February 27th, 2012
Online communities built around popular video games could help build social inclusion for disadvantaged groups including disabled people, a digital games expert involved in a new European research project told E-Access Bulletin.
The Digital Games for Empowerment and Inclusion (DGEI) research project, funded by the European Commission, held its first meeting in Seville last month. The project aims to examine uses of digital games for social purposes such as health, training, education, social inclusion and other public services – so-called “serious games”. After the researching the current state of play it aims to develop an action plan to help realise games’ social potential.
However the use of games for social benefit is wider than simply the use of gaming techniques to create “serious games” with a social or educational purpose, says Scott Colfer, project manager of internet channel Young Dads TV and participant in the Seville event.
He told E-Access Bulletin there was big untapped potential in building support communities around existing popular games, which already feature online player communities.
“The big computer games have a budget bigger than a large motion picture,” Colfer said. “It’s hard to match that, so it might be better to see how communities around games can be used.” One model might be the UK-based group GamerDads, a group of young fathers who set up their own online community to play games online (http://www.gamerdads.co.uk/ ), Colfer said.
“They were tired of playing in normal gamer groups where if you leave during a game, it’s frowned on. But they may have to leave the game because they are looking after their kids.” From coming together as gamers, the group had developed into one of the largest online communities of fathers, and members were offering each other informal support outside the gaming sphere, he said.
“Now they work on other things together, they support a particular charity, and they do it all themselves, there’s no government input.” Similar communities could work well for disabled gamers, Colfer said.
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