Hello Europe! This is the UK calling. Sadly this isn’t the Eurovision Song contest and I’m not wearing a shiny sequined cocktail dress. I can dream though. Actually, it’s just Tuesday afternoon and I’m drinking iced tea and eating biscuits. But, I digress. So… I should be talking about the UK and how we roll when it comes to games for change…
My name is Emma Cooper. When I’m not eating biscuits I work for Team Cooper. We’ve worked on a few games intended to help promote change… talking to young people about their behaviour online or on the streets.
In the UK there is a wide range of games being created with the strong aims and high hopes of the games for change movement. Though in this blog post, I’m mainly going to talk about games aimed at children and young people. Last week, I attended the Children’s Media Conference and there was a session there devoted to such games. This was handy, not only because I’d promised to write this blog post, but also because it’s of personal interest to me – I have made a commitment that some of the work we produce is more than just entertainment. Getting to listen and meet with a number of the leaders of the community in the UK talking about their work was a total win, win.
Darren Garrett of Littleloud started the session keen to point out from the offing that he felt the title Serious Games was misleading and that finding the fun in serious subject matters was a key element to the work Littleloud had done. He talked through a number of projects they’d worked on. Highlights for me were Bow Street Runner which he said « faces audience with tough moral choices » as does Sweat Shop putting tough potential consequences in front of the player to let them see the results of their actions.
John Davison of UK developers Kanoti talked through a game they developed called Uplifted that aims to help the player be happier. The game takes principles from Shawn Achor’s Happiness Advantage by being relentlessly positive – it hopes to help young people with self-esteem issues: “You’ve cleaned your teeth, you’ve done your hair, your best clothes are on… Now… How about a bit of grooming on your inner beauty?”
Preloaded’s Creative Director Phil Stuart focused on the games they’re working on for learning including a beautiful game to teach about finding 2D in 3D shapes called Crafty Cut – but a personal favourite game of theirs that he didn’t discuss is Wondermind – a game that had interesting ideals to bring together teaching young people about art and the science of the human brain together.
As well as producing games themselves, Preloaded have built a site called Games with Purpose which has the specific aim of directing attention to the good game content in this field. It’s very much worth a look and I think it gives a great insight in to the market as it stands.
A good number of the projects I’ve spoken about here were commissioned by Channel4 who have, to date, chosen to use games as a tool for sharing important stories or messages, effecting change or just simply being provocative with its audiences. Do you have an idea for a game or a desire to give this kind of work a go? I recommend having a look around, there are some interesting opportunities, funds and challenges being set up by agencies and large charities in the UK. If you’re looking for more than just funding there is a good deal of support across the board from UKIE and TIGA.
So, while this is a personal interest of mine, an aim I’ve set for myself and our company, it’s increasingly clear that there’s a growing number of talented folk who feel the same way. This fills me with joy, we’re going to see more and more of these diverse and innovative games tackling serious themes and subjects in fun ways. And I’ll happily raise my glass to that… so maybe I should go and find something stronger than this iced tea.