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New York Times Investigates Serious Games

Following the recent Games for Change conference in New York, a
July 24, 2006
Following the recent Games for Change conference in New York, a new story published by the New York Times has explored the topic of serious games, specifically citing many titles covered here at Serious Games Source. Also highlighted in the report is World Food Programme's hugely successful Food Force, which has been played by at least four million people since its launch by the United Nations division in April 2005. The organization's expertise was recently again enlisted by the U.N. in order to develop a new serious game aimed at reducing the number of children killed by natural disasters while in school. Last April, Food Force was made available in Polish, adding to the English, Japanese and Italian translations already available. Hungarian, Chinese, French, Greek, Hindi and Arabic translations are planned in the near future. The report also discussed PeaceMaker, which was the topic of a recent feature interview on Serious Games Source, and was highly visible during the recent Games for Change conference. Developer Asi Burak noted in the report that while some players initially do not understand how a game could be developed around the topic of promoting peace in the Middle East, most who play the game become very “engaged” in the experience. “They really try very hard to get a solution,” noted Burak. “Even after one hour or two hours, they’d come to me and say, you know, I know more about the conflict than when I’ve read newspapers for 10 years.” These sentiments, as well as the overall acknowledgment of the potential benefit of these serious games were echoed by Games for Change conference organizer Suzanne Seggerman, who was quoted in the story, commenting that the games themselves are “really good at illustrating complex situations.” She added: “And we have so many world conflicts that are at a standstill. Why not try something new? Especially where it concerns young people, you have to reach them on their own turf. You think you’ll get their attention reading a newspaper or watching a newscast? No way.” However, the report does concede that there is room for improvement in these games, and that there simply has not been enough documented proof that these types of games, despite their growing popularity among non-profit organizations, are successful at achieving the developer's desired goals. More information, including additional quotes from other developers and educators in the serious games space, can be found in the full report.

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