Why are they important? There is a problem amongst employers, where entry-level candidates are seriously lacking in some of these skills (for example survey findings, see http://upstart.bizjournals.com/news/wire/2013/11/11/jobseekers-missing-interpersonal-skills.html?page=all). These skills are necessary for competitive, innovative, businesses of the 21st Century to thrive, and for young people to gain employment.
I don’t feel that the current education system effectively equips our youngest generation with the skills necessary to live and work in the 21st century. Games based learning may not be the entire solution, for example, ATC21S suggest assessment is a key element, but it may be part of one.
There are two ways that games help improve 21st century skills. First of all, some games directly aim to improve specific 21st century skills. For example, Real Lives teaches citizenship. Secondly, the act of playing certain games can increase skills, such as problem-solving e.g. Learn with Portals.
The second point is very important. The skills that are likely to be gleaned by the playing of games are often softer, 21st century skills. This is because, almost by definition, games require problem-solving, creativity, decision-making and so on. Many require communication and collaboration. What is so great about these skills is that they are highly transferable. It is easy to see how these skills can be useful both in and out of game worlds and a question frequently asked by children is, “When will I use this?”. Surely education should equip children with useful, transferable, relevant skills.
Games based learning is modern and relevant. And whether skills are gained explicitly or as a by-product, it is a valuable, modern way of skilling up children for the 21st century.