The Rise of Games
Videogames are increasingly ubiquitous. More than half of all Americans play them and for college students it's more than 70%. Games have surpassed Hollywood box office revenues for the third year in a row. Last year's figures: games' $10B to Hollywood's $9.4B. And as this technology matures, there is a new trend emerging: harnessing the power of this popular medium for more "serious purposes". Fighting poverty. Educating and inspiring young cancer patients. Training protesters in peaceful resistance to oppressive regimes. Fostering leadership skills in inner city youth. Exploring the tricky terrain between civil rights and airport security. Treating debilitating childhood diabetes. Understanding the human rights crisis in Darfur. The list goes on.
How can organizations use games?
Digital video games provide a platform that is highly engaging, challenging, empowering and educational by nature.
Potential for Informal Learning
Over the next five years, there is the potential for a new breed of games to emerge with a real impact on such diverse issues as poverty, health reform and racial inequities. Games will be developed for preventative awareness on pressing topics like obesity, asthma and diabetes. Non-profits could reach elusive inner city youth communities with free games about the benefits of going to college by having kids actually play out the related long-term probabilities of job security, income and life expectancy. Already we see a concerted and continuous effort to create games for Israeli and Palestinian youth to play together simultaneously, where each player has to take on the other person's perspective in order to "win" the game. University youth will be fluent in game creation - much like video today - so that they are empowered to make their own pro-social games.
Barriers and Opportunities
The social change sector is often slow to understand and adopt new technologies. Games have the additional burden of being stereotyped for only violence and fast action. A dedicated forum is necessary to help educate and inform of this powerful new medium and its unique capabilities for learning, and to start networking and planning for longer term field-building. The medium is only just beginning to mature enough to sustain non-entertainment uses. Like public TV and documentary film before them, there needs a concerted and informed effort to create a public space for this new media. Collective strategies today will have tremendous long-term effects on diverse groups in informal education.
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