In 1985, a book revolutionized Sci Fi. The name was Ender’s Game and the lead character, a kid that needed to become a leader. As part of his training, video games were used by trainers to measure Ender’s emotional responses. Immerse in a safe and engaging environment, Ender showed his true self when confronted with anxiety, frustration and decision making. In 1985, the idea of video games used as teaching tools was… Sci Fi material. Today, video games are breaking the ancient laws of education.
‘How do you teach emotional intelligence through a video game?’ – Is the question we asked Daniel Peña, R&D Director and Marta M. Reiz, Product Manager at Alava Reyes, the company behind Gomins, an awarded app to help parents deal with this not-so-tangible part of children’s education. Here is how they explained it.
First of all, Gomins is not a substitute for teachers, parents or psychologists. Gomins is a new tool for them to handle the development of key emotional intelligence aspects in children, such as impulsivity, tolerance and frustration. Little kids of around 6 years old are not able to express with words accurately what they feel. Through the game, they just deal with real situations and adults are able to understand what they feel and how they answer.
The Gomins are little cute aliens that explore the space. In one of the voyages, a little one is left behind unintentionally. Now is the mission of Gomins’ players to help him return to his family. Through the cute character, kids establish a kind of pet-carer relationship. Part of the game will be taking care of the character while, at the same time, players help him with puzzles and obstacles all along the way back home.
The real novelty about Gomins is its evaluation system. The children’s activity is accessible to their parents from the parental app, so they can follow what is going on. But don’t think about evaluation in terms of numbers. Gomins is divided into two parts: the virtual game and the real game. Gomins is able to detect areas that could use a bit of work and proposes parents fun activities to practice with their children.
Parents are a key part of Gomins and working with their children is essential for the process. A lot of parents have difficulties to find relevant games and activities to work on these emotional aspects. Thanks to Gomins, they have lots of possibilities and their precise application and goal. They can work on impulsivity reading the story of “Gomin, the clown” and his problems trying to wait his turn to act in the circus. Or deal with frustration when a tower of blocks is built by the child and ‘accidentally’, a parent happens to knock it down. The idea is to make the children understand that getting angry is not a solution and that the tower can be rebuilt.
Behind all Gomins’ stories and algorithms, there is an experienced team of psychologists. The company -“Alava Reyes”- is a Spanish psychology center with years of practice. 26 psychologists, 30 years of experience and 5.000 real cases are the base for Gomins’ intelligence. But if all this information does not reach the parents, the game would be a failure, so Gomins has also a lot of work in UX and feedback to parents. In the beginning, they can feel a little overwhelmed about all the information they can obtain from the evaluation tool, but they rapidly get used to the game and how they can make the most of it.
During 2015, Gomins was declared ‘Best Health Game for Patients’ during the II Spanish Health Games Conference, was a finalist in the prestigious South Summit and selected to be part of ‘TF Invierte Gold Edition’ Investment Forum. But the success is not stopping the team. Currently “Alava Reyes” is developing ‘Gomins for schools’. Why? Because if teachers knew what is going on in their students minds they could develop a more personalized approach to each kid and be able to confront discipline issues in the classroom.
Gomins is a classical ‘Heroe’s Journey’ to improve a usually forgotten part of children’s development: emotional intelligence. And the game not only accumulates prizes and nominations but also users. Around 2.000 children are currently active users. If you are interested in emotional intelligence and video games, you can download both the game and the viewer for parents of Gomins for your iOS and Android device for 4,99€.