I am now back in South Africa, where I am working on a game for UN Women on Gender Violence, which attempts to address negative gender stereotypes and teach young people about healthy relationships. We are currently grappling with the issue of evaluation, which was one of the key points that I took away from Day 1 at the Games for Change conference.
In order for social issue games to gain real attention and credibility, and thus become a mainstream medium, the community needs to keep working on proving, beyond doubt, that in order to bring about a specific change, a game is the most powerful and cost effective intervention -- bar none.
It sounds obvious, but in fact evaluating the impact of a game -- especially ones that seek attitudinal and behavior change -- can be extremely difficult. While proving efficacy above all other alternatives is even harder. It will require a form of clinical trial, where the game is pitted against other types of interventions taking into consideration things like cost of production, reach and final impact. While a game may score well reach (through Facebook or on mobile), it may not be as effective at ultimately changing behaviors as a physical focus group with an informed speaker. A traditional media campaign on the other hand may trump the game on reach, but not on cost.
I feel like these are the sorts of issues that need to be addressed in order to fully evaluate a game.
In the sphere of education, this is no less pertinent an issue. There are thousands of years of experimentation and testing with different pedagogical methods. Games and simulations are not new in the field of education. However, the types of virtual simulations and digital games that are currently being developed are new and thus will require a holistic approach to evaluation before they are to become fully mainstream.
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