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How many parents spend the school holidays at work, worried about whether their child has moved from their video game, save for the odd trip to the toilet or fridge?
It can be a genuine concern for parents, especially given that 24 percent of children in the ACT are either overweight and obese. Not to mention, the isolation that can be associated with staying inside alone and gaming all day.
Active Gamers Australia are set to change all that through their innovative new school holiday program in partnership with AFL ACT that combines video gaming, fitness, teamwork and leadership training.
The program will run from 14–18 January and is aimed at children aged 11 and older. Having been involved with the Canberra video gaming community for some time now, organiser Ravi Sharma is familiar with the benefits of gaming for young people—and the drawbacks when it’s experienced in excess.
“Active Gamers has grown out of Reload eSports, which in turn grew out of the Barracks Internet Café—the longest running internet café in Australia. We’ve been running gaming events since about 2002, before the word eSports was even coined.”
Over that time, Ravi says he’s seen a change in the way people are gaming and that it’s moved from being a niche activity to something that’s firmly ingrained in the culture of our young people.
“Your average person is a gamer now, and your average person does many things, including fitness. They’re not mutually exclusive. At the same time, however, there is a concern that long periods of time spent sedentary in front of a screen can have some negative health effects, in the same way that working in an office can, so to get the body moving is really important.”
The partnership with AFL ACT means that children will be led through fitness sessions by AFL ACT Coaches on the AFL oval in Phillip.
“They’re going to do fun fitness with the kids,” explains Ravi. “Not all of it will be AFL-centric either—it’s quite generic movement with fun and games. The coaches are aware that some of the kids may be sitting down for long periods while gaming, so the movement will be aimed at correcting that.”
Physiotherapist Chris Cousins says that Canberra Physiotherapy Centre has seen a worrying trend of much younger patients presenting with spinal pain secondary to a sedentary lifestyle.
“The Active Gamers program offers a well-balanced and holistic experience. The active component involves a good variety of functional, whole body exercises, while the gaming aspect will introduce important ergonomic and lifestyle education in a fun and engaging format,” he says.
While gaming is often an individual pursuit, it also presents the potential to be a bonding experience for children and an opportunity to work as a team.
“We’re taking some time to implement some team building programs within the day,” explains Ravi, “these will take the form of forming a squad within a video game, discussing a strategy beforehand, allocating roles within the squad, talking about why those roles are important and how people can work together.
“We’ll discuss what makes a good leader and a good team member, then afterwards we’ll have a debrief about what worked well and what could be done better.”
In a world where people are increasingly spending more time online, the Active Gamers program will also teach children the principles of being good digital citizens.
“We often get examples of negative behavior online, whether within a video game or social media. We’ll be teaching kids how to maintain good behavior while in a game, what constitutes good behavior and what constitutes not good behavior.”
A typical day in the program will involve sessions of free play gaming, an organised co-operative gaming session, a specially designed fun fitness session with coaches, and a trip to the swimming pool. The program will also highlight the importance of healthy eating with nutrition-rich lunches and snacks.
“As a society, we’re often focused on problems caused by over use, but games have the potential for a very positive impact. There are a range of significant cognitive and social benefits. This program aims to promote positive gaming and how it can fit into a balanced lifestyle.”
What: The Active Gamers Program
Where: AFL Canberra Office, 8 Spoering Street, Phillip
When: Monday 14 to Friday 18 January 2019
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