This is something my husband wrote that I was very impressed by and needed to share. As video games become more and more prevailent in our kids’ lives, we need to be sure that we know what they are playing and if the game matches what we wish to teach as parents.
I just read two really good articles about how games affect society. I found them to both be very insightful, but I warn you one of them will probably make you mad.
The first one I read was:
“Virtually Alone” from a magazine called “Faith & Family”. It described a person who literally has an addiction to video games to the detriment of his family, his job, his hygene and his health. The article described how his wife had lost he husband to video games and that he was irritable, angry, and would not eat for a day or two at a time. When I read this I was mad. I said to myself, “This guy is just an idiot and needs to grow up!”. Then I realized I had some of the same issues at times when playing video games. I am always looking for that rush of a new mission and finally getting past that %@#$ing level! As I honestly looked at myself in the proverbial mirror I could see the signs of a mild addiction.
The second article was quite different:
“Serious Expectations” from a magazine called “Game Developer” describes the use of a game that allows a cancer patient to battle cancer cells in a virtual world. The result of the project found that those patients that had access to the cancer fighting game called: RE-MISSION did better than those that did not. This is ground breaking research of using simulated health problems to conquer real health problems. This example shows that video games have potential for doing great good for society.
So, what did I learn from reading these two articles. I learned that as designers we need to take into account that our goal of making money from a video game may be at odds at times with the well being of our audience. Putting in a feature that the user can adjust such as an alarm clock that shuts down the game for some number of hours. Or a feature that indicates they have played so many hours. Or a feature that allows the player to save their current position so they are not felt obligated to keep playing to get past a certain point in the game. This last one really hits home as some games really make me frustrated when a level is too long.
I also learned that through creativity we can affect society in a way we may never have dreamed. For instance, games that focus on puzzles overtly or in a more hidden way can enhance the thinking process. What about a game that challenges a player to face their “real” internal demons. This would have the potential for creating a relationship with the player that is so personal it could change their lives. How about a game that causes kids to want to get outside and ride a skateboard ( I have bought two skateboards since I started playing Tony Hawk games and I am 31 year old kid).
The point is we have a real chance to generate a whole new class of video games that CAN change the world for the better. These two articles are making me rethink all of my motivations for writing video games. I love to play them, I love to make them, and I would love to make someone elses life better for it.