Children learn about the world they live in through play. As the world around them evolves over time, so do the games they play. Today, children grow up in a world where digital media are an engaging and natural part of their environment. Children acquire terms and techniques such as “googling”, “downloading” and “streaming” at an early age, and the nature of the digital games they choose evolves rapidly. They play these games in and out of school, alone or with others, online or offline, on the computer, console, tablet or smartphone.
Massive and ongoing transformations in children’s media usage continue to change the way children first come into contact with digital games, the age at which they start playing such games, how they develop and consolidate game-related interests, what digital gaming practices they acquire, and how they navigate and choose games amidst the many available options. Given these rapid changes, developing a detailed understanding of how children engage with digital games, the developmental context of digital game play, and their role for learning is an important academic and societal task.
What do digital games have to offer to children? Which playful environments are conducive to learning? How can children creatively and collaboratively shape the games they play? Can digital games promote computational thinking, 21st century skills and media literacy? How do digital games affect social learning and peer relationships? What are the challenges that children face in adjusting to, learning about, and growing up within a digital environment? What do children need in terms of support, guidance and rules, values and role models? And how should digital games and gaming environments be designed so that all children can participate and benefit?