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Why Games for Impact

Why Games for Impact

Digital games are different from other media in that they are interactive, participatory and highly engaging. They enable players to step into different roles (e.g. scientist, explorer, inventor, political leader), confront a problem, make meaningful choices, and explore the consequences.  Well-designed games and game-infused experiences offer a delicate balance of challenges and rewards that can drive deep levels of engagement and time-on-task, enabling players to advance at their own pace, fail in a safe and supportive environment, acquire critical knowledge just-in-time (vs. just-in-case), iterate based on feedback and use this knowledge to develop mastery.

  • Games are also uniquely suited to fostering critical skills necessary for navigating an interconnected, rapidly changing 21st Century world including problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and systems-thinking.

The future of our nation and the planet is dependent upon our ability to solve multiple, complex global challenges.  For our society to navigate these complex challenges, it will require a scientifically literate and highly engaged population that can confront these challenges in an informed, productive and sustained manner.  While not a silver bullet, well-designed games and game-infused experiences can help make this complex set of challenges accessible, engaging, and relevant at a personal, family, community and global level.  This is especially critical considering that over a million high school students drop out every year and – result

Games are also well suited to make complex systems accessible and motivating players to take on challenges and persist past hurdles – in both the digital and the real worlds. Whether it is a 7 year-old parsing a Yu-Gi-Oh card, a 40 year-old building a thriving city in SimCity or a 21 year-old folding proteins in Foldit, games invite players into a complex problem space and entice them to accomplish challenges requiring both persistence and systems thinking.

  • Games are interactive and immersive, allowing citizens to not only learn about complex global problems, but to have an experience playing out the role of a protagonist who actually solves fictional and, depending on the design, even real-world problems.

As with other sectors, games are also increasingly transitioning from ‘products’ (games that one plays and finishes) to ‘services’ (games and game-infused communities that do not end, but live as long as the developers can support on-going content and community management). These game-based-services and the broader ‘gamification’ movement are using principles of game design and behavioral theories to design activities in ways that engage people to act in the real world, not simply in the digital realm.

  • Gamification is being used today to better engage citizens with pressing local, national, and global problems through a combination of carefully designed extrinsic and intrinsic motivators and achievement infrastructure that can focus attention, motivate action, provide a trajectory of advancement and help inspire thoughtful competition, collaboration and community.

In our thinking, games for impact are best conceptualized as “game-enabled services” with the understanding that games include designed worlds, engagement frameworks, and powerful technologies. At the Center for Games and Impact, we interpret “games” from this perspective, leveraging designs, frameworks, and technologies all in the service of unlocking the potential of every human being to do great things.