Considering the pervasiveness of video games, it is no wonder that some brilliant minds are conceiving ways to use this new media to affect social good, physical well-being, and mental health. Power Play features innovations that have taken the passion for video games and utilized it in ways that make important changes, some global and some local, but all driven through gaming. Asi Burak draws on years of public service in his role with “Games for Change”–an international group that has introduced players of different social, economic, and ethnic groups to games that seek to improve their lives.
The innovators presented in Power Play have enabled millions of players around the world to have meaningful experiences and learn about the different viewpoints surrounding everything from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the US Constitution. The book touches on some of the most important innovators who have been recognized by Games for Change, including former Supreme Court judge Sandra Day O’Connor, Pulitzer-Prize winning authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, along with a Pediatric Oncologist and a Saudi Prince, acknowledging their special contributions to the idea.
Recently, Games for Change has (like much of the consumer electronics world) seen the rise of virtual reality (VR) as a platform that can bring users into the experiences in a way that can affect change like no other technology before. Power Play mentions the VR exhibit Machine To Be Another, created in 2012 by students in Barcelona, that allows users to virtually exist within another body. Utilizing virtual reality headsets fitted with a front-facing camera, the experience swaps what each user sees with the other, perceiving the other participant’s body as their own. Swapping bodies opens the possibility of viewing one’s self as another gender or age or race–allowing users to potentially understand another point of view.
The variety of gaming formats discussed is far less important than the social ills that these innovators seek to address. In Power Play, Asi Burak and Laura Parker have begun the discussion of how video games are pioneering innovative social change around the world and how they might continue to affect change in the future. The importance of gaming as a medium should be recognized by parents and educators as it relates to the teaching children not only skills and knowledge but also acceptance and humanity.
Power Play: How Video Games Can Save the World by Asi Burak and Laura Parker is available now in bookstores and on Amazon (direct link).