Video Games Seek to Build Your Social Awareness

The article from Newhouse News Service is here, and I believe is press followup to the Serious Games Summit held in Arlington this week. Lot’s more in the article – I’d recommend clicking and reading – but here are some highlights:

If you’re a video game player whose social conscience isn’t fulfilled by shooting villains or scoring points, your options are expanding: You can broker a Middle East peace deal, run a drought-stricken African farm or pick fruit as a migrant worker.

Game developers increasingly are using their products to bring attention to and solve vexing real-world problems. People who study the “serious games” industry say the designers are keen on showing the public that interactive games offer more than entertainment.

“People who grew up with games are saying, `Why should we not use this technology … to try to change this environment that I’m in?”‘ said Henry Jenkins, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s comparative media studies program and author of 11 books on media and society.

About 50 serious games deal with social themes, with at least that many more in development, said Suzanne Seggerman, executive director of Games for Change, a New York City advocacy group. “This is an area that has a whole bunch of potential.”

I don’t think I like the “serious games” concept and name. Feels to me like it’s point is to seperate from and minimize or marginalize all other games that don’t fit their definition of “serious.” I feel like people need to stop being apologetic about “fun.” I assume, at least, that in this context serious is being presented as different from and better than fun. I think that’s a mistake, as well as an educational and design copout. Yes, fun is hard to do – so we should work hard on it. The answer is not to create serious games that aren’t fun – the answer is to create games that are fun AND have a serious educational purpose.

A question I like to ask is “If it’s not fun, what is it?”


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