Earlier this summer for TIG, I took some time to write about my first purchase in the gaming market, really since the dawn of the 21st century. In case you missed the article, to summarize, I went for an MSI Leopard gaming notebook. Coming in with some high-end specs, I started to make plans to put it to work outside the scope of rendering the latest and greatest in modern gaming. In June, I had an incredible time working with a New York/Denver-based jazz and funk band called Lettuce, where I helped create and live-mix a suite of visual animation and design to glow on the Red Rocks Amphitheater summer stage. Cast on 50’ of 5mm Absen X5 LED panel via fiber optic cable, the MSI with its NVIDIA 1050ti and Intel 8th gen i7 put on a show to remember for the packed Colorado crowd.
The rest of the summer, however, was a little more low-key. After the Lettuce show, I switched gears and decided to park the bus and watch a plethora of World Cup soccer. As the final neared, I couldn’t resist installing FIFA 18 on the MSI to hit some long crosses and smash some balls into the net. Like millions of my global gaming peers, I was swept up in a high resolution, 3D gamification of reality, which was protected from the outside world by a thick barricade of A/C and plenty of water and snacks. Game after game, and tournament after tournament, I got better and continued to have just as much, if not more fun along the way.
I bring this up not because I wish to tell the world of my newfound love for digital sport, but to draw our attention as the new school year begins, to the fact that excessive gaming and screen time is very real. Since July, I clocked in 64 hours of FIFA and suffered at least two hand cramps and poor night’s rest. As I prepped for the new school year with fellow educators around Denver last week, a principal was quick to point out that many of his students suffer from a form of digital addiction. Signs and symptoms may include coming to school with bags under their eyes, while only answering questions in terms of the game Fortnite (i.e. Tomato Head, emotes, skins, etc…).
While some parents may have an easier time than others limiting how much time their kids spend playing games, one thing we can do is at least try to change the types of games they are playing. Take Interland for example. Interland was developed by a team at Google with the intention of teaching concepts and skills to kids that can help better prepare them for life online. I had a chance to work with a lot of students this summer who desperately wanted to play video games at the daylong summer camp I brought some of my technology classes to. Once the class was underway, if we weren’t “hacking” Minecraft or solving puzzles at Code.org, we were becoming Internauts in Interland.
With four levels to choose from, students can play a really fun and engaging 3D browser-based game, while learning what it means to be a good “digital citizen”. Digital Citizenship includes being kind to others and standing up to bullies online. It means taking care when sharing information on social media and in the public sphere, as well as when devising passwords to protect your accounts and devices. Lastly, it explains what phishing scams look like, and how to properly respond to suspicious email and interactions online.
These are the kinds of things kids need to be thinking about before we let them loose on the web. They are essential to growing the next generation to be productive and ethical in regards to digital life. But at the end of the day, they’re fun and I bet a kid you know will like them a lot. So as we embark on another school year, I hope that we’ll all do our part to heed the warnings of screen time and maybe even find some time to explore Interland ourselves. It’s enlightening and entertaining all at once, and perhaps is something you can even play with a kid you know who might in fact be slightly lost in the data abyss and could use a guide.