A growing number of children are playing educational video games as part of their school curriculum, in after-school programs, or via the web from home, reports the New York Times. After years of watching technology transform the way children play, socialize, and learn, a range of academics, foundations, and start-up companies are working on games that will put the passion children have for the genre to good use. Gamestar Mechanic, for example, is part of the curriculum of Quest to Learn, a New York City public school focused on game-based learning that opened this fall. A nonprofit group called the Institute of Play set up the school, and its executive director, Katie Salen, helped design the game with financing from the MacArthur Foundation. The difference in many of today’s educational games is that they are online and social, allowing children to interact and collaborate to achieve common goals. Unlike the stand-alone boxed games of the 1980s and 90s, the newest educational games are set up like services where children can enter a virtual world, try on a character, and solve problems that often relate to the real world. Newer games work concepts of math, science or language into the actual game mechanics, rather than stopping for something that feels to the player like schoolwork, experts say. In Gamestar Mechanic, for example, players must use physics concepts to figure out how to get two players to arrive at the same point at the same time…

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