From developing social skills to coding lessons: How gaming can change kids' lives in UAE

Designing video games offers a platform to teach STEM subjects and opens up another career path for the next generation, says top official



by

Ashwani Kumar

Published: Sat 17 Dec 2022, 8:53 PM

Gaming has become one of the world’s most popular forms of entertainment given its ability to tell rich stories and bring communities together through interactive and immersive content. However, video games and e-sports have a purpose that transcends entertainment, and can be of significant educational value, said a top official from AD Gaming, a government-led initiative.

“The social impact that gaming can deliver across all geographies and demographics is monumental, and particularly for the younger generations,” James Hartt, director of strategic initiatives and business development at AD Gaming, told Khaleej Times.

The education potential from gaming, Hartt noted, comes from two avenues.

“Firstly, gaming content can be used to educate children across a spectrum of areas. Games can help young children develop their cognitive abilities, skills related to social interactions, and even offer a different way to learn traditional subjects such as history, mathematics, and science,” he said on the sidelines of the Blast Premier World Final 2022 held in Abu Dhabi.

“Secondly, designing and coding video games offers a platform to teach STEM subjects in a creative way and opens up another career path for the next generation to consider,” Hartt said, highlighting how gaming could be the future of education.

Talking about Abu Dhabi hosting the first Mena Games for Change summit – the latest development in an ongoing partnership between Games for Change, the US, and the UAE — Hartt underlined: “The programme connects students from the US and the UAE, allowing children to gain valuable 21st-century skills and acquire important knowledge needed to thrive in today’s increasingly interconnected world. It is also a vehicle for cross-cultural exchange, with US and UAE students co-developing their own games using Scratch, a visual, block-based programming language that is used as an educational tool for coding.

Considering these two elements, the creation and consumption of video games can have a tremendous impact on the lives of children across the UAE.”

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Aiming for talent development in creating a self-sustaining gaming industry, AD Gaming has partnered with several academic institutions across the UAE alongside an international partner Unity Technologies. Training sessions have been given to professors and students, and talented minds are offered internships.

“Most recently, as part of our partnership with Blast Premier, we have been able to facilitate internship opportunities at a global leader in the esports space. The three-year AD Gaming and Blast Premier partnership has also seen a series of collegiate level e-sports events formed to provide a new avenue for the UAE’s passionate gamers to enter the esports and professional gaming world.”

Charlotte Kenny, managing director of Blast Premier, pointed out that esports and gaming is inclusive in its nature, and the accessibility of the space makes it truly unique.

“The fact that players are not limited by physical barriers in gaming means that there is a level playing field for all those looking to become esports professionals or develop their skills further.”

She noted that esports also provides several positive benefits that help players develop and hone important skills for their mental and physical wellbeing.

“Some of these skills include response time, teamwork, communication, leadership and critical thinking. Gaming also has a positive impact on mental health, through providing mental stimulation, building a sense of accomplishment, creating social interaction opportunities, acts as a form of stress relief and provides a form of individual expression,” Kenny said.

On Saturday and Sunday, eight of the world’s best Counter-Strike teams are battling for the $1 million prize purse at the Etihad Arena.

“An esports tournament of this scale has never happened before in Abu Dhabi and it is something that Blast is proud of. It will provide a global platform to showcase these positive elements of gaming and the benefits it can bring to fans and players,” Kenny added.

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