Digital toys and games
The concept of digital toys and games means anything fuses the fun side of play with educational content, with special reference to the digital and IT world.
We often think that digital toys (a category which includes videogames) tend to have an isolating effect on kids, causing them to stay cooped up at home and inducing a reluctance to socialise and relate to their peers, something which is especially important for youngsters. On the one hand, this is a definite danger, or rather could become dangerous in certain circumstances or extreme cases, but on the other, digital toys have a series of advantages, especially nowadays in a society where digital skills are essential for studying and working.
In past years, before computers had become such common objects in our homes and technological devices were not as readily available as they are today, special meeting areas were developed where techies or enthusiasts could gather and indulge in their passion for hi-tech play. Even though we did regress for a while, today we are prioritising the social side of these activities again. It is not hard to find easily-accessible free technology and shared spaces on the web or elsewhere where you can discuss not only doubts and issues, but also results and achievements.
The benefits of digital toys
The main aim of some digital games today is to get the various players to spend time together, work alongside each other and accomplish a common goal. Basically, the participants are encouraged to share, to pool their knowledge, to exchange information and to support each other. Each member of the group hones manual dexterity and the ability to plan and sequence as well as cognitive and intellectual skills. How did this come about? By working from back to front in order to turn passive digital users into active ones who play a vital part in the process, creating content and digital resources.
There are numerous benefits to these games, ranging from the acquisition of basic and advanced computer skills right up to the development of all those capabilities and aptitudes so much in demand by the academic universe and world of work. These are known as soft skills and we will briefly list them here:
- Team working: knowing how to work alongside others and share successes.
- Decision-making: knowing how to assess situations and make the right choices.
- Problem solving: being proactive and inventing alternative solutions.
- Planning and owning responsibility: knowing how to organise work and being accountable.
- Error culture: accepting mistakes and learning from them.
- Culture of defeat: admitting one's limits and knowing how to ask for help.
- Risk-running: it is virtually impossible to break something in the digital world. There is always a way to go back.
- Challenging oneself and others: finding ways to improve oneself and work towards perfection.
- Remote sharing and collaboration
- Hardware and software computer knowledge
- Digital-citizen skills
- Manual dexterity
Digital games also provide the opportunity for creative freedom which does not depend on a set number of physical games or physical space, meaning that play can take place almost anywhere. There is no need to move around and the work can be stored, changed and built on over time.
The best characteristics of a digital game
Finding or designing the perfect digital game is a troublesome task, indeed it is almost impossible. We can, though, try and draw up a list of the characteristics that a good digital game should have; obviously, you don’t have to tick them all off the list, but if a good number of the features are present, the game should benefit the player considerably.
Here is a list of the main characteristics that a good digital game should have:
- Single-player mode: the option to be able to play alone seems banal, but it is much more important that one might think. It will allow the player to explore the game by themselves in their own good time, familiarising themselves with the game, making mistakes and correcting themselves (error culture), which will help them to improve their performance and hone their skills.
- Multi-player mode: on the other hand, this mode prompts the player to vie with others, or to work with them; it could include challenges against opponents or games to be played as a team (team-work skills), causing the various members to help each other and work side by side.
- Training activities/step-by-step learning: a series of set activities is an excellent way to get to know the game and grasp its potential. A carefully designed game path along designed to trigger constant learning is an excellent way for players to make the most of the game.
- Basic and advanced modes: the basic mode is good to have fun with, work out what can and can't be done and to enjoy instant gratification; on the other hand, the advanced mode gets the player to express all their abilities and rise to more difficult challenges that require time and greater skills.
- Reality tasks: getting players to solve real problems (knowledge-appropriate ones) that engage and involve them in relevant challenges that are not abstract, but directly related to their interests and part of the real world with a final result to be shared.
- Extensions: it is an excellent idea if the game can be extended by adding new features and/or ways to interact with other products or games. This will allow players to take advantage of what's on offer in technological terms, or use peer-to-peer exchange.
- Free to play: being able to play or test-run a game free of charge is definitely a huge advantage.
- Constructionism: a huge educational boon is given by a game that allows users to build a tangible or virtual object from scratch and then to play with and learn from it.
- Resource sharing: having a shared space or the opportunity to share ideas with other users helps us to socialise, prompting us to strive for improvement and to create.
Now, we know what we are doing when we look at Digital Toys and Games! Have fun exploring!