It’s no secret that for most Americans video games have become a critical element of our culture. They aim to entertain, educate and amuse us. Consumers have made the gaming industry a multi billion dollar success story that may some day dominate the entertainment industry. According to the NDP Group: “Console and portable software sales: $6.2 billion, console and portable hardware and accessory sales: $3.7 billion, PC game sales: $1.1 billion in 2007.” So it’s clear gaming has a mass appeal and a measurable social impact. One can see even see the far reaching effects of video games on cinematic production, commercials and even education.
Culturally they have met mixed social commentary by members of society looking for a convenient scapegoat. The scientific facts stand at odds with the regulation hungry and the overzealous politicians. Of course there are games that are objectionable but we can’t take a black and white view on an entire medium for the miscalculations of some. Truth is that most studies come to the conclusion that games have more positive effects than not. Study after study shows that video games improve spacial abilities, cognitive abilities and even visual attention skills. Authors Lawrence Kutner, Ph.D. and Cheryl K. Olson, Sc.D outline a more scientific vision of the phenomena of video games in their great book, “Grand Theft Childhood.” So it’s a bit unfair and unscientific to hold the limited opinion that games have no social, artistic or educational value.
Gaming is used for supernumerary positive ends that ought to be expanded upon in the future. Games are used in video training, simulation and educational settings to supernumerary ends. Harnessing the power of this medium will help better educate our children, produce better soldiers and better surgeons. Gaming has a major didactic potential worth exploring.
A Couple of Very Cool Examples
The potential in the world of gaming as an educational medium is great. Take the example of Re-mission, written by the non-profit HopeLab. It’s a FPS (First Person Shooter) which is designed to help kids with cancer better understand their illness.
Alice is an educational 3D game environment that teaches programming to kids. The project has a great potential for bring the “cool” back to teaching programming through play. We may have it to thank for many of our future scientists.
To quote one of my idols and the father of modern video games Shigeru Miyamoto,
“Video games are bad for you? That’s what they said about rock and roll.”
No matter how positive the contributions are of this industry – there will always be detractors. As a whole we have great potential in future of this medium.
On October 15th I will be giving a presentation on Open Source Games at the BLU (www.blu.org) where I will delve into these topics and more. Please do join us!