Green games and "no child left inside": an environmental education conndrum

Two days ago, Mashable published a fascinating post on gaming and social good, taking note of the rise of video games on multiple platforms that address a whole host of global challenges. While writer Melissa Jun Rowley touched on a range of issues and challenges, the idea of games as educational tools ran throughout the post. Organizations such as Games for Change, Institute of Play, and the Games for Learning Institute all touted the educational potential for video games, noting their ability to place players/learners to engage with complex, realistic systems, and to provide players with the opportunities to experiment with solutions to real world challenges.

I think they’re right that well-designed games can provide genuine environmental education opportunities… but I also wonder about the potential costs. The “no child left inside” movement has argued that kids are suffering from not getting outdoors more… and perhaps missing out on educational opportunities that provide some of the same benefits as Fate of the World and City Rain (previewed above), while also getting some exercise.

I don’t want to knock green-themed games: in the right contexts, it seems that they could be powerful tools for making kids aware of the challenges and opportunities presented by current global environmental realities.  But maybe also complement them with more “active” activities… that play off of the learning that happens in front of a PC or game console?

Any sense of the necessary balance needed between these kinds of educational activities? Know of schools or other educational programs combining the virtual with the natural? Let us know about them…


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