The True Gaming summer camp in New Brunswick is taking heat from a university professor who says the idea of healthy videogames is "a bit of an oxymoron."
I never went to summer camp when I was a kid but had the need arisen I think the True Gaming summer camp in Fredericton, New Brunswick, would have been my number-one choice. "True Gaming offers one week day camps for 7 - 14 year olds," according to its website, "promoting a healthy balance of videogame play, along with a great combination of creative projects, physical activity and social interaction."
"It develops problem solving and just-in-time thinking," explained founder Andrew Reimer. "They have to make decisions at just that time, and so it's a quick responsiveness in that way."
Furthermore, he added, videogames have become a kind of conversational touchstone for kids in the same manner as popular television shows, movies and music. "I'm not sure exactly how a kid would be able to socially interact nowadays without having any video gaming background," he said. "I feel like they'd have a lot harder a time at like public school, because that is the common factor that kids have nowadays to make friends."
But that doesn't wash with Gabriela Tymowski, a professor of kinesiology at the University of New Brunswick who also ran the first child obesity clinic in the province. "It's a bit of an oxymoron to talk about healthy videogames. Why don't we talk about healthy activity? Physical activity?" she said.
Kids already spend six hours a day in front of screens on weekdays and more than seven hours on weekends, according to a study by Active Healthy Kids Canada, while the New Brunswick Health Council said that more than 28 percent of the province's population is obese. "Children are interested in videogames, they're attracted to them, there's a lot of stimulation there," Tymowski continued. "And so parents are encouraged or want to put their children into an activity that the children will enjoy. But unfortunately, while their fingers may be dexterous and moving, the rest of their body isn't."
It's a valid point, but how far it goes depends a lot on what sort of games are being played. The website doesn't break it down in detail but it does mention the Nintendo Wii and DanceDanceRevolution, saying that "kids don't even realize they are exercising." The camp's Facebook photo album, meanwhile, focuses almost exclusively on outdoor activities, suggesting that videogames are just one part of the whole "gaming" experience. And that, to me, sounds like not a bad idea at all.