Games with a Positive Impact on the World
December 13, 2013
•IADT General, Game Design and Production
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If you are thinking about becoming a game designer, you might not realize that one day you could end up creating games with a positive impact on the world. Scientists, psychologists and economists have begun to realize how useful games can be at investigating and solving complex problems and even improving the human brain. More and more platforms are helping people and impacting the world in unpredictable and wonderful ways. From working to treat depression to solving scientific dilemmas, games are changing the way we think about the world and helping us to discover new things about ourselves. Here are some examples of how games are saving the world, one mouse click at a time.
Foldit Tackles HIV Puzzle and Wins
Foldit is a game designed by Seth Cooper, a computer scientist at the University of Washington, through which players can help scientists solve complex protein structures. Players use their spatial reasoning skills in this puzzle game to find the most optimized structure of a protein, a feat that can take computers years and years to do on their own. Scientists can then use these structures to predict how the proteins will behave and combat disease-related proteins accordingly. Recently, Foldit players were able to solve the structure of a key retroviral protein in the study of HIV. Scientists had spent over a decade trying to crack the code of its intricate configuration; gamers solved it in less than 10 days.
Simulated Worlds Provide Valuable Insight into Human Behavior
Academic theories can be difficult to test in real-world settings. After all, no one is going to allow experimentation on a real economy or country full of people. Massively multiplayer online game worlds (MMOs) have large scale, virtual settings filled with hundreds and sometimes hundreds of thousands of players. These virtual environments are rich with information that can help researchers gain insight into human behavior. Economists, for example, are utilizing data gathered in these virtual economies to observe economic phenomena. They can examine how barter systems function or see how the operations of complex banking systems change under different regulations and settings. These are games with a positive impact on areas of study ranging from psychology to epidemiology to political policy because they help model human behavior.
Changing our Brains for the Better
Research has shown that games with a positive impact can change the way our brains work, increasing our cognitive abilities and adding up to 10 years to our lives, according to Forbes. Happiness from playing games is one positive side effect, but games are currently being utilized for a myriad of other purposes, such as helping the elderly combat the effects of aging on the brain, aiding soldiers to make better decisions on the battlefield and increasing skill sets in professions that necessitate delicate procedures, like surgeons. According to leading game designer and author Jane McGonigal, games change the way people think. They build confidence and social resilience which, in turn, can make a person live a longer and happier life.
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