Serious Games that Solve Problems

As of today, pre-orders for Xbox-exclusive title Halo 2 have passed 1.5 million preorders in the United States alone (not counting international pre-sales), breaking videogame records and guaranteeing first-day revenues higher than any movie in history. Being a big HALO fan, this is incredible news to me! On a serious note though, what does this mean for us the Gamer Generation? Are we on a social decline, or is this a good thing?

According to Mercury News, gaming isn’t as bad on children as we think. While video games may have become mainstream entertainment, their image still suffers from the notion that they’re particularly detrimental to children. The issue may have been blown out of proportion and perhaps a more balanced attitude exists. That’s one conclusion you might draw from a recent national survey conducted by Menlo Park’s Kaiser Family Foundation. When parents were asked to pick the medium they were most concerned about in terms of inappropriate content, video games were at the bottom of the list. About a third (34%) picked television. All mediums “equally” was second, at 20%. The Internet was of most concern to 16%, movies to 10%. Music was the choice of only 7%, and video games and “not concerned” each registered at 5%. Fractions of percentages and non-answers account for the remaining 3%.

OK, so video games are not that harmful to impressionable minds, but what use does it have? Is it a waste of time for someone to escape reality all the time? I’ve been playing a lot of games, and I realize that every good game has something important to share that might not be built into the game consciously. I’m talking about how games teach, how games bring people together and how games, like movies, tell a story.

Full Spectrum Warrior Today, a Serious Games Summit convenes in Washington, bringing together more than 500 game developers and people interested in their use. The summit will feature sessions that include “How Can Games Shape Future Behavior?,” “The Potential of Games in Healthcare,” “Inside Infinite Teams: Game-Based Team Training,” “Real, Reel, Surreal: How Games Impact Perception” and “What Happens When Games Go Into Any Classroom Situation.” The Washington Post reports that in the past three years, the U.S. military, with increasing popularity, has capitalized on simulation, developing games like Full Spectrum Warrior and America’s Army to train soldiers. American’s Army was developed under Michael Macedonia, chief technology officer for the U.S. Army’s Orlando-based Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation. There, the motto is “All but war is simulation”. According to Michael Macedonia, these aren’t first-person shooter games, but “first-person thinker games”, capturing the subtleties of situations. “A 19-year-old private has to master a wide range of skills,” he said. “He’s a negotiator, a Third World economist, a diplomat.”

Amongst the games that glow of positive effects:
The Sims, as well as SimCity, SimLife, SimAnts, Simwhatever. Glucoboy, a glucose meter that can be connected to a Nintendo GameBoy, will be available for kids with diabetes this spring. SuperCharged!, released last year, helps physics students understand electromagnetism; Virtual U, released in 2001, lets players take on the role of a university president.

Do you know of any more games of this sort?

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