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The impact of video games on children has been debated. It has veered towards both extremes. When you find yourself on the losing side of an argument, you can point towards the social and educational impact of games on children. But why are we dumbing it down, when game playing is as much a part of the adult world.
From education to politics…from business to the environment, games are being tailored to promote awareness of social issues. Remember the post that showcased 7 Free Online News Games That Are Based On World Affairs & News Events? The games there serve to remind us of the potential that exists beyond the blood-spills and Martian colonization’s of games meant solely for fun.
A website that’s doing some work on highlighting the link between social impact and games is Games For Change.
Supporting games for social good
The gaming site has existed for quite some time (2004) and its mission statement says it all – Catalyzing Social Impact through Digital Games.
What’s unique is that it is a non-profit organization. It is a community/movement of many creative people who are committed to social issues through the way of gaming. It is not simply a curation site for the best social games that are out there…but a full-fledged organization that is involved in bringing together the best ideas from across the globe, and taking in the resources to turn those ideas into social games.
Here is an example…
Just to cite one example, Half The Sky is a combined multi-million dollar project on the best-selling book by Pulitzer Prize winning authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. The project’s theme is the moral challenge of oppression of women around the world, and to give equal rights to them in order to promote economic development and combat fundamentalism – to “hold up half the sky,” in the words of a Chinese saying.
Games For Change is working with partners like Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), USAID, the Ford Foundation, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and ITVS to develop a global Facebook game and mobile games for India and Africa.
You can read more about their global activities here on thepage of the website.
The Games Arcade – Let’s Play!
Games For Change has a games arcade where you can play some really cool games and see for yourself the powerful mix of education, social awareness, and entertainment. Games are curated from many sources but each addresses a social issue. Some are free and some are commercial. You can also recommend social games using the submission form on the site. You can browse games by age and subject (for example – Civics, Conflict, Environment, Human Rights etc.).
Let’s check out three games featured on the site that shows us the potential of these types of gaming tools:
The cool programming ‘educator’ and online learning game teaches you the basics of programming without tutorials. It does so by engaging you in an interactive game right from the start. For instance, you can create an account only after completing a few rounds of coding. As you progress, you learn and earn rewards.
Read our full review on Codeacademy – Hands Down The Easiest Way To Code.
The game for the young is based on political themes of our times (Britain 2007). The game challenges the player to them to examine the freedoms he enjoys and the potential consequences if he does not protect them. The game is played over four episodes and involves role-play with four characters.
One Ocean is an environmental game that lets you design your own 3D underwater habitats. You learn not only about the oceans and its creatures, but also about how to save it from this century’s challenges. You have to download the Unity Web Player to play it on your desktop. The game is playable on both Windows and Mac.
I have just scratched the surface of the games arcade here. Browse through the games. Let us know which ones is your favorite. Also, drop an appreciative note if you find the idea of games for social change and the Games For Change website compelling enough.