When many people think of computer games, they see a form of popular entertainment that takes up lots of people’s time, but perhaps doesn’t provide much in the way of positive benefit. But they may not realise that games are increasingly being used for education, health and social change. Indeed, what are known as ‘serious games’ are now serious business, with US sales to hit US$10.6 billion by 2026.
Serious games are not a new phenomenon. The international, non-profit Games for Change organisation has led the way in promoting serious games since 2004, with chapters in the US, Latin America, and Europe - and now the Asia Pacific region.
La Trobe’s School of Education staff member, Dr Stefan Schutt, is one of the founding board members of the new Asia-Pacific chapter, which last month saw the first regional Games for Change Asia-Pacific Festival take place online as part of Melbourne International Games Week.
Run from a temporary ‘nerve centre’ in Our Community House in North Melbourne, the free inaugural festival was supported by ACMI and launched by Minister for Creative Industries, the Honourable Danny Pearson. It was an unexpectedly huge success with 634 registered participants watching over 100 virtual presentations and workshops by serious game developers, educators and researchers from countries such as India, Iran, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, as well as Australia and New Zealand.
Viewers spent an average of over eight hours each logged in to the festival via the Hopin conferencing platform, adding over 2200 chat comments. These presentations are now being made available via the G4C APAC YouTube channel.
Topics included educational games about traditional Indigenous tattooing practices in Malaysia, attitudes to immigrants and domestic violence in South East Asia, civic engagement in India, workplace ethics and the burgeoning Iranian games development community. Health-based presentations discussed everything from older people, mental health and autism to game-based clinical diagnosis of ADHD and hearing conditions. Next year’s program promises to be even bigger, with a mix of online and face to face activities and presentations.
As part of the festival, G4C APAC also launched the very first volume of the new Games for Change Asia-Pacific Journal which is now available to download for free - or purchase for e-book readers or bookshelves. The free download is available here.
The journal showcases insights from experienced and emerging game-based educators, enthusiasts and researchers who note the potential of games in dealing with some of the world’s wicked problems. It's been produced with the support of ETC Press at Carnegie Mellon University in the United States.