Games Will Save The World

By Alec Meer on September 21st, 2007 at 2:26 pm.

Oh yes they will. Susan Promislo from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), has gotten in touch and given us a chance to write about something positively videogamey that doesn’t involve shooting pretend men in the face. Something that could, in fact, help both humanity and the perception of videogames. Find out what it’s all about after the jump.

“RWJF is the nation’s largest philanthropy dedicated to health and health care. Recently, we have co-sponsored an online, open source idea competition with Changemakers.

“Why Games Matter: A Prescription for Improving Health and Health Care,” seeks innovative new ways that video/computer games and related technologies can transform health and health care. The opportunities for games and health to intersect are expanding rapidly–for example, Texas A&M University is developing the Pulse!! Project, a multimillion-dollar interactive virtual environment simulating operational healthcare facilities, procedures and systems. Pioneer also has funded a team at the Univ. of Washington to explore how adolescents with diabetes may one day be able to transmit health data and communicate wirelessly with their providers via game consoles and cell phones.

At the Why Games Matter competition Web site, people can enter ideas for game-based applications to health and health care and/or comment on any of the entries that have been posted to date.

All competition finalists will win the opportunity to go to Baltimore in May 2008 to present their work at the Changemakers Change Summit held in conjunction with the RWJF-sponsored Games for Health Conference. Competition winners will receive a cash prize. The deadline to enter is Sept. 26 – we welcome participation among readers of Rock, Paper, Shotgun and very much appreciate any help in spreading the word about this competition.”

You heard the lady. Get cracking, folks. Many of the games are just videos for the time being, but a few link through to homepages with downloadable, playable versions.

Looking at some of the entries on that site, there’s a lot of interesting ideas being toyed around with. The ingeniously-named Pete Armstrong stars a wheelchair-bound hero who is “powerful, tough, athletic and likable.” Smartbraingames’ effort explores how off-the-shelf games can help fight autism and ADHD. Brain-exploring action title (with a nod or two to Psychonauts) Neuromatrix offers to let you “frolic in the cerebellum” and defeat nanobots as it teaches how the brain works and what risks to it kids should be aware of.

I’d have to say some of them approach the concept of health a little abstractly, however – for instance Power of Two’s offering, which encourages you to throw ‘waste’ at a partner who says ‘toxic’ things to you. I’m not entirely convinced I need a Flash to game to learn when someone’s being insensitive, but the animation on the page that documents an escalating argument between a couple is reasonably harrowing to anyone who’s accidentally caused a similar situation.

Anyway, please take a look. Better yet, see if you can contribute an idea or two.

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1 Comment »

  1. Tom Reynolds says:

    Funnily enough I had exactly the same email on the same day. They reference my post on Tabula Rasa and the lie of ‘beta’.

    I’ll be looking at it – probably in some educational ‘When an ambulance is screaming down the road *don’t* run in front of the bloody thing you utter, utter, moron.’

    *ahem*