Movies and books have long been used to advocate for causes, such as climate change or breast cancer. As video games become more mainstream, advocates are beginning to see how this art form can be a new way to reach out and get people engaged in a cause.
Take Half the Sky, a book about the struggles of women and girls in the developing world. Teacher and mom
Suzy Kosh read it in her book group. When she heard there was a Facebook game based on it, she checked it out, and her 6-year-old son noticed.
“He got on my lap, and I started explaining it to him, and then he was so intrigued that we kept playing,” she says. “You were going and helping people and saving people, and he was really interested in doing that.”
The game puts the player in the shoes of Radhika, a poor woman in India who lives on a farm. As Kosh plays with Dylan on her lap, Radhika’s goat gives birth.
“Remember what happens when they have a baby?” Kosh asks Dylan. “How does that help everybody in the community?”
“We can, um… so then we can get goat milk!” he says. Continue reading “Video game activism”
Games-for-Change facilitates the creation and distribution of social impact games that serve as critical tools in humanitarian and educational efforts.
Unlike the commercial gaming industry, Games-for-Change aims to leverage entertainment and engagement for social good. What follows is an item on what they’ve been up to recently
“At GameTheNews.net we have been working on creating news-games for the past three months. We’ve covered a wide range of topics from solar power to the US election. However it was Endgame:Syria that got people talking and reopened the questions about games and reality Continue reading “Endgame/Syria: The game”
The boss of Electronic Arts (EA) has denied there is any link between video game content and “actual violence,” reports the BBC.
“John Riccitiello spoke out on the subject during a conference call with bank analysts following his firm’s latest earnings forecast. But he acknowledged that his industry did face a ‘perception issue’.
“The topic has become the focus of political debate in the US following shootings in a Connecticut school and a Colorado cinema. After the incidents, the National Rifle Association (NRA) – which itself had been accused of culpability – said the video game industry sowed ‘violence against its own people’. Continue reading “Game maker contests worries over violence”
Virtual wars are getting more and more commonplace. Kids play soldiers in “Call of Duty” and actual soldiers pilot lethal drones from remote trailers in the U.S.
Now the British are taking virtual warfare to a larger scale, with its army staging the largest virtual battle simulation yet, involving 220 soldiers. The BBC reports that
“The experiment was carried out at the Army’s Land Warfare Centre in Warminster, Wiltshire. The two-hour scenario saw soldiers on computers completing virtual missions in a fictional French town. The Army says the simulation will help it to find out which resources it needs to invest in, once it takes control of its own budget in April 2013.
“’The aim is to understand how various changes have an impact on the speed at which command can respond,’ Continue reading “British stage huge virtual war”
If you are one of the few people who doesn’t know about Minecraft, imagine a cross between Second Life and Legoland.
But more likely you indeed do know about Minecraft, because it arguably was the fastest growing online game craze of 2012, especially among kids.
“Last year saw a total of more than 15 million purchases of Minecraft across all platforms, with Pocket Edition the leader at just under 5.9 million across iOS and Android,” reports Joystiq. “As if we needed any more proof of the blocky sandbox’s success, Mojang published concrete figures for last year’s sales, demonstrating just how prolific 2012 was for its franchise.” Continue reading “Minecraft empire building”
The intersection of positive psychology and game design was described by Jane McGonigal in her popular book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. See SuperBetter to see what this means.
“SuperBetter is a tool created by game designers and backed by science to help build personal resilience: the ability to stay strong, motivated and optimistic even in the face of difficulty challenges. Resilience has a powerful effect on health — by boosting physical and emotional well-being. Resilience also helps you achieve your life goals — by strengthening your social support and increasing your stamina, willpower and focus. Every aspect of the game is designed to harness the power of positive emotions and social connection for live, feel, and act better. Continue reading “SuperBetter”
It’s hard to feel too much sympathy for Electronic Arts, the video game giant that displays no fewer than 14 corporate logos of real-life gun makers on the partner page of its bestselling game Medal of Honor. But at least today the links to gun stores are gone.
For anyone who has followed movie and game censorship issues, this kind of nimble response to complaints (first reported in national media two days ago) typifies an entertainment industry that always has been able to move much quicker than any legislative body. From the Hollywood movie Production Code of the 1930s to the ESRB game ratings of the 1990s, the industry has always been able to keep one step ahead of policy-makers by taking just enough action to forestall any legal intervention. The result has been an entertainment-industrial-complex that pretty much produces exactly what it wants. Continue reading “Medal of Honor drops gun sales links”
Until cooler heads prevail, for the time being we will be living through a war-of-positions on game violence. Despite the absence of empirical evidence linking media violence and real world “effects,” a moral panic atmosphere is rising throughout the U.S. But as this recent essay by Steve Benen points out, nations where people play plenty of violent video games don’t seem to share America’s predilection for mass shootings. Reproduced below is an except from Benen’s article as it appeared on maddowblog.
“Plenty of officials, including folks like Joe Lieberman, have been arguing for years that violent games desensitizes young people to violence and contributes to a larger corrosive effect on the culture.
“There’s just no evidence to support the claims. Hunches and cultural criticisms notwithstanding, there is no science to bolster the contention that gaming and gun violence are connected. (Adam Lanza was reportedly obsessed with “Dance Dance Revolution” — which is a game, as the name suggests, about moving feet, not shooting weapons.) Continue reading “Looking beyond game violence”
“Congratulations. Reading the first paragraph of this article has earned you a badge.” In a curious piece in today’s New York Times, Nick Winfield discusses a concept already well known in gaming circles: that the tasking and reward systems of video games have broader social implications. As the article continues:
“If this made-up award makes you feel good about yourself, then you are on your way to understanding gamification, a business trend — some would say fad — that aims to infuse otherwise mundane activities with the excitement and instant feedback of video games.
“Many businesses are using these game tricks to try to get people hooked on their products and services — and it is working, thanks to smartphones and the Internet.
“Buying a cup of coffee? Foursquare, the social networking app that helped popularize the gamification idea, gives people virtual badges for checking in at a local cafe or restaurant. Continue reading “The world as game”
Of course the “media violence” debate will be revisited in coming weeks and months.
Below we see the introduction of “Game Theory” in the New York Times, a series primarily devoted to what games its reviewers like for their entertainment value. But the first “edition” of Game Theory ventures into the emotion-laden topic of game violence. Notable in the article, as in almost all of the discourse on media violence, is the absence of any empirical evidence to support alarmist arguments that young imitate in real-life what they play on their computers.
“Welcome to the first edition of Game Theory, a conversation about the year in video games. Some introductions for the uninitiated: Stephen Totilo is the editor in chief of the gaming news site Kotaku.com, and he also writes about video games for The New York Times; Kirk Hamilton is the features editor at Kotaku; and I’m the deputy editor of Yahoo News, and a writer of video game reviews for The Times. The three of us will be bickering — I mean, coming to a friendly consensus — about the year’s best games, the year’s worst games and about what 2012 indicated about the state and future of this creative medium. Continue reading “Game Theory?”
Here is the scenario: An invisible menacing force is trying to get you, everywhere you go. A malevolent secret organization wants to take over the world by sneaking into your mind. Walk too near the wrong trash can or tree, and it could zap your brain. And by the way, it already has possessed loads of the people around you, even your most trusted friends.
“The world around you is not what it seems,” the promotion for Google’s new Ingress phone game says, “It’s happening all around you. They aren’t coming. They are already here.”
Game news website CNET describes Ingress like this: “Ingress begins with a series of training missions designed to orient new players. Quickly it introduces you to its quirky lexicon. Around town you will find various “portals”; the point of Ingress (at least so far) is to control them. To control portals you have to “hack” them, which is akin to a check-in on Facebook or Foursquare. Hacking portals rewards you with various items, the most important of which are portal keys and resonators. Portal keys allow you to link portals together; resonators power them up and can protect them from being stolen from your rivals. Linking three portals together creates a “field,” which is more powerful than a portal, and is apparently essential for world domination.
“The game takes the form of a free mobile app, now available on the Google Play store for Androiddevices. It is the second product from Niantic Labs, a startup accelerator within Google. Niantic is run by John Hanke, the former head of product management for Google’s “Geo” division, which includes Maps, Earth and Local, among other divisions. Niantic’s first project was Field Trip, an Android app for discovering the world around you. Released in September, Field Trip sends notifications to a smartphone whenever a person passes an area of possible interest — a landmark, a park, a highly rated restaurant. In my use, it’s been a fun way of exploring new cities and unfamiliar neighborhoods.
“Seven members of the elite SEAL Team Six, which gained global attention leading the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, are in trouble with the U.S. Navy for divulging classified information to developer Danger Close Games for Medal of Honor Warfighter” say an article in today’s Hollywood Reporter. “Each of the seven soldiers received a punitive letter of reprimand and a partial forfeiture of pay for two months. In the military, these actions can impact future promotions.”
As reported in concurrent coverage in Wired Dangeroom, “Letters of reprimand have gone to seven SEALs who helped Electronic Arts out on Medal of Honor: Warfighter, a recently released game that boasts of “connect[ing] dotted lines to real global terror events.” The scenarios in the game involve “Tier One Operators,” the elitest of elite commandos, chasing down pirates and terrorists across the world. CBS reports that the military has determined the game reveals unspecified classified information, and has put the SEALs on notice that they’ve gone too far to make the first-person shooter realistic. Continue reading “Seals in trouble over Medal of Honor game”
Half the Sky now is going digital with a new online game. In early 2013, the movement to empower women and girls continues with a new adventure on Facebook. This new game is part of a growing effort on the part of game developers (Zynga, in this instance) to partner with groups working for social change. Half the Sky Movement: The Game is inspired by the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide and brings players first to a small village in India to meet Radhika. The press release says that “Over 300 million people play online social games each month, and their demographic profile cuts across gender and age groups. In the game, Radhika will take players on a global journey, from India to Kenya, Vietnam, Afghanistan and the U.S. In her transition from oppression to opportunity, she must find her voice in her own house and gain financial and social independence. Players start with very little, but as they complete quests to help Radhika and other girls and women, Radhika becomes a community leader. Whether helping a girl in the village to buy a bicycle that will take her to school, or fighting off an international gang of sex traffickers, Radhika becomes a force within her world. Continue reading “Half the Sky to launch online game”
Here is the scenario. You find yourself in a virtual game-world where you can be anything you want––say, a princess, a superhero, or maybe a dragon. Enter Micha Cárdenas. The question is this: in assuming a new identity, are you really leaving behind the actual “you”? Nearly two decades ago, a now-famous New Yorker cartoon made popular the adage, “On the internet, no one knows you are a dog,” referencing the presumed demarcation between virtual and real personas. But this begs the question of where the expression of the self resides, inasmuch as identity is a largely mental process. Continue reading “Becoming transreal”