Games with broad appeal that are easy to grasp can additionally help many families play together, and better bridge the gap between generations. Consider a title like hip-wiggling simulation Just Dance, which can have young kids dancing alongside their grandparents.
There are also many games that have positive social messages that encourage families to be a force for good. In a series of experiments published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found that participants who had just played a “pro-social” game in which characters must work together to help each other out as compared to those who had just played a “neutral” game (e.g. Tetris) were more likely to engage in helpful behaviors. Examples included assisting in a situation involving an abusive boyfriend, picking up a box of pencils or even volunteering to participate in more research.
So-called “serious games,” specifically designed to teach and inform, are also having an impact on the world. Titles like the United Nations’ Food Force teach kids about real-life issues, humanitarianism and the practical challenges facing governments and private organizations today. In the game, children must complete six different missions that reflect the real-life obstacles faced by the World Food Programme in its emergency responses. Other games, like Nourish Interactive’s online Chef Solus and the Food Pyramid Adventure, teach kids about the benefits of healthy eating habits, while still more highlight pressing geopolitical and social issues, e.g. the Global Conflicts series.
Upsides can even extend into the physical world. Consider Facebook game Ecotopia. In summer 2011, players of the popular social game met a challenge from its creators and planted 25,000 trees in the game world in 25 days, leading the game’s developer to plant 25,000 trees in real life.
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