Posts Tagged ‘ video games ’

National STEM Video Game Challenge Encourages Game Lovers to Create Their Own Games

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

If your middle or high school video game loving child dreams of creating the very games they enjoy playing, the National STEM Video Game Challenge kicks off their search for original video games created by teens this month. For the third year in a row, the competition’s goal is to increase interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects by tapping into a natural passion for video games. Playing video games allows kids to conceptualize new games in their heads while STEM topics are required in order to develop complex environments and scenarios for game play.

“Today far too many young Americans face an opportunity divide – a gap between those who have the education, skills or opportunities to achieve their dreams and those who do not. At the same time, our nation faces an increasing shortage of individuals with the skills necessary to fill the high-tech jobs of today and tomorrow, “said Fred Humphries, Vice President of U.S. Government Affairs at Microsoft.  “The National STEM Video Game Challenge is one way we can help expose youth to the interesting opportunities available in our industry.  These exciting projects show that developing technology skills can lead long-term to fun, innovative careers.”

Students who are interested in submitting original video games for the competition should visit the National STEM Video Game Challenge that features resources including game design tools and activities. There are competitions for individual games or those created collaboratively by a team of 4. Entries can be made with Gamestar Mechanic, Gamemaker, Kodu, Scratch, or Open Platform tools and awards are given at the middle and high school level for each entry stream.

While the process of creating a game is rewarding, each individual winner and member of a winning team will received an AMD-powered laptop computer with game design and educational software. Winning entries will also earn $2,000 for their school or nonprofit organization of their choice.

Last year more than 3,700 middle and high school youth participated in the 2012 Challenge sponsored by tech companies such as AMD Foundation, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and the Entertainment Software Association. This year’s Challenge will also unite a corps of outreach partners and mentors who will be instrumental in supporting youth and teacher participation including BrainPop, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting PBS KIDS Ready To Learn Initiative, Learning Games Network and Edmodo. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Hive NYC Learning Network are also involved to reach out to underserved youth across the country through hands-on game design workshops and other supplemental curriculum activities.

Image courtesy of the National STEM Video Game Challenge

 

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6 Must-Have Video Games for Elementary Ages

Friday, November 30th, 2012

With new video games coming out each fall, it can be overwhelming to know what titles are most age appropriate at a glance. Since elementary ages vary in their skills and ability to handle mature content, check ESRB ratings and then read reviews on trusted sites like Common Sense Media to get a better sense of the game before you buy. Even if you purchase a game and find that it’s not a good fit for your family, stores such as GameStop purchase your used games for credit to put towards new ones or cash. To save yourself the hassle of returning games post-holiday, here are six games that are hot in our house with our 6-year-old son and almost 9-year-old daughter.

Just Dance 4 for Xbox 360 with Kinect, Wii, and PlayStation 3— Music loving kids will love this popular family friendly game that features popular songs from artists such as Flo Rida, One Direction, Carly Rae Jepsen, Ricky Martin, Pink, Maroon 5, and Rihanna. Also, you may not want to share this with your kids who are addicted to Gangnam Style but there’s a new Psy-inspired dance experience to the hot song for Xbox users.

Mario Kart 7 for Nintendo DS ($39.99)— Kids who love the Wii console game and driving the cars with the controller will enjoy Mario Cart 7 on their DS just as much. They can still choose their own characters and customize their vehicles while experiencing the fun of racing as on the Wii. The 3DS also allows kids engage in wireless matches or plug in for online gaming with friends.

Scholastic’s Digging for Dinosaurs for Nintendo DS ($19.99)—  Budding archaeologists and paleontologists will enjoy separating facts from myths as they learn facts about dinosaurs through game play. Kids will love pretending to be various types of dinosaurs through game play.

Kinect Nat Geo TV for Xbox with Kinect— Nature lovers will enjoy learning about wildlife living in North America from the comfort of their living room. This new title is part of Xbox Kinect’s new playful learning titles that are fun, engaging, and educational all at the same time. Kids immerse themselves in the game thanks to images captured by the Kinect’s camera and will delight in seeing their face as an owl and other animals as they learn through play.

Harry Potter Wonderbook: Book of Spells for PlayStation Move ($79.99)— This first Sony Wonderbook title uses augmented reality to immerse Muggles into the wizarding world and transports you to Hogwarts while sitting in the comfort of your own home. Use the Playstation Move controller with the Book of Spells and and the unremarkable book containing strange symbols becomes a spell book that players can use to learn proper wand usage before tackling challenges that Harry Potters fans will recognize from the books and movies. The Move camera puts a player’s image on the screen to truly engage you in the story as is essential to game play.

Harry Potter for Kinect ($49.99)— Young witches and wizards immerse themselves in the wizarding world to experience moments and challenges depicted in the story and each of the eight films. Players start with a visit to Ollivanders to select a wand before setting off to Hogwarts. Other beginning tasks include measuring and mixing in Snape’s potions class, dueling, and immersing your whole body in a Quidditch challenge with the Slytherins while bobbing and weaving through opponents while looking for the Golden Snitch.

 Happy father and his children playing video games at home via Shutterstock

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Positive Benefits of Video Gaming

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Do you play video games as a family?  Are you ashamed to admit it? 

Video games often get a bad rap because they’re viewed as conduits to excessive screen time and game addiction but did you know that there are positive benefits to gaming?

High-tech parenting expert, Scott Steinberg, and author of The Modern Parent’s Guide to Kids and Video Games and the free Why Video Games are Good For You believes that it’s time to stop criticizing video games because “research is quickly demonstrating that gaming can be a perfectly beneficial and well-rounded part of a healthy, balanced media diet.”  Steinberg says the new family friendly games “promote exercise and physical activity, encourage socialization and leadership, and foster dynamic problem-solving and decision-making skills – all areas of tremendous benefit to kids and adults alike.”

There’s no doubt that gaming platforms like the Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360 with Kinect, and Playstation 3 with Move encourage physical activity more than the Atari and Commodore 64 did for previous generations but the games themselves are improving thanks to constantly improving technology and thoughtful development by game designers.  Everything from the look and feel of the game’s graphics to audio and interaction with content is an important part in creating an immersive experience that draws kids in to the game whether they are holding the controller or waiting their turn.

Earlier this year my daughter and I were invited on a press trip that included a preview of the not yet released Kinect Star Wars.  Game designers carefully watched as kids played the game and as a parent on the sidelines, the level of physical activity and interaction between kids stood out.  Kids were invited to test the game one at a time, leaving an anxious group on the sidelines who waited patiently but shouted out tips and suggestions for their friends as they navigated the pod racing course, making the experience increasingly social.

The level of social interaction, healthy competition, and problem solving that I witnessed among the kids playing Kinect Star Wars is something that Harvard Medical School researcher Cheryl Olson, ScD, found in her research with 1,000 public school students. Through her interviews and data, she found that “parent-approved video games played in moderation can help young kids develop in educational, social, and physical ways.” Olson said that games don’t have to be labeled as educational teaching in order to encourage planning, creative self-expression, exercise, healthy competition, and leadership.

As you keep an eye on screen time and balance it out with a variety of other activities, do these recent findings make you feel better about playing video games as a family? Do you believe the research based on your experience watching your kids play?

Animated family playing video game via Shutterstock

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