Attention, gamers! Dr. Natalie Hruska, a faculty member at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division, started a club to talk about games that you as a group can design and develop to evoke real, positive change. Have you heard of the “Games for Change” organization? Here is Dr. Hruska’s low down on the group and why you should care:
What is “Games for Change”?
Dr. Hruska: Founded in 2004, Games for Change is a non-profit organization that facilitates the creation and distribution of social impact games that serve as critical tools in humanitarian and educational efforts.
What does “social impact game” mean?
Dr. Hruska: It means the game would make an impact on society in some way, and I think this would connote this impact is positive. For example, make the environment cleaner or making people happier. They want to improve aspects of our world like how we work, health, and our interaction with the environment. There are just certain things that technology can do that they would otherwise not be able to accomplish, like facilitate learning about a condition or motivating a person to take care of a disorder like depression. The added interactivity and calling on all the senses might facilitate motivation and learning.
How do these games serve as tools in humanitarian and educational efforts?
Dr. Hruska: Do a search engine search and you will find that social games are used in a variety of ways to serve a variety of causes.
- Check the Games for Change website. Here you will find games organized by age and social impact area, like ‘conflict’, ‘art and empathy’, ‘human rights’, and ‘youth produced’. http://www.gamesforchange.org/
- Non profit organizations and medical websites often havemultimedia, education, children, or games page. You canyou will probably find a game or some other kind of interactive media on these pages.
- The FBI and the CIA use games to entertain educate. Check out CIA Interactive, for example:: https://www.cia.gov/kids-page/games/index.html.
- NobelPrize.org - I was surprised to find a game about how to run a POW camp. I ended up playing the game and I was educated about international law.
Why should students get involved - what are the benefits?
Dr. Hruska: Three major benefits that come to mind
- Fun, community interaction - besides sharing resources and links to games that are already out there- I would like to the group to make their own game- a game we can submit to Games for Change for others to play. Members of the Art Insitute of Pittsburgh – Online Division Games for Change Group might also meet some friends (and references).
- Gain Skills- People with some knowledge of the connection between game play and social impact might find many opportunities as they enter the workplace, whether planning the concept, defining the functionality, writing a script, designing, developing, or something else.
- Introduction to the Industry. Our country is growing ‘older’. There might be more demand for health related games. Studies have shown that game play in areas like memory training and sensory health can have positive outcomes. People like the interactivity and entertainment factor of these social impact games.
How can being involved like this work with a student’s education goals?
Dr. Hruska: There is nothing wrong with finding an interest and making it part of your education. When I was pursing my Master’s, I found my interests in web design and non-profit organizational work. All of my projects and essays were in some way focused on these interests. If you find something you like in Games for Change, think about how your class projects can be merged with your interests. In the process, you might build your portfolio too, toward a specific niche that you will want to keep pursuing once you graduate.
What do you think about violent games?
Dr. Hruska: I do not have an issue with violent games, just as I do not have issues with movies or stories with violence. However, some people, including me, are not drawn to these kinds of games. Ever since my early days playing infocom games like Leather Goddess of Phobos, and later, Trinity and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, I liked plots with a different kind of creativity on different levels. Games do not have to have violent to be entertaining, interactive, exciting, engaging, challenging, and beautiful.
Tell us about your passion for Games for Change.
Dr. Hruska: I have always had an interest in volunteering, and technology, and new cultures. When I saw the opportunity to help out countries in the developing world that wanted to go high tech with their own websites, graphics and more, I was hooked. I have written many essays (research.nataliehruska.com) on the topic of social change and technology, and hope to do more.
My interest in connecting these organizations to the benefits of technology evolved to my interest in use of video games to help with social issues. It seemed the next logical step. I found out about Games for Change, about the same time the organization was founded. One day, I want to attend their annual festival in NYC.
Mission for The Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division Games for Change group:
- To promote gaming as a way to rouse positive social change
- To develop games that support positive social change
- To encourage others to be a part of our cause; to share resources and more!
JOIN THE GROUP NOW AND ATTEND THE FIRST MEETING!
Our first Meeting is Sat., February 9th at 1pm EST. It should last one hour, but could go longer. It will be by online teleconference and webinar. You will just need your phone, a connection to the Internet, and your computer. Register Here!
If you want to attend, email NHruska@aii.edu.