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Game Changer: Investing in Digital Play to Advance Children's Learning and Health

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Abstract:

This report from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop specifies how increased national investment in research-based digital games can play a cost-effective and transformative role. The report, Game Changer: Investing in Digital Play to Advance Children’s Learning and Health, provides recommendations for the media industry, government, philanthropy and academia to harness the appeal of digital games to improve children’s health and learning. It was produced with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio.

Children as young as four are immersed in a new gaming culture, but many parents, educators and health professionals, concerned over violence, sexual content and reports of addiction, do not consider games to be a positive force in children's lives. Based on a synthesis of market and scientific research and interviews with industry and academic leaders, the report addresses this critique. It offers a new framework to use games to help children learn healthy behaviors, traditional skills like reading and math, and 21st century strengths such as critical thinking, global learning and programming design.

The report focuses especially on the vital connections that games and digital media can make in promoting children’s potential. Among the promising games reviewed are Sesame Street’s Color Me Hungry, featuring the Muppet Cookie Monster and Dance Dance Revolution, a mass-market game used in hundreds of schools nationwide. These efforts are helping young children learn about nutrition, healthy habits and exercise. The report highlights the role that games have played in other sectors, such as in transforming military training regimens, and how academic centers like MIT’s Education Arcade and non-profit labs like the Institute of Play are pioneering R&D for educational video games.