Innovation and Digital Citizenship. Soft Skills Training through Video Games.

Cognitive Flexibility, Creativity, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving are some of the most important soft skills mentioned in countless reports from organizations such as the OECD or the European Commission itself in its well-known frameworks EntreComp, LifeComp, DigComp and, now, GreenComp.

If all these competency frameworks have one thing in common, it is that they share soft skills as root competencies. To give an example, the very recent GreenComp consists of 12 competencies, of which at least 5 could be considered soft skills: systemic thinking, critical thinking, problem solving, adaptability and exploratory thinking.

Aware of the importance of developing these skills, especially in young people, the Municipal Innovation Program (Educational Innovation Laboratory) of the Sant Feliu City Council, in collaboration with our foundation and the SoftSkills.Games platform, started a pilot program of evaluation and training of the skills mentioned at the beginning of this article. This program consists of several sessions in which, through a selection of commercial video games and analysis and coaching sessions, it is possible to raise awareness of the importance of each of the skills to be trained as well as to develop and evaluate them in each of the profiles. participants.

The profiles involved are girls and boys between 16 and 29 years old from Sant Feliu de Llobregat and the Baix Llobregat region, generally students with little or no work experience and with 70% female participation. Some of them do identify themselves as gamers, which not only makes our work easier somehow, but also warns us that the there are more gamers profile joining the labor market in each generation. This has a double advantage: First, that these profiles will be more willing to participate in training programs that include commercial video games and, second, that they most likely already have digital profiles of video game from which to extract data for their data profiling.

The program begins with Cognitive Flexibility, a skill that we define as:
The ability to see different patterns or generate different options to solve or analyze new situations. Along with other skills, Cognitive Flexibility plays an important factor in the ability to adapt to new situations as well as the ability to think “outside the box”, keeping an open mind to deal with new and unexpected events and situations.

Image of the video game GRAVITAS

The video games selected

For this case, we selected the video games Gravitas and Alien Swarm, from the SoftSkills.Games catalog. Why these games? Although they are games with very different pace, both Gravitas and Alien Swarm put the player in situations where they must make an effort to think differently. Gravitas is a game in which you have to think of the force of gravity as something that you can (and should) control and use in a completely different way than what happens in our reality outside the game, and thus be able to solve the puzzles that are becoming more and more complex at every level.

On the other hand, in Alien Swarm, there are no puzzles as such. This video game is about surviving in various space stations infested with aliens. The aliens are not entirely the same, there are various species with different abilities and, furthermore, the profiles of the different characters and weapons and tools also forces players to be very flexible in terms of handling both these tools, adapting to the different spaces and, furthermore, responding in different ways to different challenges.

Image of the video game ALIEN SWARM

In addition, using Alien Swarm certain modifiers were introduced to deepen the training of the competition, especially two modifiers: the first modifier is that no one could die before the end of the mission and, the second, to include friendly fire in the more arduous (hardcore) mode.

Image of the Awareness Session

Awareness Session

The methodology researched by and developed by SoftSkills.Games not only includes commercial video games to assess and train soft skills, we also carry out coaching/awareness sessions in which we put it to work in a more analogical but also practical way these skills to subsequently carry out afterthoughts that helps us become aware of the skills learned.

In this case, we divided the participants into 4 different groups in which, with domino pieces, they had to create the logo of a famous social network, the logo was divided into quadrants and, from time to time, each group had to rotate from its quadrant to another, so you had to immediately adapt the strategy and also facing the problems of the group that was working in the quadrant that you were moved on. In this way we were also able to observe, this time in a more qualitative way, the level of Cognitive Flexibility of the participants in another context outside of the game.

Although it is still early to talk about the results, it is necessary to wait for the project to finish and analyze and process all the data collected, it was very interesting to note how in the reflection session other related and necessary skills came to the fore in the conversation, such as Communication, Planning and Management of Frustration, in addition we like to share how satisfactory this experience is being perceived by the participants.

Image of the Awareness Session