Last year the Harvard Business Review linked online game-playing to leadership ability, pointing out that multiplayer games such as World of Warcraft and EverQuest are good at developing skills such as ‘risk-taking, speed and fluidity’ that businesses need in a globalised digital workplace. IBM and other corporations use virtual spaces to hone management skills in a world where events such as the financial crash would have been regarded as far-fetched had they appeared in a computer game a year or two ago.
Last week I saw two small examples of what might be the future. At a seminar organised by Digital Public, a consultancy, I met the young people behind Dead Ends, a videogame commissioned by Channel 4, which enabled kids from at-risk London areas to work with rollingsound.co.uk, a small multimedia company, to create a game about knife life on the city’s streets with a serious underlying message. [...]
In Plymouth I visited TwoFour, an interesting company embracing everything from TV production to virtual worlds, which has linked with Stoke Damerel Community College to conduct entire lessons in Second Life for 13- to-17-year-old kids lacking motivation, with surprisingly encouraging results. Meanwhile, Sony Computer Entertainment has released to critical acclaim the UK-developed Little Big Planet, a PlayStation 3 game where players can learn elements of physics or other disciplines.
TruSim, a division of Blitz Games Studios in the UK, has developed Interactive Triage Trainer, a 3D virtual representation of a real-world situation designed to train professionals how to prioritise their treatment of casualties after a catastrophe.
These are a few examples of what could become a mass market under the watchful eye of the recently established £3m Serious Games Institute at Coventry University. David Wortley, director of the institute, is hopeful that their work will dispel some of the social stigma around videogames to highlight positive applications that can deliver genuine solutions to real social and economic issues.