Our minds on media.

Musings on the effects of media on cognition.

Video Games for Children Everywhere

As usual today it wasn’t so much one article in particular that caught my eye but rather the overlap that existed between several. MIT has gotten serious about building a $100 laptop for kids. But kids don’t want laptops, they want video game machines — especially portable ones. MIT’s whole point is that the computer is the perfect tool to “learn how to learn”. With thousands of texts online, information and all kinds of multimedia, it just seems obvious that getting cheap laptops to poorer children all over the world would be a fantastic way to create innovation and give a greater education to those less fortunate. I don’t disagree with this goal. Hardly. I think it’s an imperative. Giving children of Third World countries technology will least begin to close the gap between economies the world over and improve life for everyone.

I just think MIT has its form-factor wrong. The PSP is a great example of a computer that is lightweight, portable, rechargeable, rugged and maybe most importantly of all: engaging. It’s not just a video game machine either. With wifi and a web connection, virtually anyone, anywhere can engage. In fact, I think the PSP has another going for it besides having a better form-factor and being a serious computing platform: you don’t have to know how to read to use it. I’ve played more than my share of games in Japanese though I don’t read a word of it. You can still figure it out. Video games, for all their entertainment value, are still at the height of the usability curve.

It doesn’t take much imagination to imagine the kinds of educational video games that are possible for such a device. There aren’t a lot for the PSP just yet and frankly I think we’ve only begun to take the idea of the educational game to the level it could be taken.

Oh yeah. The PSP is $250. Sell them in bulk units of 1 million (as MIT plans to do with their laptop) with pre-loaded educational tools to governments and educational organizations and you could easily reach the $100 mark. I say give the kids what they want. Give them portable game machines!

P.S. If your only protest is “There’s no keyboard!” then I should like to point out that teenage girls in Europe are quite capable of typing on their cell phones. Kids learn quick.

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