Video games are good for more than just entertainment. They can be used as a tool to teach people valuable ideas and lessons about how the world works. Games for Change is a website with a wide array of online and downloadable games that do precisely that.
After skimming the site, I decided to choose a few games that looked interesting and see what they were all about. Below is a short list of a few that I found particularly interesting.
This game allows the user to experience what it is like to be a refugee. The game is divided into three sections: “War and Conflict,” “Border Country,” and “New Life.” Across each of these three sections you have to complete tasks like surviving an interrogation, escaping across the border into a neighboring country after deciding what to bring with you, and finding a job in your new country once you’ve been granted permission to work there. The game highlights some of the tough choices refugees must make in their decision to flee injustice and allowed me to better understand the hardships some people must face on a daily basis.
In this game, you are a politician running for president of the United States. After choosing a candidate to run as, you must choose your platform and key issues to support, then run for office in primaries and a general election. Along the way you can fund-raise, run commercials, take polls, and make personal appearances in individual states to try and earn votes. This game wasn’t quite as profound as Against All Odds, but it’s still a fun way to get a firsthand idea about the democratic process.
Unmanned seeks to challenge the concepts of war presented in most first-person-shooter style video games and present some of the realities of war from the perspective of an operator of an unmanned aerial vehicle. You don’t face combat directly; you only deal with targets on-screen. In between assignments, you go about your civilian life with your wife and son and are supposed to take note of how your involvement in the war effort relates to these interactions. Based on your responses to certain situations, you can earn medals. I only earned two out of eight or so that I encountered, one of which was for being a good dad. I never figured out what I was supposed to do during my missions, whether I was supposed to be shooting at someone or even how to shoot, and my commanding officer would constantly get mad at me for that. It’s kind of a strange, slower paced game, but I guess that’s part of what makes it interesting: the fact that parts of it go against our more commonly held notions of war.
This game was created in response to a lack of LGBT relevant content in video games. I thought it was interestingly symbolic. The design is similar to that of classic Pokemon games for Gameboy in that you wander through forest mazes using your keyboard’s arrow keys and encounter monsters. But the forest represents something unknown and taboo (the LGBT community or lifestyle), while the monsters are “demons” that represent negative influences that society has on your LGBT character. You can attack demons with ‘logic,’ ‘passion,’ or ‘ethics.’ If your attacks are unsuccessful, you lose “resolve” which you can regain if you “take a breath.” The idea behind the game is interesting, and it is a prototype, but I feel like it would be more effective if it had a greater sense of depth.
These are just a few of the games available through Games for Change. You can find others on topics from education, to the environment, to health issues. If there’s a topic that you’ve wanted to gain a better understanding of, there just might be an applicable game waiting for you. I suggest you go check the site out.