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Digital Games for Social Change

There just was a festival in New York City dedicated to the new movement using digital games for social change. “Games for Change” is a community of practice for those interested in making digital games about the most pressing issues of our day, from poverty to race and the environment. They belong to the Serious Games Initiative, which is focused on the use of games in education, training, health, and public policy. (See also our previous blogpost on Computer Games against Disasters.)

There is quite a lot of activity going on in mobilizing good-will ideas in the masses with the help of video-games. A series of games is trying to address health questions, like Nanoswarm – Invasion from Inner Space, a videogame adventure in healthy eating and exercise, as an effort against childhood obesity (to be released in 2008. There is a game on 3rd World Farming, one about a World Without Oil or a Peace Maker Game, aimed at conflict resolution and understanding. In the game simulation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you can choose to play as either the prime minister of Israel or as the Palestinian president.

An interesting game on social change is the Redistricting Game, designed by the University of Southern California to educate and empower citizens around the issue of political redistricting. State legislators draw the lines of voting districts thus giving way to a wide range of abuses and manipulations: “As a mapmaker I can have more of an impact on an election than a candidate, a campaign or voters”, said an election consultant. And the poitologist Jonathan Aronson said about this game in the Washinton Post, why to manipulate election machines, when you can manipulate the whole election process by mapping. The game teaches how a more collaborative and innovative system can be set up.

Or you like to play Karma Tycoon, where players can pick some type of nonprofit organization they would like to administer and establish it in one of 12 major U.S. cities. The game by aims to entertain teens while also giving them an appreciation for the business side of charitable works. In an Interview in USA Today a child said: “Why not create a game that maximizes karma in order to make the world a better place?” The game is developed with the help of the JP Morgan Chase Bank: “This is one example of many where we will collaborate with an organization to bring change. Social investing is core to the business strategy and the culture of JP Morgan Chase.”

(c) Karmatycoon

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