An article in yesterday’s NYT, “Saving the World, One Video Game at a Time,” by Clive Thompson, gives a good overview of the current trend in the video game industry, especially by nonprofits and activist groups, to create “serious games,” a movement which “has some serious brain power behind it. It is a partnership between advocates and nonprofit groups that are searching for new ways to reach young people, and tech-savvy academics keen to explore video games’ educational potential.”
“What everyone’s realizing is that games are really good at illustrating complex situations,” said Suzanne Seggerman, one of the organizers of the third annual Games for Change conference in New York. “And we have so many world conflicts that are at a standstill. Why not try something new?”
One such game is Peacemaker, which is a political simulation based on the current situation in the Middle East. Another is the World Food Programme’s Food Force (which I review here).
Of course, serious simulations are nothing new in the gaming world, and even predate the advent of video media. An argument could be made, for example, that games like Axis & Allies and Risk, while focusing on military aspects, are in some sense serious (albeit limited) teachers about the realities of war policy and foreign affairs. And games like Shadow President, released in the early 1990s, are relatively complex and immersive political simulations.
Related PowerBlog Items:
“Video Games Can Save Lives and More…”, Thursday, June 1, 2006.
“Speaking a Language They Can Understand”, Wednesday, February 15, 2006.
‘Your mind makes it real’, Tuesday, November 22, 2005.
“Vidiocy”, Thursday, August 11, 2005.
“Family Values and Grand Theft Auto”, Wednesday, July 27, 2005.
“Game Review: Food Force”, Thursday, May 12, 2005.