Crystals of Kaydor: On a Quest to Develop Empathy By Playing a Video Game

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Crystals of Kaydor: On a Quest to Develop Empathy By Playing a Video Game

According to a report of the Kaiser Family Foundation, children and teens up to 18 years old play video games for more than 70 minutes / Photo by: Tookapic via Pexels


The Kaiser Family Foundation states that the average time spent by children ages eight to 18 in playing video games is more than 70 minutes. This increased duration of playing in adolescence is simultaneous with the time the brain becomes even more developed and when one is more at risk to experiencing bullying, depression, and anxiety for the first time, Science Daily says. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison wanted to find out if video games could be tools that could foster positive emotional development during a person’s teenage years.

Richard Davidson, the lead researcher of the study, says, “If we can’t empathize or with another’s difficulty or problem, the motivation for helping will not arise.” He then proceeds to explain the purpose of conducting the study.

He continues, “Our long-term aspiration for this work is that video games may be harnessed for good and if the gaming industry and consumers took this message to heart, they could potentially create video games that change the brain in ways that support virtuous qualities rather than destructive qualities.”

Crystals of Kaydor, the new game being introduced, has the premise that a robot accidentally crashes onto a planet and in order to collect the missing pieces of its pieces, it must first build rapport with aliens who speak a different language but have facial expressions that are very similar to humans. This experimental game was created to be able to assess if video games have the capacity to help in boost empath and to examine if the neural connections in the brain will alter once the child learns this social skill. Their study was published in the npj Science of Learning.


What Is Empathy?

According to Psychology Today, empathy is defined as “the experience of understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings, and condition from their point of view rather than your own.”


It involves imagining oneself being in the situation of another person to be able to comprehend what they are going through. Empathy makes it easier for an individual to act on prosocial or helpful behaviors, which in turn makes them behave in a more compassionate way.

Putting oneself in other's shoes and understanding each other's thoughts are the examples of empathy / Photo by: Getty Images


Bastion vs. Crystals of Kaydor

The researchers recruited 150 middle schoolers to be part of their experiment. Then, they separated them into two groups. The first group played the Crystals of Kaydor, while the second played Bastion which was not designed to improve their empathy.

The middle schoolers who were assigned to play Crystals of Kaydor came in contact with the aliens in a faraway planet. They had to determine the level of emotion found on the faces of aliens who expressed shock, happiness, anger, disgust, fear, and sadness. As the children did that, they gauged their accuracy in recognizing the feelings of the aliens. The goal was to help them practice and learn empathy.

Meanwhile, the middle schoolers who were playing Bastion had to gather materials for creating a machine that would save their village. In contrast to the first group, this activity did not have the objective of educating the children about empathy. They chose it due to its third-person perspective and for its engaging graphics.

Two weeks before and after the experiment was performed, the researchers acquired functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans. They examined the links in some regions on the brain, such as the connections related to controlling emotion and empathy. The subjects were also asked to complete a test that assessed the accuracy of their empathizing.

As a result, they discovered that those who were Crystals of Kaydor participants had increased connections in regions associated with empathy compared to players of Bastion. In addition, the Crystals of Kaydor players who had stronger connectivity in emotion-regulation networks of the brain had better scores on their empathy test this time around. On the other hand, the middle schoolers who did not have an increased neural connectivity in their brains also did not show any improvement in their empathy test.

Davidson concluded from the results that this type of training for empathy may not be effective for all kids. He stated that the challenge for those who like to research further on this topic is to be able to identify which children would get the most benefits from this training and why.


More Games that promote Empathy

To further prove that not all the video games have plots that center on violence, it has been noted that a group has dedicated themselves to the making of “social impact video games”. Games for Change advocate that video games are able to “help people learn, improve their communities, and contribute to make the world a better place.”

Here are some other video games Mothering recommends that parents should try letting their children play:

Thomas Was Alone

This a 2D game that has rectangles as main characters. This game’s plot revolves around accepting oneself, friendship with other rectangles and diversity.


This game focuses on companionship as well as the joy and the hardships experienced in embarking on a journey home.

Four Little Corners

The objective of this game is to help children learn about friendship, fitting in and understanding differences. This involves being the only rectangle in a world filled with circles.

To say that not all video games have violent content, there are many video games that can grow your empathy / Photo by: StartupStockPhotos via Pixabay


Avokiddo Emotions

As the player interacts with zoo animals, they are taught how to decode emotions, decipher body language and

Who Am I?

This is an app that helps make children aware of other races. It was designed to help parents who struggle with discussing race and diversity with their children be able to start a conversation about those subjects. 


In this upcoming game, children play as Peekaville characters. They are assigned to participate in missions where they have to assist other characters in regulating their emotions and beat their challenges.

The Outlook of Crystals of Kaydor

As of now, the experimental game, which was designed as part of the collaboration of Gear Learning and the researchers Kurt Squire and Constance Steinkuehler, is not yet officially released. Presently, it is just being used as a research instrument but has aided in informing the FDA about other games that are waiting to be clinically approved.




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