We've all heard the argument at some point in our lives, I'm sure: "gaming isn't good for anything; it's shallow, mindless entertainment concerned only with violence" and the like. But thankfully as time has marched ever onwards, fewer and fewer people are sticking to this viewpoint -- and in fact, there are plenty of people out there actively advocating the opposite opinion.
One such group is British casual/social game studio Preloaded, who has teamed up with London's Tate Gallery and Science Museum along with UK games industry trade body TIGA and Norwich University to launch "Games with Purpose," a new site aimed at educating a wide audience in "learning, serious, social impact and meaningful games."
The thinking behind the site is simple: to raise awareness of the good work the games industry is doing, particularly to the "mainstream" audience that might not be familiar with anything outside of titles that often hit the news like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto. Mentions of popular games such as these in mainstream media are often somewhat negative, with video games sometimes even being used as scapegoats to blame for a criminal's behavior -- I'm sure we've all rolled our eyes at news stories about gun criminals owning Xbox 360s and/or playing Call of Duty in their spare time at one point or another.
Games with Purpose aims to provide greater exposure to games which are doing interesting new things; games that make you think; games that make you aware of issues in the world; games that educate and inspire. It does this through short, snappy write-ups of the games and by providing links to further reading for people who might like to know more -- thereby helping people from outside the industry become more aware of specialist sites as a good resource to explore in the process, too.
"We know games are brilliant at education, communication and engendering social change," says Paul Canty, CEO of Preloaded. "They can do so much more than just entertain. Games with Purpose will bring the best-in-class examples into the spotlight -- the ones with strong game integrity that go beyond the ordinary to create something truly purposeful, meaningful and extraordinary."
"Tate Kids has been developed around games and toys," adds Sharna Jackson from the Tate. "The power play has to encourage learning and engage audiences. As platforms develop and games become ever more mainstream in formal education, sites like Games with Purpose will be crucial in discovering the best examples out there. I'm proud to support the initiative and wish it great success."
It remains to be seen whether Games with Purpose will successfully fulfil its mission -- its admirable efforts to raise awareness of games that aren't just meaningless experiences are all very well, but it needs to make itself as high-profile as possible in order to be considered a useful resource. Some sites have tried and failed to be a helpful online guide to parents and educators in the past -- the one which most readily springs to mind being What They Play, which was absorbed and eventually closed by IGN -- but few have stuck around.
Games with Purpose has an uphill struggle ahead of itself, then, but it's an effort worth making; all of you reading this undoubtedly know how great games are, so wouldn't it be nice if the rest of the world agreed? Or if we didn't have to justify our interests to Grandma, who heard a thing on the radio about this Grand Auto Theft game last week and thought it was the devil's work? I certainly think so.
Check out what Games with Purpose is up to -- and maybe get a few recommendations -- here.