Drug testing

How Kids Learn To Cooperate In Video Games -- A Guide for Parents and Teachers

A great many parents are concerned that the electronic games their kids play are teaching the kids "negative" messages such as aggression, violence, and isolation from real people. I want to illustrate here how computer and video game playing, can have positive effects on kids. This includes even the "addictive" game playing associated with many of these games. The learning from these games is well worth the effort the kids put in playing them, and kids typically sense this at some level, which is one reason they fight so hard for their games.

One key lesson many of their games is teaching them is the value of people working together and helping each other. To illustrate how this occurs, I will use one particular game, Toontown, as an example.

Toontown (www.toontown.com) is the Walt Disney Company's entry into the Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) category. For the non-initiated, that means a computer game that supports thousands of players online simultaneously, all of whom can see and interact with each other. A key feature of these worlds is that they are "persistent," meaning that the worlds continue to exist and change whether or not you are there, just any other place in the real world.

[Note: There are two types of multiplayer online games, both of which have their advantages. One type, the "multiplayer" game, lets you interact with a limited group of people, such as those on your team or squad, in a game world that typically exists for only the time you are playing. The game America's Army is a good example of this. The second type, the "massively multiplayer" game, lets you interact with everyone you meet in the ongoing world. Massively multiplayer games like EverQuest, Asheron's Call, and Dark Age of Camelot have captured the time and imaginations of hundreds of thousands of US teenage and older players. The Korean massively multiplayer game Lineage has over 4 million registered users, often with up to half a million players on-line at once. The players typically meet in relatively thinly-populated areas of very large and often interconnected virtual worlds, so even with these huge numbers, it is not like pushing your way through Times Square on New Year's Eve.]

Toontown is the first massively multiplayer game designed specifically designed for younger kids (pre-teens, I think, though they don't specifically say.) In addition, many older kids and even adults enjoy playing it. In the game you create, name and dress a character, and then you take it out to play in the virtual world. Your character is the representation ("avatar") of you playing in the world ? it is the "you" that other players know.

Although if you wanted to you could spend your entire time in Toontown merely running around the virtual world, the "object" of the game is to defeat "Cogs," members of the evil gang that wants to take over the town. The Cogs to fight come in many varieties and strengths. To defeat a Cog you employ "gags"? such as squirt bottles or pies in the face ? that you purchase with jelly bean currency that you earn in a number of ways.

In your early days in Toontown, when you have earned relatively few gags, you typically run around alone, deciding when to confront a low-level Cog you pass in the street. (You do this by running into it.) You and the Cog then square off and do battle, taking turns throwing gags at each other. If you defeat the Cog, he explodes and you are rewarded with points towards additional gags. If the Cog defeats you, you "die," which means you lose all your gags (although, importantly, you do not lose the "experience" you attained ? i.e. the types and levels of gags you are allowed to purchase and use.)

There are a lot of other twists, but that's essentially the game: Earn and buy gags, use them to fight Cogs.

But here's where the cooperative part comes in. As you move to higher experience levels, the tasks you are required to accomplish become more and more difficult. You often have to "rescue" buildings that the Cogs have taken over, buildings that have multiple floors filled with high-level, hard-to-defeat Cogs.

And you can't do this alone, no matter how much experience you have. So you begin to learn to play the game with others. The game encourages this, with "friends lists" and built in "speed chat" menus consisting, for kids' protection, of a limited number of phrases you can use. For example, you can invite your friends to help you defeat a building (or, if you prefer, you can just wait outside for others to show up.)

But it gets subtle. Just because someone is your friend (or wants to be) or happens to show up, doesn't mean he or she has the experience to defeat the higher-level Cogs. You can check out someone's gags when they are in range to help you decide whom to work with, but success depends not only on the level and number of gags one has, but also on knowing how to use them in battle. You learn over time what players you want on your team to achieve success in particular situations. Sometimes, to be sure all of you survive, you have to reject players who ask to work with you on a certain task. One of the things you can say through the speed chat is "I think this is too risky for you." Just as in the real world, such advice is not always well-received, and the game gives you the opportunity to learn to deal with this.

In the midst of any battle ? players typically fight higher-level Cogs in groups of four ? a player can choose, rather than to throw a gag at the Cogs, to instead give his or her fellow players additional "laff points" (i.e. health). Doing this helps prevent them from "dying" and dropping out of the battle. One skill typically gained from frequent play is knowing when to help your teammates versus when to attack the Cogs. This is not trivial. One adult player described her first battle with ultra-high-level Cogs as "extremely nerve wracking," and characterized the strategies she had to employ to work successfully with the other players as "the most emotional experience I've ever had in a game." And this is the version for kids!

And there is yet another way Toontown players learn there is value in cooperation. Some of the tasks available to higher-level players allow them to earn jelly beans by helping out new players. When these experienced players see a Newbie fighting a Cog on the street, they can join in and assist. When the Cog is defeated, both the experienced player and the Newbie get rewarded game at their own level.

Is it Boring?

Still, while the tasks at the start of the game involve defeating only one Cog at a time and the tasks at higher levels require players to defeat hundreds of Cogs on their way to liberate bigger and bigger buildings, the battles are very similar. "Isn't that boring?" I asked one "addicted" player. "After all it's basically the same thing over and over ? fighting Cogs."

"I like going up the levels," she replied. And of course the only way she can do this is by learning to cooperate well with real people, in real time ? while sitting at her own computer.

I encourage readers of this article to try Toontown, both with your kids, and even on your own. (You can go to www.toontown.com to get started.) See how far you can get. If you happen to enjoy the experience, you can go on to the aforementioned "older players'" games, where the enemies are fantasy monsters and the buildings castles to storm, yet where the principles of cooperation are basically the same. If you actually get addicted to cooperative play, don't blame me ? these games are designed to reel you in.

But even if you don't get hooked yourself ? and the more you are from the "Digital Immigrant" generation the less likely it is that you will ? hopefully you will have learned this important and generally-overlooked lesson:

What keeps the kids playing these games is not the violence (that's all fake and the kids know it), but rather the ability to work together with others to achieve more and more difficult goals.

Can you think of any skill more useful for children to spend their time learning? I can't.

About The Author

Marc Prensky is an internationally acclaimed speaker, writer, consultant, and designer in the critical areas of education and learning. He is the author of Digital Game-Based Learning (McGraw-Hill, 2001). Marc is founder and CEO of Games2train, a game-based learning company, and founder of The Digital Multiplier, an organization dedicated to eliminating the digital divide in learning worldwide. He is also the creator of the sites and . Marc holds an MBA from Harvard and a Masters in Teaching from Yale. More of his writings can be found at . More of Marc's writings on the positive effects of video games can be found at www.marcprensky.com/writing/default.asp.

marc@games2train.com

In The News:

A unique 2,000-year-old stone inscription unearthed in Israel has thrilled archaeologists.
A fire and rescue squad in California said they’re trying to find the owner of a tortoise that was discovered by paramedics Thursday taking a slow-and-steady stroll in El Cajon.
One of the most prized possessions of Brazil's National Museum has been found amid debris after a massive fire on Sept. 2 sent the building up in flames.
A 12-pound meteorite that blasted from the moon was sold at a Boston auction for the out-of-this-world price of $612,500 on Friday.
California residents were stunned to watch a fireball of space junk shoot across the sky and fall onto a nearby ranch last week.
Golfers in St. Petersburg, Florida, were shocked when they saw a massive rattlesnake slithering across the course.
New Jersey workers were cleaning up the Pequannock River in Bloomingdale's Sloan Park to prepare for a flood mitigation project Thursday when they spotted a stone with an unusual marking.
An extremely rare menu from Titanic’s doomed maiden voyage to New York is up for auction in the U.K. this weekend.
An invasive insect species native to China, India, and Vietnam is posing a problem in at least two states in the northeastern and southeastern part of the country.

Responsible Fatherhood - A Unique And Irreplaceable Role!

Something happened the other day that made me feel uneasy.... Read More

Teenagers in America Today

"Family Matters" was the headline that caught my attention in... Read More

The Muffed Dance

Teri was 5. As younger siblings do, she looked up... Read More

Tackle, Tackle

I don't know how people raise daughters because I have... Read More

EEG Biofeedback Training as a Treatment Option for ADHD

The popularity of EEG Biofeedback Training continues to grow both... Read More

Mothers Day Tribute

As Mother's Day approaches I would like to give a... Read More

Is Your Teen Stressed? Teach Them How to Manage Their Time, Schoolwork, and Leisure Activities

I hear from many parents that their child is stressed... Read More

Playground Pettiness

Recently I took my two children to a popular new... Read More

My Sons Deployment

One of the most difficult struggles in life for a... Read More

After the Driving School

If you visit search engines you can find several resources... Read More

The Science of Mother Love

A growing body of scientific evidence shows that the way... Read More

Of Kings and Youth Leadership

(Isaiah 11:6 KJV) The wolf also shall dwell with the... Read More

Psychological Effects of Child Abuse

Many children who suffer from the psychological effects of child... Read More

Back to School Responsibilities Again

It's that time of year when mom and dad look... Read More

Strategies to Help Boost Your Childs Self Esteem

Self esteem in an important quality for all children to... Read More

Safe From Strangers

There are few thoughts as terrifying as the abduction of... Read More

When Parents Disagree

Moms and dads, are there times you think that parenting... Read More

Life Stuck In Fast Forward

the woes of being a parent of an ADHD child.....Like... Read More

Old Wives Tales and Other Things That Just Might Help with ADHD

Here are some tips that I have picked up from... Read More

The Top 10 Tips for Communicating with Children

Most people have more training before they receive their driver's... Read More

Is Your Behavioural Change Strategy Working?

'How can I start getting my children to help out... Read More

One Definition of Success

As parents, we want our children and teens to grow... Read More

What Are Reasonable Expectations of a Child?

To have reasonable expectations of our children is an important... Read More

Child Separation Anxiety: Does Your Child Have It?

If you are a parent, then more than likely you... Read More

Book Review: The Ring Bear Depicts Turmoil of Becoming A Stepchild

In "The Ring Bear," a picture book by Tigard resident... Read More

led induction tunnel Pete's produce ..