red tulips | copyright Jill J. Jensen



Games for Change [G4C]

"real world games, real world impact"


For years, we've been dithering about the potential negative impact of online and video games on the youth of our country and the world. That's mostly when we think of Grand Theft Auto and its ilk, where high body counts and bad behavior rack up the points toward success.

But in the right hands, games, game theory, and gaming scenarios can be a powerful learning tool for positive social change. Whether it's poker, chess, football, Scrabble®, Monopoly®, Dungeons & Dragons, tag, or Go Fish, the players generally determine the need for defense, offense, cooperation, or collaboration. The online world simply moves the human dynamics of play into cyberspace.

Games for Change — or G4C — is part of a growing movement seeking to "affect social change via interactive media and games," as Chris Swain, Co-Director of Electronic Arts' Game Innovation Lab, says on the organization's website.

Game Channels, or topics, include domestic issues, environment, global conflict, politics, and poverty, with names such as "A Force More Powerful," "Darfur is Dying," and "The Redistricting Game," that engage players in seeing the impact their actions can have in the offline world.

The timing seems perfect to check out the site, since the prestigious MacArthur Foundation — the one that hands out the $500,000 "genius grants" — just released its study of kids and games and civic engagement. A Pew study on the relationship between teens, games, and civics is also cited.

Like music, games may open a door to international collaboration, since the action of the game may not need much explanation in a particular language, or it can involve people from across the globe, as long as participants are interested in the topic.

That's what Games for Change intends. Perhaps technology can have good results when we're thoughtful about what we do with it.


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