According to the Pew Study on Teen Gaming and Civic Engagement, teens spend about half of their screen time playing games. Some of the most popular games have to do with racing, puzzles, sports, action, adventure and learning.
The new wave of gaming is highly social. Teens (and tweens) are becoming hooked on games that are a working model for online collaboration and problem solving. Some games even incorporate aspects of civic and political life.
My favorite interns from Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society created a video on this topic that covers this topic very well.
I have seen some of this social gaming first hand since my son participates in Future Cities competitions through his middle school. The participants start out by creating cities using Sim City software. The students work in groups to develop the infrastructure of their future city. Sometimes they go online to consult with teams in other parts of the country. Eventually each team builds a model of the city and develops working prototypes of their infrastructure projects. My son’s team went to a regional competition where they won an award for their transportation system.
What is interesting about the future cities program is that the kids learn how to build models to represent their virtual cities. They learn how to adapt their designs to real-world conditions, much like an architect or engineer must do. Then they meet with other kids and the engineers that judge each entry at the Future Cities competition.