Constructionism in Practice: Designing, Thinking, and Learning in a Digital World

By Yasmin Kafai; Mitchel Resnick | Go to book overview
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5 Electronic Play Worlds

Gender Differences in Children's Construction of Video Games

Yasmin B. Kafai

Children's culture of the late 20th century--their toys, games and activities--has been marked by the advent of information technologies. Video games, more than any other medium, have brought interactive technologies into children's homes and hearts, and they have been received enthusiastically. In contrast to most adults, children usually do not feel threatened by computational media and other programmable devices. They seem to embrace the new media readily. With good reason, children have been dubbed media enthusiasts ( Papert, 1991).

This increasing presence of computer and video games in homes has initiated many discussions in the media and educational circles about their value and influence on children's affective, social, and cognitive well-being ( Baughman & Clagett, 1983; Provenzo, 1991). Most research efforts have focused on studying the effects on social behavior and cognitive skills of children playing video games ( Greenfield & Cocking, 1994; Loftus & Loftus, 1983; Selnow, 1984). Discussions in cultural studies have centered around the issues of which particular messages are promoted in video games and in what ways they are received by children ( Gailey, 1992; Kinder, 1991). As important as these findings are, researchers always look at children as consumers of games and try to deduce from children's game-playing interests and behaviors what impact and attractions video games hold.

In the present study, I address some of these issues from a different perspective by placing children in the role of producers rather than consumers of video games. In a 6-month-long project, called the Game Design Project ( Kafai, 1993, 1995), sixteen 10-year-old children were in charge of creating imaginary worlds, characters, and stories in the context of video game design. My intention was to explore the extent to which the activity of making games revealed something

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