At the EdubloggerCon Unconference this year, I ran into a woman who had a great insight for me. I told her a little bit about what I did (produce core science games for middle schoolers) and my ambitions for the conference (thinking about design consideration that will ease game implementation in the classroom, and she quickly said, “Parents. You have to get it to the parents, make them put pressure on the schools. That is the only way it is going to happen.”
It’s a compelling point and it made me reflect on some of the awards Operation: Resilient Planet Game was up for this year, awards we ultimately didn’t win. Many of our fellow finalists, and the ultimate winners, were targeted toward elementary school math and reading. The games were designed to give parent’s progress reports, thus demonstrating a core understanding of a certain thriving market.
So these winners kind of figured some stuff out. Parents have the tenacity and desire to get their kids playing games in order to learn. And perhaps, as these types of efforts gain popularity among involved parents, schools receive pressure to bring these technologies into schools.
But what about those of us who are making games aimed for older kids? Games with core, but challenging content? Will we ever capture parents? Will parents ever sign on to learn how their kids are doing on acquiring science content? Tweens start to get a little scary for parents. Parents back off. Parents are less involved with their kids learning. And besides, science is still seen as being periphery to skills like math and reading. Will we even accomplish the first step towards getting parents to think about games for kids out of elementary school?
This is still a nascent field, but it was certainly odd to find our game about trophic models and ecological population counting methods going toe-to-toe with games where fairies and cowboys hold your hand as you master short and long “a” sounds.
At any rate, I think the unconference-goer I mentioned at the start of this post is on to something, and I think I see her poignant observation playing out with younger students. I just really hope that despite my hunch, parents do remain interested advocates of their kid’s education beyond 2nd grade. It may not be the only way to get quality educational games into the classroom, but it is certainly vital.