duke University with the winnings from the game Jailbreak, designed in Roblox. This learning through gaming can occur at a very early age. Balfanz commented to Mashable that he started designing at Roblox when he was only nine years old.

David Baszucki, the Roblox CEO, spoke to Betabeat about the benefits of these types of platforms. “I think they are realizing how talented they are at an early age, and a wide variety of things, whether its game design, development, writing code, creating digital assets [or] marketing.” Moreover, Baszucki explained that gaming could be an entry ticket to become interested in a career in computer sciences or the arts. A well-applied pastime with the supervision of parents and teachers can be a handy tool not only to help children and young people to cope with the current pandemic but also to help them forge a profession based on skills that will be even more relevant in the near future.

What learning moments based on gaming do you use to keep your students motivated? Tell us in the comments section.


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