Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Some Games That Are Good for You

No offense, gamers. But the likes of Guitar Hero, Call of Duty, and Assassin's Creed are doing nobody any good but you. And even that last bit is highly debatable. But we won't get into personal views about how big a waste of time and money video games are or are not. To each his or her own, the politically correct, Good Samaritan would say.

But then again, the Good Samaritan is probably only playing so-called "serious games"-that is, games that are dedicated toward personal or societal enrichment. If you don't believe me, just check out SocialImpactGames.com, the Web site dedicated to such serious games. As the motto on the site's banner says, "Entertaining Games with Non-Entertainment Goals (a.k.a. Serious Games)." So far, Social Impact Games is cataloging and/or linking to more than 200 games. They claim to know of as many as 500 serious games in the universe, and are in the process of tracking all of them down.

There are games, for instance, to inspire health and wellness in their players, to train business people in the way of the office, to teach soldiers how to respond in foreign settings, and to educate the young on such complex topics as public policy.

There's a game called Food Force, in which players are the U.N. World Food Programme sent in to help during a humanitarian crisis in the Indian Ocean. The goal-teach young people about food issues around the world.

Another game is called Waste of Space. It vaguely resembles Asteroids, and generally teaches students the same thing: how bodies act in the vacuum of space. Or there's one called Free Dive, where players "swim" in a 3D simulated underwater world with the fish and the turtles. This game has been proven to distract children who have chronic pain or are undergoing painful procedures.

My favorite is BT Better Business Game-where the player is a virtual CEO of a company and must learn to manage social interactions and their company's business environment. It's good to be the king.

Some games are there to be downloaded to your laptop. Others merely have information provided on them. The site hopes to help folks interested in socially responsible games to find them, as well as to create a forum of inspiration for those interested in creating new serious games. The phenomenon, the site says, is growing.

Forget all that touchy-feely stuff, though. Real gamers are only interested in one thing-how games play. The Good Samaritan in me says, "Judge for yourself."

But the gamer in me says, "If I want a serious game, I'll set the computer to the Colts in my next Madden game."

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