Technology experts held a summit last week at CES regarding the state of tech and children in the home. The Kids@Play and Mommy Tech conference (and exhibits) looked at current issues and products that are affecting the future of our digital embracing children. Among the topics at the conference was the subject of digital games and their role in bringing up intelligent generations. “Gamification” was the subject of Games for Change co-president Asi Burak’s keynote speech. An introduction for the keynote stated: “Gamification is this year’s buzzword when it comes to raising smart kids.”
Games for Change is a New Yorkbased non-profit organization created to help further the development of social games that impact society in healthy ways. The company engages in projects that generate awareness of economic, environmental and social issues through games and other media. One of their larger projects is an annual ‘festival’ (convention) that brings together non-government (NGO,) government, and corporate groups along with game developers and designers for the purpose of creating and promoting games that generate social awareness. A major goal for the company is to “bridge the gap” between these types of games and the more commercial driven games. The next festival will be held in June.
Gamification.org defines gamification as “the concept of applying game-design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging.” In gamification study, regularly used game design techniques and mechanics are defined and introduced into atypical game scenarios. An example is the game Trash Tycoon where the player has been left behind in a city abandoned because of its extreme garbage problem. The player takes time to build a trash collecting empire that incorporates recycling and organic trash collection solutions often seen in real-life situations. The game employs the popular game mechanic of community collaboration as it is played on Facebook.
Tycoon games (business simulating games) are not new in the gaming world. Almost every recreation-based industry has been gamified; amusement park building games are at the top of the list. The challenge is to gamify and make entertaining the industries and global-situations that are impacting the world and the future—a daunting task, but one that has made great strides over the past decades. There are many of us that now have a greater understanding and appreciation of city planning and its challenges thanks to the popular Sim-City series of games. Another success story: Food Force is a game published by the United Nations World Food Program where the player goes on missions to help a famine-affected country. Since its creation, it has been educating players about how civil war and drought affect populations in other parts of the world.
The power of the digital game has been recognized. Games have always been implemented in effective education curriculums for children. Summits like the one held at CES last week and conventions held by groups like Games for Change are helping groups with non-commercial interests in game development keep their game players interested and educated.