Games are cool for school

You may have heard of the term Serious Games before: essentially they’re games with a purpose beyond entertainment. There’s a growing awareness that games can be used for wider purposes such as business productivity, health support and for education. It’s that last point I’ll focus on here.

Arizona University’s James Paul Gee has completed a brilliant piece on the usefulness of games in education, which you can view below. The key point is that games are one ongoing test, like school, and there’s a bunch of good reasons why combining the two can be incredibly useful for educators.

Sceptical? You may be less so after hearing the case for serious games:

Over to you: would you like to see more games-based education in schools? If not, why not?

via [Edutopia]

Amputee support, games health research and avatar perceptions

(This story originally appeared over at sister-site Metaverse Health earlier this week).

Over the past few weeks, there’s been a spike in mainstream media interest around virtual environments and health. I thought it’d be worth showcasing three notable stories / issues that you may not be aware of.

Amputee Support

A press release from ADL Company Inc. and Virtual Ability, Inc. touts the launch of a project to provide peer-support to those who have undergone amputation of a limb. The project’s impetus has come about due to some sobering US-based facts:

Recent US military casualty figures for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom indicate that between September 2001 and mid-January 2009 over a thousand amputation injuries occurred. Of the 935 amputations considered major, one in five wounded warriors lost more than one limb. While the rehabilitation goal is for the soldier to return to active duty, many reintegrate into their civilian communities. In either case, military amputations are often accompanied by additional wounds, depression, fear, phantom limb pain, and post traumatic stress disorder.

Spouses and family members often become the caregivers of military amputees after they are released from military hospitals and rehabilitation programs. Family support members have their own grieving process to go through related to the amputation and to the change to family life.

The platform for the project is the recently released Second Life Enterprise product, meaning that users have a greater deal of privacy to explore issues in a group context. You can also read about the project from the perspective of ADL Inc’s President, and regular virtual worlds writer, Doug Thompson (SL: Dusan Writer).

Avatars: Perceptions of Self

New Scientist has a good article on a study looking at brain activity (as measured by MRI) when discussing perceptions of real self versus a heavily played World of Warcraft character. The methodology:

To probe what brain activity might underlie people’s virtual behaviour, Caudle’s team convinced 15 World of Warcraft players in their twenties – 14 men and 1 woman – who play the game an average of 23 hours a week, to drag themselves away from their computers and spend some time having their brains scanned using functional MRI.

While in the scanner, Caudle asked them to rate how well various adjectives such as innocent, competent, jealous and intelligent described themselves, their avatars, their best friend in the real world and their World of Warcraft guild leader.

For the early results, read the article, but essentially things aren’t black and white about how we perceive ourselves versus our avatars. No big surprise there. One particularly interesting signpost for future research is the idea that those who perceive themselves and their avatars in a similar way may be the individuals at higher risk for addictive behaviours in regards to their use of virtual environments.

Health Games Research

Health Games Research is a website well worth perusing. It’s a US-based organisation devoted to “research to advance the innovation and effectiveness of digital games and game technologies intended to improve health”. There are yearly grants for research into games and health, with the 2009 funding round announced last week.

Health Beyond 2009 – e-health, Serious Games and Second Life

Posted originally over on Metaverse Health:

As a Registered Nurse with a passion for the use of emerging technologies to improve health, it can sometimes be a little frustrating when things don’t seem to progress as fast as one would like. There’s also the ‘they just don’t get it’ phenomenon amongst some in health leadership and management roles, which can lead to the conclusion that progress is all too slow with new approaches.

A stark contrast to that is occurring this week in Melbourne, Australia, with the HealthBeyond e-health Consumer Day. I was very happy to be invited to attend this event to provide participants with a tour of some key health presences in Second Life in conjunction with what will no doubt be an engaging keynote from Mandy Salomon . It’ll be difficult to choose which health areas in Second Life with so many great options, but I do know the University of Plymouth’s sexual health sim is going to feature.


It’s great to see the Health Informatics Society of Australia taking such a lead, featuring virtual worlds, serious games for health and broader gaming for exercise and stimulation in a get-together of this calibre. I have a feeling there’s going to be some exciting announcements come out of the gathering for the Australian health sector, which I’ll report on in coming weeks.

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