Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Would you like to play a game?

   Videogames have been controversial for many years because of the common public concern that they promote violent behavior among teenagers.  The popular concern with violence in video games is greater than violence in the movies because video games are more interactive than being a mere spectator of TV.  It makes sense that interaction between the audience and media would have a greater influence on the audience than watching the media or reading about it.  This is where the idea of newsgames come into play.  Newsgames create an interaction between players and public events that promote the understanding of different social dilemmas.  In Newsgames: Procedural Rhetoric meets Political Cartoons, Michael Mateas and Mike Treanor compare newsgame's political statement to that of political cartoons.  Both newsgames and political cartoons take a medium that is ultimately used for entertainment and turns it into a political outlet that raises awareness to different social issues. Mateas and Treanor argue that newsgames  could have a "deeper and more persuasive power then political cartoons and newspaper editorials".
   The website Games For Change states that it's mission is to "catalyze social impact through games".  With computer games directed toward younger audiences between the ages of 7 and 14 dealing with issues like airport security and natural disasters, the website can be seen as an outlet for learning. Much like the written news, newsgames also contain bias and young impressionable minds do not know how to detect bias.  This may present a problem. If children are playing games with a certain opinion on social issues instead of simply playing games that teach them how to read and write, they may grow up with the bias of the media (more than they already do).  Games are often directed towards children and the idea of children playing games about the war and other serious political issues does not seem right.  On the other hand, this website promotes games for children dealing with recycling and healthy eating which has a positive influence on youth.
   It is hard to determine if the games on this website really promote social change because they must be purchased.  In my opinion, this presents another problem with this website.  The manufacturers of this website states that they aim to "leverage entertainment and engagement for social good".  Can social good become a commodity?  Games for Change claims that it is a 501(c) nonprofit corporation so it is exempt from federal income tax.  Although it is expensive to create computer games and it would not be right to say that these game creators should not get paid, this website may be teaching children that social change must come at a price.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad to see you writing about Games For Change, which has been a very important organization promoting newsgames. Please note, however, that many of the games on the website are free to the public, so you might unintentionally undercut your interesting critique that gets to the transfer question (do these games really impact understanding or change behavior) by questioning their legitimacy as a charity.