by Megan Yarnall When I was growing up, my exposure to video games was limited, thanks to my mother. She didn’t want her kids to be influenced by the violent behavior and gore often depicted – and acted out – on the screen. Studies show that children are influenced by what they see on the screen, and at that time the influence was believed to be largely negative.

However, it’s been shown that games can have a positive influence: according to Jane McGonigal in an article from the Huffington Post, when players can “the best version of themselves” in a game, they set high aspirations and are confident within the game, and this “can trickle into our real lives.” Kids who played Rock Band and Guitar Hero, says McGonigal, expressed more interest in music and learning how to play instruments outside of the game as well. And if this is true for music, why not recycling?

Green games such as LogiCity, The Climate Change Game, CEO2- Climate Business, and Plan It Green are all examples of video gaming for good. These games teach players how to manage the environment and business to effectively take care of the planet and consider how our actions affect the health of the Earth. TerraCycle’s own Trash Tycoon is taking on the recycling problem.

If someone recycles in a game, and decides what to make with the trash and recyclables they collect, they can think of this off the screen when they are in their kitchen or in the school cafeteria. With Trash Tycoon, for example, when players buy Kraft Cheese food items in the game, and recycled the plastic cheese packaging in the game, the same behavior is more likely to be emulated in daily life. According to McGonigal’s article, kids who played “ ‘pro-social’ games […] are more likely to help friends, family, and neighbors in real-life for a full week after playing the game. Positive behavior in a game can translate into positive behavior in reality.

Embracing these trends and using games in a positive light can be an important tool in encouraging change, especially for kids. By making a game out of recycling and environmental care, kids forget that they’re learning and don’t realize that they’re creating daily and potentially life-long habits thanks to their entertainment.

Not convinced? According to Huffington Post once again, “playing games can prepare us to tackle challenges like curing cancer, ending world hunger, and stopping climate change.” Games can make a difference. Giving people of all ages the chance to experience real-world consequences through a game can give them a sense of the reality of that problem. Let the kids put their hand on that mouse and play away.