Can “serious games” help change the world?

I’m too old to have grown up with video or computer games and my daughters, thankfully, never got addicted. So I was surprised recently to learn about “serious games”–games designed to spur activism or educate people around social and environmental issues. Even the staid World Bank has come up with a game!

I wrote about serious games this week for the News@Cisco website. Here’s how the story begins:

Lagos, Nigeria, barely survived a maize shortage. Japan is down to its last month of rice reserves. London, meanwhile, has been without clean water for a couple of days, and a case of cholera has been confirmed.

No need to worry—this is just a game. On the other hand, maybe we should worry a little more about global food shortages, people without access to clean water and the threat of epidemics. All are part of a “serious game” called Evoke: a crash course in changing the world, created last year by the serious people at the World Bank.

Their goal? To educate young people, particulary those in Africa, about creative ways to combat poverty, famine and disease, and ideally inspire them to act.

“Instead of doing a generic website, we really wanted to engage people,” says Robert Hawkins, a senior education specialist at the World Bank’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. “We’re very interested in the potential of games to motivate people to learn.”

As broadband Internet connections spread, governments, businesses and nonprofits are deploying what are being called serious games. Serious games can be fun to play—they should be, in fact—but their purpose is to educate, motivate or train people. They’re being used to explore an array of complex social and environmental issues, ranging from pollution in the Chesapeake Bay to the refugee crisis in Darfur.

You can read the rest here.


  1. says

    Marc, I think games are a great tool for a communication. If you will excuse the corporate self promotion, BT has had three games out there for a number of years now . They are narrower in scope than some of the examples you quote (and perhaps a little dated) but they have a role to play. Intrigue 2016 uses the solving of a murder mystery to explain the key issues behind the Stern Report and Better Business Dilemas is an on line role-play to illustrate the dilemas between balancing CR&S and other business issues. They are not designed for the serious gamer, but for a broader audience. We certainly find these engage people more than a page of text and I think there is scope for corporations to do a lot more of this sort of communication to explore issues of sustainability.

    I have a boxed board game version of The Better Business Game if you are interested in playing a round over a coffee sometime :-)



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>