Video games are responsible for a lot of things. But could they be responsible for bettering the world?
On the positive side, video games offer a great way for people to escape and relax. There's nothing better than Cut the Rope on your iPad at the end of a day of heavy thinking. There's nothing better than a game of Scrabble against your iPhone after a day that could have used a little more thinking. Ask a few people we know, and there's nothing better than Letterpress pretty much anytime.
But according to this Wall Street Journal article, this is a question worth considering: Videogames make players feel like their best selves. Why not give them real problems to solve?
The article cites two examples where gamers have helped with real-world problems. The first was in 2010, when 57,000 gamers worked with scientists at the University of Washington on a 3D game called Foldit, which had them looking for finding new ways to fold virtual proteins in order to help prevent Alzheimers or cure cancer. The scientists thought they'd be able to do better than supercomputers because of the creativity required, and sure enough more than half the time, they beat the computers.
The second example is of 19,000 gamers who played the World Bank Institute's EVOKE, which had them undertaking missions to end poverty, increase clean energy and better food security. The players had to design and launch social enterprises, and today, there are more than 50 of them around the world, working for real.
So maybe it's time to set aside World of Warcraft, Tetris, MyMarioGames.co.uk, or yes, even Letterpress, and start saving the world for real.