EA founder Trip Hawkins’s new London studio If You Can has drawn back the veil on its first major project, an educational iPad game for children.
Aimed at kids aged six to 12 years old If… has no release date yet. It’s being developed in close collaboration with social and emotional learning experts, and is designed to help children develop emotional intelligence about cyberbullying.
The iPad title was built in Unity, and casts players as an anthropomorphic animal who must unite the warring dog and cat tribes. Kids will have to make moral choices, but Hawkins is working hard to make the game fun, not preachy, so that kids ‘don’t smell the spinach’.
Lessons taught include identifying what is an emotion, recognising what someone else is feeling, how conflicts can escalate and what are the tools to calm it down, how to disagree with someone and still stay friends, and getting people to act in a more compassionate way. Players can befriend a variety of creatures called Vim, although you can’t capture them and it doesn’t sound like they battle.
“Today, every kid gets bullied. Cyberbullying is growing. It’s driving youths to commit suicide. If you happen to be a bully, the redemption of a bully is something you can learn,” Hawkins told VentureBeat.
“Both victims and bullies can play a game like this. I don’t think being a bully makes a bully happy.”
Hawkins firmly believes his game can affect real world behaviour, and he has full support from Fred Luskin, a Stanford University consultant and member of Learning to Forgive.
“What Trip is trying to teach is more positive social behaviours, like how to have more self control and patience. To teach them to choose the right kinds of responses,” he said.
“The schools are not teaching this, but kids are being taught these things anyway as they live. The question is to what degree these qualities can be learned and maintained through a game. Gaming has value because it conveys visual, motor, and language lessons.”
Most famous for founding mega-publisher EA and doomed console effort 3DO, Hawkins has a lot of interesting things to say, although he’s been much quieter since stepping down as CEO of portable developer Digital Chocolate.