Want Your Children To Learn Emotional Intelligence? Try Video Games!

I'll readily admit that I was something of a strange child. Although I was quite in-tune with my emotions, with a tendency to feel with great intensity (I still do), I'd hardly refer to myself as emotionally intelligent. I hardly understood why I felt the way I did, nor was I terribly well-equipped to manage my emotions whenever negative ones did surface.

Learning the necessary skills to do so was anything but easy, and I'm certain it may have cost me a few friends along the way.

Ah, but I'm not here to ramble on about myself, and I'm certain you fine folks aren't here to read my life story.

Trip Hawkins - best known as the founder of Electronic Arts - announced today that his new development studio, If You Can, has released its first title to iPad. The game's called IF, and the premise is at least as simple as the name: it purports to teach kids that skillset I so sorely lacked as a boy. Basically, it's a video game designed to teach emotional intelligence.

The release comes on the tail of $6.5 million funding from a host of different venture capital firms and investors. Prior to this, the company raised $2.8 million from founders angels and seed funds. The end result is a game which will - if it works - teach kids to better understand how and why they feel. 

 "Almost every school-aged kid plays games and research shows that playing video games opens the ‘learning centers' in children's brains," explained Hawkins, who is founder and CEO of If You Can. "We have brought together some of the most successful video game creators in history with national experts in SEL to harness this potential and use a game to teach children life skills to thrive both in school and out of school."

IF is targeted at children aged six to twelve, and puts players into the shoes of an animated character in the fantasy world of Ziggurat. They're tasked with learning how to be sensitive to other characters, all while trying to figure out their own emotions. The game's split into chapters which include empathy, lessons on the nature of emotion, identification of one's feelings, recognizing those feelings in others, and how to respond compassionately to another person's emotional appeals. 

All of this is learned through the medium of a quest system, and as the player wanders around the game's town completing missions and interacting with its residents, they'll learn to...well, basically be a better person.

IF isn't just the work of a bunch of armchair psychiatrist game developers, either. If You Can's got an impressive pedigree of staff, drawn from the games industry as well as several fields within psychology and education. Beyond that, the team's genuinely interested in helping kids out. After all, many of them were parents...and I'm sure we've all been at the point where we didn't understand how we felt, or why. 

"Although our team includes some of the most renowned game creators in history, leaders of national educational organizations, and experts in the field of Social and Emotional Learning, we're also moms, dads, aunts and uncles; we're teachers, volunteers and concerned citizens," explained studio co-founder Jessica Berlinski. "We all share one common goal: we want to make this world a better place, and we believe that empowering and supporting children with these skills is a big part of how to do that." 

IF is available free on the App store. It's iPad only, so those of you with a smartphone or a different brand of tablet, well...sorry, I think you're out of luck for the time being. You can find the listing on the store page here, or read more about it on the game's official website.