Gaming has never been more popular. With thriving social media websites like facebook and rise of the smart phone games are now more readily available and consumed. Yet even with this shift there is still a negative attitude towards gaming. Many people who consume these games don’t see themselves as gamers, for them gamers are the stereotypes:
· a fat loner slacker eating Cheetos in his mothers basement playing MMORPG’s all night
· a sweet teenager being corrupted by all the violence and filth by games such as Grand Theft Auto
· a socially inept psychotic man who is so immersed in gaming that he can longer tell reality from fantasy (Anders Brevik)
Why is it that in an age when Angry Birds is the most downloaded game ever and Farmville has addicted tens of millions around the world that these stereotypes still persist?
Gaming is thought of as a juvenile activity, a waste of time and at worst and a dangerous mind altering addiction. Apparently playing violent games will turn you into a killer (if you believe Fox news). We know that games can influence your mood, making you joyful, scared or contemplative but I believe games themselves do not make killers; rather it’s the predisposition of some people who have addictive personalities or inherent traits. In all serious studies of computer game violence, real world violence in Western countries has decreased as computer game sales have increased. In fact it could be said that computer games help people let off steam and so decrease levels of violence. I have played Street Fighter or Punch Out on numerous occasions when I am stressed and I am sure that there are go-to games that other people play to release their tensions. We must get the message out there: games can be good for you!
In fact some games can be incredibly good for you, helping to improve numeracy and literacy, expand emotional and physical intelligences and help to solve real world issues. Jane McGonigal is a big advocate for games that can promote change. She has frequently spoken around the world about how games can change reality. If people are emotionally, socially and mentally engaged then they will invest time into games and these could help solve real world issues. In fact gamers were even used to assist in solving an AID’s problem that had eluded scientists for a long time, ‘Citizen Science’ if you will. The gamers may not have understood the science but they knew how to deal with a variety of variables and data as many games (especially MMORPG’s) depend on the management of these to really proceed.
In a world where many things are beyond our control games offer a safe haven as they have set rules, they reward play through achievements. We may not get that promotion at work but in games as long as you invest time you will progress. It is this intrinsic reward system that has hooked the millions of World of Warcraft fans. The ability to create, share and innovate is a human trait and many games tap into this, games are a part of who we are, it may be digitised but the message is still the same: Games offer community, they provide rewards and used appropriately games can save the world.
Currently I am using a variety of simulations from www.gamesforchange.org to ask my children to solve a real world issue. I will present the work here later and offer my thoughts on how it went.