Digital Games And Kids – A Different Perspective

The “Wikipedia problem” which means children turning to internet for readymade answers is the new age phenomenon baffling teachers and mentors globally. There are almost equal numbers of teachers who consider technology to be a solution as much as a problem. While a common belief is that technology is hindering the students’ capacity to think and analyze, there is also a strong opinion in favor of video games and digital gadgets’ ability to engage students and enhance learning by using more than one sensory stimulators. In spite of the growing concern about the students’ deteriorating attention spans, institutions are incorporating them in the process of classroom learning.

Children are inherently inquisitive creatures. They have a curiosity to discover new things and learn by way of discovering and experimenting even before they are subjected to methods of formal education such as reading or writing. Science is a discipline of experiments and discoveries. The National Science Education Standards emphasize that “science education needs to give students three kinds of scientific skills and understandings. Students need to learn the principles and concepts of science, acquire the reasoning and procedural skills of scientists, and understand the nature of science as a particular form of human endeavor. Students therefore need to be able to devise and carry out investigations that test their ideas, and they need to understand why such investigations are uniquely powerful. Studies show that students are much more likely to understand and retain the concepts that they have learned this way “. Hence, it becomes imperative to engage children in science education at an early stage.

Digital games are more capable to gain students’ interests and attention than other conventional means of imparting education in a classroom. However, some educationists also regard them as culprits of exponential decline in the attention span in children. The next sections in this article discuss the involvement of children in games in the tech age, types of games available in the market and the impact of digital gaming as learning aids in classrooms.

Gaming and the New Age Kids

Digital technology has expanded the horizons of video gaming in the modern world. Kids are subjected to far more complex and challenging technological environment than their counterparts were from over half a century back. Involvement of kids in digital gaming is a result of many significant changes in the lifestyle and culture of the modern society. Easy accessibility of technology, dispensable income due to dual income families and lack of infrastructure for outdoor activities in many cities are some major contributors in making screen games an important part of the children’s’ lives. A study by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010) found that only 20 percent of the census blocks are within half a mile of a block boundary. Also, the effect of peer pressure cannot be undermined in these times of social networking.

The digital gaming market is one of the fastest growing segments of the global entertainment industry. US is witnessing unprecedented penetration of digital games amongst youngsters. In the US, 97% of the teens play some type of game on a regular basis. In India, the gaming market has grown manifold in the last few years. Hence, it is imperative that educationists are continuously contemplating the use of digital gaming as a learning tool in classrooms. Institutions are also employing innovative ways to leverage the digital advantage for enhancing the learning experience at schools.

What are Digital Games?

There is no concrete definition of games as it may vary with an individual’s preference and profession. Games can be defined as a “system in which players engage in artificial conflict, defined by rules, which result in a quantifiable outcome”. Technology and digitization add new dimensions to games where simulations, interactivity, augmented reality, alternative reality, collective intelligence and sensory stimulators such as sound and visual effects. Digital games are also characterized by their portability and limitless accessibility.

Role-playing games, simulation games and puzzles are some of the most popular digital games. In role-playing games, the player enacts the role of a particular character in a virtual world moving from one level to the other based on the outcome of the earlier level. RPGs can be single player such as the dungeons and dragons from earlier days of gaming or multi-player games such as Diablo III, Xenoblade, Final Fantasy XIII-2 or Mass Effect 3. MMORPG or the Massive Multiple Online Role-Playing Games are an extension of the RPGs where large number of players interacts in an online virtual world. Simulation games create realistic situations in virtual worlds. The outcome will depend on the player’s decision-making and responsiveness and will be closely similar to what may happen in a real world in the same situation. Widely used in training and analysis, simulation games are also popular due to their unpredictable and personalized outcomes. Flight Simulator X, Live for Speed (LFS) and Need for Speed have been extremely popular simulation games for a long time. Puzzles genre of digital games involves problem solving and analysis with varying degrees of difficulty depending on the nature of the game. Crosswords and treasure hunt games are basic forms of puzzle games in both physical and digital form.

All types of digital games involve a social involvement of players. Some need collaborative efforts to play while others may be discussed or analyzed socially. In spite of some games being accused of outright violent visual effects, a well-designed game can accelerate the thinking process by motivating, engaging, involving creativity and developing a meta-game i.e., social interactions inspired and enhanced inside or outside the game. Incorporating digital gaming in the basic education framework can lead to augmented competitiveness and multi-dimensional growth in children.

Digital Games in Science Education – Why and Why Not?

The 21st century requires the mentors and the students to integrate technology into the curriculum. Though the ultimate goal is to benefit the students in terms of learning and experience, unsupervised, unorganized or irrelevant application can lead to complete failure or have negative effects. Some of the negative impacts of digital games in general and in context with the education are listed below:

Digital games have been facing constant rebuke for allegedly enhancing aggression amongst kids and developing a violent streak at an early stage. In a study by Anderson and Bushman (2001), Children involved in violent video games are more likely to have increased aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and decreased prosocial helping. Use of weapons and being rewarded for being violent is a cause of widespread concern.

Digital games can be addictive for children and make them physically inactive. Digital games, other than social networking, are considered for reduced physical activity leading to obesity in kids and postural and skeletal disorders.

Addiction to games is also known to make kids socially secluded. Impulsive behavior, depression and increased anxiety levels are largely attributed to excessive gaming in children. Some studies also suggest that the children playing games are unable to concentrate for a long span and have reduced attention span.

Children are prone to absorbing socially unacceptable behavior through some digital games such as using profanities and ill-treating the fairer sex. Lack of adequate knowledge about screening the material available online is a growing concern amongst the parents.

Digital games are considered a hindrance to better performance in academics. Students are often found to skip homework to play games leading to deteriorated performance at school. However, despite their reputation as promoters of violence and mayhem, digital games have in fact been shown to help children learn skills, content, and vital “21st-century” skills. From digital games children can learn: content (from rich vocabulary to science to history), skills (from literacy to math to complex problem-solving), creation of artifacts (from videos to software code) and systems thinking (how changing one element affects relationships as a whole). Strong arguments in favor of using digital games as learning aids in secondary education are summarized below:

Digital games involve extreme hand-eye coordination and enhance motor and sensory skills. Sensory stimulation theory proposed by academician Laird (1985) validates that effective learning occurs when the senses are stimulated. While some studies show that digital gaming reduces attention span, there are strong evidences of improved concentration in short intervals of time. Digital games involve keeping an eye on every detail, follow the rules and respond proactively to the given situation. Complex digital games help is developing problem-solving and decision-making skills. Some games also involve logical analysis of the situation and pattern recognition and improve memorizing thus assisting in the cognitive process. Playing by the rules teaches children to accept and respect a certain level of discipline.

Multi-player digital games develop a sense of constructive competitive attitude. Collaborative games also improve team-building attitude. They develop time management skills in a team and train the players to cooperate for mutually desired goal. They teach the players to accept defeat as well as strive for better results. Digital games provide an avenue for hyperactive kids to direct the energy in a constructive system based game. They also provide an outlet to release aggression and frustration, thus helping in diffusing stress. Some games also involve physical activity such as Nintendo Wii boxing helping kids to engage mentally and physically with the kids. Complex digital games involve high level of multitasking thus improving brain’s natural learning process. Brain based learning theory proposes that multi-tasking is an inherent activity of the brain and learning is enhanced by challenges at various levels. Digital games develop efficient situational analysis and strategy making in children. Since games have certain objectives at every level and a final objective of the game, it teaches players to devise short term and long-term strategies such as scoring points, retaining energy and reaching the ultimate goal of the game. Simulation games and the role-playing digital games help players gain expertise or learn by experiencing in replicas of real world situations. Experiential learning and action learning theories are based on the premise that individuals learn faster when they by experiencing and actually participating in action.

What Is a Game?

We probably all have a pretty good intuitive notion of what a game is. The general term “game” encompasses board games like chess and Monopoly, card games like poker and blackjack, casino games like roulette and slot machines, military war games, computer games, various kinds of play among children, and the list goes on. In academia we sometimes speak of game theory, in which multiple agents select strategies and tactics in order to maximize their gains within the framework of a well-defined set of game rules. When used in the context of console or computer-based entertainment, the word “game” usually conjures images of a three-dimensional virtual world featuring a humanoid, animal or vehicle as the main character under player control. (Or for the old geezers among us, perhaps it brings to mind images of two-dimensional classics like Pong, Pac-Man, or Donkey Kong.) In his excellent book, A Theory of Fun for Game Design, Raph Koster defines a game to be an interactive experience that provides the player with an increasingly challenging sequence of patterns which he or she learns and eventually masters. Koster’s asser-tion is that the activities of learning and mastering are at the heart of what we call “fun,” just as a joke becomes funny at the moment we “get it” by recognizing the pattern.

Video Games as Soft Real-Time Simulations

Most two- and three-dimensional video games are examples of what computer scientists would call soft real-time interactive agent-based computer simulations. Let’s break this phrase down in order to better understand what it means. In most video games, some subset of the real world -or an imaginary world- is modeled mathematically so that it can be manipulated by a computer. The model is an approximation to and a simplification of reality (even if it’s an imaginary reality), because it is clearly impractical to include every detail down to the level of atoms or quarks. Hence, the mathematical model is a simulation of the real or imagined game world. Approximation and simplification are two of the game developer’s most powerful tools. When used skillfully, even a greatly simplified model can sometimes be almost indistinguishable from reality and a lot more fun.

An agent-based simulation is one in which a number of distinct entities known as “agents” interact. This fits the description of most three-dimensional computer games very well, where the agents are vehicles, characters, fireballs, power dots and so on. Given the agent-based nature of most games, it should come as no surprise that most games nowadays are implemented in an object-oriented, or at least loosely object-based, programming language.

All interactive video games are temporal simulations, meaning that the vir- tual game world model is dynamic-the state of the game world changes over time as the game’s events and story unfold. A video game must also respond to unpredictable inputs from its human player(s)-thus interactive temporal simulations. Finally, most video games present their stories and respond to player input in real time, making them interactive real-time simulations.

One notable exception is in the category of turn-based games like computerized chess or non-real-time strategy games. But even these types of games usually provide the user with some form of real-time graphical user interface.

What Is a Game Engine?

The term “game engine” arose in the mid-1990s in reference to first-person shooter (FPS) games like the insanely popular Doom by id Software. Doom was architected with a reasonably well-defined separation between its core software components (such as the three-dimensional graphics rendering system, the collision detection system or the audio system) and the art assets, game worlds and rules of play that comprised the player’s gaming experience. The value of this separation became evident as developers began licensing games and retooling them into new products by creating new art, world layouts, weapons, characters, vehicles and game rules with only minimal changes to the “engine” software. This marked the birth of the “mod community”-a group of individual gamers and small independent studios that built new games by modifying existing games, using free toolkits pro- vided by the original developers. Towards the end of the 1990s, some games like Quake III Arena and Unreal were designed with reuse and “modding” in mind. Engines were made highly customizable via scripting languages like id’s Quake C, and engine licensing began to be a viable secondary revenue stream for the developers who created them. Today, game developers can license a game engine and reuse significant portions of its key software components in order to build games. While this practice still involves considerable investment in custom software engineering, it can be much more economical than developing all of the core engine components in-house. The line between a game and its engine is often blurry.

Some engines make a reasonably clear distinction, while others make almost no attempt to separate the two. In one game, the rendering code might “know” specifi-cally how to draw an orc. In another game, the rendering engine might provide general-purpose material and shading facilities, and “orc-ness” might be defined entirely in data. No studio makes a perfectly clear separation between the game and the engine, which is understandable considering that the definitions of these two components often shift as the game’s design solidifies.

Arguably a data-driven architecture is what differentiates a game engine from a piece of software that is a game but not an engine. When a game contains hard-coded logic or game rules, or employs special-case code to render specific types of game objects, it becomes difficult or impossible to reuse that software to make a different game. We should probably reserve the term “game engine” for software that is extensible and can be used as the foundation for many different games without major modification.

Clearly this is not a black-and-white distinction. We can think of a gamut of reusability onto which every engine falls. One would think that a game engine could be something akin to Apple QuickTime or Microsoft Windows Media Player-a general-purpose piece of software capable of playing virtually any game content imaginable. However, this ideal has not yet been achieved (and may never be). Most game engines are carefully crafted and fine-tuned to run a particular game on a particular hardware platform. And even the most general-purpose multiplatform engines are really only suitable for building games in one particular genre, such as first-person shooters or racing games. It’s safe to say that the more general-purpose a game engine or middleware component is, the less optimal it is for running a particular game on a particular platform.

This phenomenon occurs because designing any efficient piece of software invariably entails making trade-offs, and those trade-offs are based on assumptions about how the software will be used and/or about the target hardware on which it will run. For example, a rendering engine that was designed to handle intimate indoor environments probably won’t be very good at rendering vast outdoor environments. The indoor engine might use a binary space partitioning (BSP) tree or portal system to ensure that no geometry is drawn that is being occluded by walls or objects that are closer to the camera. The outdoor engine, on the other hand, might use a less-exact occlusion mechanism, or none at all, but it probably makes aggressive use of level-of-detail (LOD) techniques to ensure that distant objects are rendered with a minimum number of triangles, while using high-resolution triangle meshes for geome-try that is close to the camera.

The advent of ever-faster computer hardware and specialized graphics cards, along with ever-more-efficient rendering algorithms and data structures, is beginning to soften the differences between the graphics engines of different genres. It is now possible to use a first-person shooter engine to build a real-time strategy game, for example. However, the trade-off between generality and optimality still exists. A game can always be made more impressive by fine-tuning the engine to the specific requirements and constraints of a particular game and/or hardware platform.

Understanding the Internet Merchant Account and How it Works

If you are considering setting up an Internet-based business, and you have been researching on the things you need before you can get started, there is a possibility that you would have come across an ‘Internet merchant account’ as one of the things you may need. Being new to these matters, you could have found yourself wondering what such account is and how it will be of service to you. It is these matters that we will proceed to explore, for your edification.

Now in order to understand what the Internet merchant account is, it is important to understand firstly of the fact that most payments on the Internet are usually done through credit (and debit) cards. The way the arrangement usually works is such that the people looking to purchase various things (both tangible goods as well as services) select what they want to purchase, may be put it onto a virtual ‘shopping cart’ and then go to the ‘checkout section’ of the website from which they are looking to purchase the stuff. At the checkout section, they enter their credit card details (basically their credit card numbers, expiry dates and ‘signature numbers’) and upon deduction of the value of their purchases from their online account, get their products shipped to them. The shipping, of course, can be instant in the case of things like E-books that are immediately available upon payment.

In the meantime, it is upon the website owners where the purchase was made to liaise with the company issuing the credit/debit card in question, so that they can eventually get the actual cash that was deducted from the card-holder’s accounts to finance the purchase.

The way it works is that once a website/business owner (a merchant) signs up with a merchant account provider (processor), it collects the credit card details through an online payment form which is typically hosted on the processor’s secure servers but can also be hosted on a merchant’s website (API integration). This form sends data over to the processor’s payment gateway which is special software for processing card data through the banks and credit card companies delivering either success or decline message back. Money is taken from a cardholder’s bank account usually at the end of the day and deposited to the merchant account and later wired to a merchant’s business bank account depending on the agreed payout schedule, this is normally done weekly but depending on the merchant agreement payouts can be daily or even monthly in some cases.

So ultimately, the Internet merchant account is the ‘place’ where the online payments processing service provider keeps the money they collect from credit card companies before deducting their credit card processing fees and sending the payouts to a merchant. Depending on the structure of the above we can separate between direct merchant accounts where the principal is a merchant and 3rd party merchant accounts where the merchant actually uses a merchant account owned by the merchant account provider company (processor). First is good for companies with processing history and mainstream e-commerce categories where generally tangible goods are sold and 3rd party accounts are perfect for small businesses and startups who cannot get approved for a direct account at the bank.

We have briefly gone through the basics of ecommerce specific merchant accounts, you should now have a better understanding of these terms and how everything works.

Internet Merchant Accounts – Process Payments Like a Pro

Operating a business online is a lot different from operating a retail establishment, where transactions are made in person by the buyer. In an online environment, processing payments requires a specific solution that can make buying simple, convenient, and easy to carry out when cash is not an option. The answer to processing Internet transactions with ease is simple: open a merchant account.

A merchant account will allow your business to accept credit cards – debit cards and even gift cards, too, if you like – for any transaction made through your online store. In addition, a merchant account can offer additional levels of protection against fraud, a risk that is increased in online business, where transactions are performed in a more or less anonymous environment.

Because your merchant account will be so essential to the success of your online business, it’s important that you take the time to consider different merchant account providers, there fees, and the services they offer, before you make a final selection.

Here are a few things to consider when you’re considering establishing a merchant account for your business:

General experience. How long has the merchant account provider been in business? As a business owner, you know it isn’t necessarily true that the newest businesses are the most suspect. But in the world of merchant account providers, especially as more and more businesses have begun accepting credit cards in recent years, the number of less-than-honest account providers has significantly increased. While that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider newer account providers, you should be more critical of their claims and offers.
Specific experience. Some merchant account providers may have substantially more experience dealing with specific types of businesses, and less experience with others. Make sure the account provider you select has ample experience dealing with businesses that are similar to yours, as well as with Internet merchant accounts. These accounts can often identify the best rates and deals for your business type. And make sure the account provider has experience dealing successfully with fraud. If your business is growing, consider account providers who are able to meet your current business needs, as well as your future needs.
Costs. Different account providers will have different fees and costs associated with the management and maintenance of the account, as well as specific penalty fees, so be sure to ask for a complete list of fees when comparing accounts. Expect most accounts to charge daily and monthly fees, as well as fees based on individual transactions. Thanks to increased competition among account providers, many fees have been reduced, and some have been entirely eliminated. You should also know that Internet merchant accounts generally have higher fees than other types of accounts, like retail merchant accounts, because they are associated with a higher risk of fraud. Why? Because transactions are conducted anonymously, rather than face to face, as in a retail establishment.
Card acceptance. Some accounts allow you to accept only one card, and some allow you to accept a number of cards. In order to attract the largest customer base, it’s usually best to consider accounts that allow you to accept the major credit cards, including MasterCard, VISA, American Express, and Discover.
Customer service. Check with the Better Business Bureau for any existing complaints against the companies you are considering, and also visit online forums – there are a lot of them – devoted to the businesses who use merchant accounts.
Take individual complaints with a grain of salt, but pay attention to large numbers of complaints, especially in the area of customer service. Also email and call the companies you’re considering to determine how quickly and effectively they answer your questions – and how courteous and friendly the customer representatives are when they respond.
Technical service. Be sure your account provider has the experience and background to perform required and spur-of-the-moment technical maintenance tasks necessary to keep your account up and running. Even a seemingly minor technical issue can prevent you from making sales and damage your reputation as an online retailer. Choose an a/c provider who can respond quickly and effectively to technical problems.
Contract terms. It used to be that merchant account providers required their clients to sign multi-year contracts, and some unscrupulous account providers still have terms that can make it difficult to cancel a contract without incurring substantial cancellation fees. Even at the opening of an account, it’s important to understand the process you’ll need to go through if you decide to eventually terminate your relationship.

Your merchant account provider will be an important partner in your business’ operation. Take your time to carefully consider all your options, and make sure you read all the fine print before signing the account provider’s contract, and reach for the next level of your business’ growth and development.

Merchant Account Cancellation Fees and Solutions

Merchant account cancellation fees, also known as early termination fees, are fees charged to a merchant who is ending their merchant account agreement early. Setting up a new merchant account costs merchant account providers money, called boarding charges. Cancellation fees help to recoup these new boarding costs, when an account is closed before its term. They also increase customer retention, and give providers a chance to rectify any problems. Fees vary, and are set by merchant account providers. They typically range anywhere from $0 to $500 fixed. Be aware of cancellation fees that are not fixed. This variable termination fee is based on how much a merchant processes (times remaining months left), and can end up costing thousands of dollars.

Here are a few ways to avoid (or lessen) merchant account cancellation fees.

Communicate with your Current Processor

The top reason merchants want to switch processors is because they found a better rate with a competitor. Comparing rates and fees can be an exhausting, timely task. Save yourself the time and energy, and speak with your current merchant account provider about pricing. Let them know that you are “shopping” around for better rates, and have them reevaluate your merchant account. Most processors do not want to lose their clients, and will lower pricing if they can. Remember, that pricing can never go below interchange. Current interchange rates are always posted on card association websites.

Be concerned when a merchant provider is advertising super low rates, much lower than other providers. They are probably displaying the rate for PIN-based debit transactions. These rates only apply to transactions where a PIN number is entered at the point-of-sale. Credit cards are charged at a higher rate. Another tricky pricing scheme to watch out for is a rock bottom qualified rate, with ridiculously high mid-qualified and non-qualified rates to make up for it. Talk with your current processor and let them know what pricing you are seeing out there.

Look at your Contract

If communicating with your current processor is not going to work, look at your merchant account agreement closely. Read every single line. Some contracts will have clauses waiving cancellation fees. For example, if fees increase during the contract term, termination fees are waived. Other contracts may excuse cancellation fees for businesses that go out of business. Credit card processors have varying cancellation fees, clauses, and terms. Read your contract carefully.


Sometimes you can have your merchant account cancellation fees waived, or reduced by negotiating with the processor. Especially when there is a working relationship with the provider, and the account is in good standing. For example, a business owner decides to sell her clothing store to a neighbor. If the new owner open up a merchant account with the current processor, most likely, early termination fees would be waived

Leave Account Stagnant

A merchant can simply choose not to use their existing merchant account to process, and open a new account for future credit or debit transactions. The “old” account stays open, but the merchant is not processing anything through it. This solution may prove to be less expensive than paying a hefty cancellation fee. For example, the cancellation fee on your existing account is $300. You have 3 months left on your contract, and your monthly minimum fee is $25, plus a $10 monthly statement fee. You would end up paying $105 (vs. $300) to leave it open.

Before opening a second account, ensure that you have contacted your current processor. Communicate your concerns. Most reputable processors will do everything in their power to keep your account.

Cancellation fees exist to improve customer retention and recoup any initial boarding costs incurred by the merchant account provider. Merchants who want to switch processors, but are facing an early termination fee, are encouraged to contact their current processor with any problems or concerns. Competitive pricing continues to be the main reason merchants want to close their account. Be aware of pricing schemes designed to lure customers. Before switching, ask your provider to reevaluate your account and let them know about comparable rates you have seen. Chances are, they will lower your rate and retain your business.