I’ll admit that upon receiving the announcement from a pooh-poohing friend, I thought it odd. But I implore you to not join the derision. Stop scoffing at the headline. While you’re at it, unroll those eyes and retract that snicker. Before you get all high and mighty about the Boy Scouts trying to become hip, or attempting to remain relevant in today’s connected age, let’s look at the badge itself.
Earning the belt loop (tier 1 gear) is fairly straightforward. The institution wants its pupils to be responsible. Belt jockeys need to do the following: Only play games geared toward their age group (as determined by the ESRB), schedule game time after chores and homework have been completed, and then tackle an approved video game.
Tier 10 loot isn’t something that can be done on a rainy afternoon. No welfare epics for the Boy Scouts of America, you’ve gotta grind the Academic Pin out. To score the scholarly achievement – the real mark of a boyscout – the tiger cub, (bear) cub, or webelo must take planning to the next level. Five separate tasks have to be performed, such as shopping around for the best deal on a title, hooking up a game system, coordinating a family video game tournament, sharing and teaching a game to someone, or playing a game that can promote real-life skills (math = WoW spreadsheets, reading = BioWare’s space opera, etc). It’s nothing to sneeze at.
Personally, I think the implementation of the badge is brilliant. The obvious benefit is that it forces some responsibility on the child. He has to do specific tasks to earn his badge that have nothing to do with his Gamerscore, collection size or Gearscore. The majority of them don’t even involve playing a game. Most importantly, the children learn and thus teach their parents and relatives benefits of gaming that aren’t blatant or known by most. They’ll recognize that these escapist practices can increase reading, math or organization skills all at the behest of the Cub Scouts of America.
Now that I think of it, this isn’t weird at all. After all, the Cub Scouts is where I first learned about character progression. Sadly, I only made it to the webelo level before getting burned out. I just didn’t see enough end-game content, and the PvP was atrocious. :p
Kidding aside, this is a far better way to teach kids (and parents) that video games are not kiddie toys. They’re pieces of entertainment that can be crafted to cater to a wide variety of audiences, be it mature, casual, kiddie or for everyone. I applaud the Boy Scouts of America for thinking outside the box and supporting the rating system. The age-old organization continues to lead.