But Gemutore doesn’t care if kids become pro gamers or not, because the company’s goals are deeper, and more heartwarming, than e-sports glory.

In addition to all the time Japanese kids spend in regular school and cram schools, several of them also have personal tutors, called katei kyoshi in Japanese. The newest entry to the tutoring field is the recently founded company Gemutore, but rather than teach kids how to solve math problems or conduct science experiments, Gemutore wants to help them get better at video games.

At first, you might be thinking Gemutore’s target market is kids who want to become professional gamers, since e-sports are steadily growing in popularity in Japan, and increasing tournament purses mean a tangible financial upside for the best players. However, Gemutore (which is a mashup of the Japanese words gemu/video game and toreningu/training) specifically says it’s not offering ultra-spartan practice regimens, and that it’s not particularly concerned with whether or not any of its students ever go pro.

Instead, Gemutore is presenting its services as a form of naraigoto, a child development term used in Japan to refer to educational, skill acquisition-based extracurricular activities, such as taking piano or dance lessons. The company cites recent research showing that playing video games help develop mental proficiency in information processing, critical thinking, and decision-making, drawing parallels to traditional strategic board games go and shogi, Japan’s local equivalents to chess.

So while Gemutore boasts that its instructors, who teach their lessons via video chat (or voice-only chat, in the case of shy kids) have extensive experience as participants in national and global game tournaments, the real aim is to sharpen students’ minds, and their communication skills too. The one-hour lessons are taught in a team format, with one instructor and two or three students, and require inter-squad coordination. Much like how Japanese youth sports teams often hold morning practices, Gemutore’s lessons are primarily offered in the a.m., with the intended effect of the mental stimulation of an hour of gaming kick-starting the kids’ brains for the rest of the day, rather than letting their cerebrums coast by passively watching morning TV.

▼ Gemetore’s three goals: intellectual development, improved communication, and increased happiness and self-worth

Lessons are primarily held on Saturdays and Sundays, so as not to interfere with kids’ regular school schedules. However, Gemutore also wants to be a positive, supportive influence for children who, due to emotional pressure, are currently not attending regular classroom instruction. The company’s founder, Kazuki Obata, himself spent about 10 years outside of the regular school system in his pre-college days, and credits playing online games with giving him social connections and friendships, as well as contributing to his sense of self-confidence. The company’s “lessons in the morning” policy also comes from his own experience. Because his and his friends’ blocks of free time aligned in the morning, that’s when they would play games together, and this regular schedule kept him from slipping into a pattern of sleeping all day and staying up all night, which helped him transition more smoothly back into regular society when he was ready to start taking those steps.

▼ Obata (right), pictured with prominent Japanese neuroscientist Kenichiro Mogi

Some might scoff at Gemutore’s field of instruction as frivolous and ultimately pointless, but one could arguably lob those same insults at parents who make their kids take violin or chess lessons. The odds that they’ll ever need, or even have the opportunity, to use those specific skills in their adult/professional lives are slim to none, but the concentration, dedication, and feeling of accomplishment those lessons can instill will benefit them throughout their childhoods and adult years. Combine that with Gemutore’s desire to also establish some sort of social structure for kids who’ve been ground down by emotional distress, and maybe the idea of a video game tutor isn’t so crazy after all.

Related: Gemutore official website
Source: Gemutore via Livedoor News/Denfaminico Gamer via Jin

Images: Gemutore
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