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Games for the social benefit is more than just an ethical diverting activity

The organizers for the eleventh edition of Games for Change Festival in New York (April 22-26) are inclined to believe that. Alongside The Tribeca Film Festival, The festival will bring together game designers as well as policy makers, educators, and other stakeholders.

“Gaming for social good” is the practice of using games that are digital or games that are not for entertainment purposes. It is a broad field that encompasses serious games, gaming-based learning, games that have an objective, and the concept of gamification (or game mechanics, and game thinking in a non-game setting).

Studies from the past decade have proven that when used in the right context, games can be an engaging and enjoyable method to examine our identities and actively take part in learningbuilding social connections, and participating in decision-making and problem-solving. Making within the “safe-fail” space.

Social-good games that are well-designed can lead to positive outcomes through engaging our inner motives as well as positive feelings.

Games can deal with social issues; for instance, Darfur is dying, which raises consciousness about the dire situation of refugees living in western Sudan; FreeRice, which offers a sponsorship platform to combat hunger around the world; and RecycleBank, which promotes household recycling and reduces waste.

Darfur is Dying. Screenshot

The use of games on the internet to play games that are not for entertainment purposes is nothing new. Its roots can be traced to the 1950s with the development of the first computers, which were computerized by scientists in order to conduct studies in computer science and artificial intelligence.

However, it wasn’t until the Cold War took hold that significant investments in games were put into by the military in order to replicate war games to train soldiers and evaluate battle strategies.

Nowadays, besides the military, investments in games that have a social impact are made by philanthropic foundations, universities, and government agencies in collaboration with private sector companies and aided by advocacy organizations like Games for Change and Games for Health.

In the field of healthcare, Games have been employed in many areas like rehabilitation, research, as well as educational and medical training. In addition, here are a few examples.

Games for health and wellness

Clinical research

The University of Washington developed the multiplayer online game FoldIt in 2008. The game concentrated players on predicting patterns of behavior of protein structures, with potential applications for the treatment of the AIDS virus, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Screenshot of Foldit. Courtesy of University of Washington. billmcclair

The challenge of how to alter the enzyme’s structure, M-PMV retroviral protease – a problem that puzzled scientists for over 15 years was resolved in only ten days after the issue was revealed to 240,000 FoldIt users in 2011. This is a significant illustration that shows how multiplayer games, crowdsourcing, as well as computer networks, can be utilized as an entirely new and exciting method of research that is collaborative and problem-solving.

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Jane S. King

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