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The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

Games for Good are Good Business Too

Kunal Sarkar
Monday, May 3, 2010
Kunal Sarkar
Computer games now rival films as the greatest revenue generator in the entertainment industry, but games are being used for many more things than entertainment. ‘Serious games’ are being used for everything from corporate training to cancer recovery. Not only are these games and the companies behind them working to change the world for the better, but they're becoming big business too.

What comes to mind when you think of video games? The high powered consoles like the Nintendo Wii or Sony Playstation, big budget games like Call of Duty, and the relatively young fans that buy them. It's clear that video games are a serious business, and have been so for some time: in the UK alone, £1.73 billion was spent on video games during a 12 month period ending in September 2009 - £500 million more than on movies and purchase of DVDs during the same period. But the video game industry is much, much more than Grand Theft Auto and World of Warcraft. As the industry has grown, ‘serious games’ or games developed for a purpose beyond pure entertainment have proliferated as well.

Serious games, which have been developed for uses ranging from corporate training to cancer recovery, can take advantage of the same properties that make entertainment games so addictive: strong engagement during interactive play, motivation to improve and win, and the ability to simulate compelling situations. But instead of using these elements to simply drive game sales, serious games use them to teach, persuade, or facilitate personal improvement. For example, Food Force, a game published by the United Nations World Food Program, was developed to educate individuals about the mission and work of the WFP. Even Wii Fit, a hugely successful exercise game, fits squarely in this category: the primary motivation for people purchasing the game is to improve their physical fitness.

Wii Fit also serves as proof that games for personal improvement can be hugely profitable; it's a significant contributor to a serious game market that is estimated to generate more than $1.5 billion in revenues worldwide each year. Games like Wii Fit, Food Force, and Celebrity Calamity, a financial literacy game developed by a professor and dean at Harvard Business School, are also examples of what many in the serious games industry refer to as ‘games for good’. Whether it's improving fitness, cultural understanding, or budgeting skills, these games help people the world over to live healthier, safer, and happier lives.

And governments and institutions around the world are starting to take note. The same leaders who once condemned video games for keeping kids indoors and being too violent are now promoting ? and funding ? games for good as incredibly powerful tools for large-scale social change and personal improvement. In the United States, President Barack Obama announced a major initiative in November 2009 to use gaming technology to improve math and science education for students. More recently, the Educational Secretary of Scotland, citing new research findings supporting learning games in education, encouraged the use of brain training games in Scottish schools. Other research, such as the 2006 ACTIVE study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, show that this sort of healthy games can help a much larger population, including seniors and middle aged individuals, improve their cognitive fitness as well. Games are even helping cancer patients speed their recovery. A study in the journal Pediatrics found that cancer patients who played Re-Mission, a game developed by the California based non-profit HopeLab, maintained higher levels of chemotherapy in their blood and took their antibiotics more consistently.

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