Games for Good

I'm really starting to think that games are one of the magic ingredients in getting this new wave of social change off the ground. When I was at Amnesty I wanted to use games to raise awareness, but maybe we should just make more actual stuff in to games if we want to get a result.

After a the excitement of last weekend's Social Innovation Camp I wondered if part of its magic was that it was a game. Applying competitive teams, rules and time limits to a bunch of hackers & creatives really did the trick.

Last week's How I fell in love with Wikipedia article quotes its first employee saying "it's almost more like an online game, in that it's a community where you hang out a bit, and do something that's a little bit of fun: you whack some trolls, you build some material, etc".

In this week's updated post on Thinking out of the (x)Box: Gaming to expand horizons in creative writing Ewan McIntosh reports myriad ways in which "Certain games are incredibly effective at generating more expanded horizons in students imaginations when they are writing and speaking creatively or transactionally", And his references to "the moral dilemmas and complexity of decision-making in more long-term games like Sim City or Rollercoaster Tycoon" indicate how games could impact the youth enterprise agenda of my day job.

But it was Charlie Leadbeater's invocation of I Love Bees in Social Software for Social Change that switched me on to the exciting social potential of alternate reality games (ARGs), a trail I followed to Jane McGonigal's World Without Oil. As Jane says; 'Reality is broken. Why aren't game designers trying to fix it?'.

So with all this incoming synchronicity I was delighted when David Lundblad invited me to the Gaming for Good event he's puttiing on with Johnnie Moore on Wednesday, April 16, 2008 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm at NESTA: "An informal gathering of people who think that organisations and society can benefit from a deeper appreciation of the upside of gaming - whether that's online mutiplayer games or real world games..." According to David, they see the three main themes as gaming to improve products & services, gaming to improve organisations, and gaming for social good. As per Ewan's stuff, we should add gaming for education. Then you've got yourself a pretty broad swathe of social impact where games could be a magic ingredient.

Whereas Games for Change (G4C) uses gaming as a way in to social issues, it might be that the bigger long term impact comes from a general spread of a gamer attitude. Research tells us that young people in the UK already treat social media as a multinodal game; so the gamer attitude could spread to online/offline projects for social impact, bring with it the energy, imagination and lateral thinking that makes solving problems into fun.

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