Games that make a difference

I chaired a meeting at Birkbeck College yesterday as part of the London Games Festival Fringe, called Games that make a difference

Games and simulations are important to artists, scientists, social scientists, businesses, educators, fund-raisers, and many other disciplines. The idea was to bring together some different perspectives on computer games to show that there is life beyond Grand Theft Auto! These are games that make a difference, because they use different skill sets and because they have different motivations. Its really a version of my basic belief that several groups of people do simulation, but they tend to work in separate compartments: same applies to simulation in games.

First, we had three speakers about games designed to make money, teach business skills, or raise money for charity.

Kam Memarzia, Managing Director of Playgen, spoke about current projects by his company, which develops serious games and simulations to engage, train, measure and inspire.

Jeremy Hall, who has developed sixty computer simulations for management learning in large corporations in the UK, Europe and around the world, spoke about “Corporate Cartooning: The Art of Business Simulation Design”.

My eldest son and I described a niche game he wrote to raise money for the Deep Griha charity in Pune, India.

Then, I included two perspectives from the world of modern art. Theres a long tradition of artists using games and constructed situations to change the way we view life.

Curator and Project Organiser. Keith Watson will gave an insiders view of that tradition. Keith started the first Digtial Art Galleries in the UK, Colville Place Gallery and Deluxe Gallery. Hes worked for many different Arts Organisations and specialised in New Media, working with artists such Rafael Lozano Hemmer and Masaki Fujihata. This year Keith was organiser for Node.London Spring 08 Festival; Co-ordinator for Cybersonica, Future Of Sound Tour, and Illustrious, and about to be a Public Arts Officer for Canary Wharf. Keith is also Project Co-Ordinator for next years Kinetica Art Fair in February 2009.

Saul Albert then described his latest project, Who Wants To Be, a decision-making game show which will take place on 7 November. Saul says of himself that he “writes, talks, teaches, and learns with The People Speak: a collection of communication experiments, sometimes called art”. Hes into creating tools and structures for democratic decision-making: I would really like to bring him together with a group therapist to talk about the theory of large groups.

Professor Nigel Gilbert of Surrey University talks about his favourite coffee shop, and raised some fundamental points about how we perceive and value simulations. He also mentioned , the Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation (JASSS),and in Delivery.

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