BEYOND EMPATHY

Game designers are masters at creating engaging experiences that fuel creativity and drive problem-solving. One area in need of game designers’ expertise is creating games that advance teens’ social and emotional skills. Social and emotional skills are critical for success in academics, relationships, and work (Gallop, 2013; Jones, Greenberg, & Crowley, 2015). These skills can be taught, as shown by evaluations of evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) programs integrated into elementary, middle, and high schools (Belfield et al., 2015; Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011; Taylor, Oberle, Durlak, & Weissberg, 2017). One study reports that every dollar invested in SEL programming yields an 11 dollar return for participating students (Belfield et al, 2015). Despite these positive outcomes, programs that contribute to social and emotional skill development have not been widely implemented in U.S. schools
(Dusenbury, Weissberg, Goren, & Domitrovich, 2014; Rieber, 1996), especially high schools (Williamson, Modecki, & Guerra, 2015). These challenges create a ripe opportunity for games. The connection between games and learning is well established (Botturi & Loh, 2008) and modern research has shown game-
based learning to be an effective teaching tool for core academic subjects (Din, Calao, Ward, Chiong, & Shuler, 2001; Ke & Grabowski, 2007; Moreno & Mayer, 2005; Yip & Kwan, 2006) as well as 21st-century skills (Qian & Clark, 2016) such as innovation, collaboration, and communication (P21, 2017). However, there is little research on game-based learning for social and emotional skills and even fewer games designed intentionally to build those skills. Digital games offer promise for disseminating at scale immersive learning environments for social and emotional skill practice for teens. Teens spend more and more time in virtual worlds (Twenge, 2017) and meeting them where they are offers a significant opportunity to engage
them in their own development. In this article, we explore the potential for teen players to develop social and emotional skills through gameplay. By identifying areas of overlap between best practices in game
design and SEL programming, we propose a framework for analyzing existing SEL games and guiding the development of new ones. Our goal is to improve the quality and quantity of games wherein teens advance their social and emotional skills. 

Games to Foster Teens’ Social and Emotional Skills
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