Games for Good

“I put World of Warcraft raid leader on my resume; it was where I learned everything I know about managing teams and delegating responsibility, and I think it got me my first real job.”

“Gaming saved my life. If I didn’t have friends here that I could talk to every day and every night, and a safe space to go to when I’m feeling uncertain, then I think my social anxiety would be so much worse.  You guys really helped me learn how to deal with being an adult.”

“When I was stuck at home from work after being hurt on the job, I felt like a total failure and incapable of doing anything. I think I would have been seriously depressed if I didn’t have gaming to make me feel like I was still connected to people and the world.”

These are just some of the things that people have said to me about how gaming has changed their lives. In my research on gaming communities, I was always happily surprised and the myriad ways that playing video games in a social setting helped people. Whether it was learning leadership skills, meeting people from other communities, relying on a community of friends to help in a tough time, or to cope with mental or physical disabilities.

Games have helped me connect to people and learn about project and people management; I think I’ve become pretty good at parsing out the pieces of a project and finding the right people for it, partially in thanks to my experience as a guild leader and officer in World of Warcraft. In the right kind of community, gaming has the potential to be a healing process; in the wrong kind of setting, it can disturb a person with harassment and frustration. As gamers, we should be committed to an inclusive environment for all so that everybody can have the chance to learn skills, make friends, and find a safe haven in their leisure time. (I think this is a pretty non-controversial statement, although there are groups of people who might disagree.)

One recent topic of interest has been gaming for rehabilitation and improvement of health. My former student, Aly Ferguson, gave a talk at Alterconf this past year that summarized the research on gaming as a resource for rehabilitation nicely, and she also gives a number of recommendations for ways to improve. Her project, HealingRa.in, is a site devoted to creating an inclusive community for folks interested in gaming for rehabilitation and therapy and general inclusiveness in gaming.

If you’re interested in reading more about gaming and rehabilitation, check out this review article by Primack and colleagues from 2012, freely available on PubMedCentral. They surveyed many different studies that looked at games and rehabilitation from a number angles and to address a number of health problems. That’s a great place to start.

How has gaming changed your life?