There is an awful new word doing the rounds at the moment “gamification” . That’s the last time I will use in this article. but it provides a starting point for looking at how games and gaming technologies can be used for purposes alongside entertainment, in particular raising awareness and encouraging behaviour change. Trainers and coaches have long used “games” as a way of engaging people in the subject whether in a classroom or in some form of role play or simulation. Today’s online environment’s provide even greater opportunity to use these sorts of techniques by immersing the player in the subject in a way its often difficult to do offline because of the many distractions. Social and gaming virtual worlds like world of warcraft and second life have demonstrated their ability to hold players attention for many hours, so why not make use of those approaches for more “serious” purposes.
Take the subject of “intelligent mobility” , an online game or competition could either challenge players to either get from A to B within certain constraints and encourage similar thinking in the real world or could engage players in the design of a city or regional transport network to help understand the challenges. If the game could be further informed by real world data which is in some senses out of control , eg the weather or the economy , then the game really does start to have a serious and real edge.
One application of the above thinking is the creation of a shipping race featuring the proposed B9 (www.b9energy.co.uk ) low carbon cargo ship, which uses a mix of sails and engine power. The challenge is to sail and configure the ship to minimise the carbon usage, whilst the conditions are set by the real external weather. A kind of mixed reality application