News Update: gamification, government investment, time wasting, hospital play, autism and sexism.

Welcome to another roundup of recent gaming news that is relevant to the Gaming Horizon project’s focus gaming, culture and society.

A new article in The Sociological Review by Woodcock and Johnson takes a critical approach towards the concept of gamification. Suggesting that ‘gamification is not a neutral tool’ they differentiate between ‘gamification-from-above’ and ‘gamification-from-below’, positioning the former approach as ‘a terminological foreclosing of alternate possibilities’, as a ‘reinforcement of work’ rather than the ‘subversion of work’ offered by the latter approach.

A recent article published by Nesta seeks to explain ‘Why governments should invest in video games’. The article itself attempts to debunk a number of ‘myths’ around gaming, and the lives of gamers, by drawing on recent research by Borowiecki and Bakhshi. They suggest that ‘Gamers tend to be more educated and more likely than non-games players to participate in other forms of culture, especially through active participation’, also revealing the average age of a gamer to be 43.2 years.

There is a call for papers from the Game Studies, Culture, Play, and Practice Area of the 39th Annual Southwest Popular / American Culture Association (SWPACA) Conference February to be held 7-10, 2018 at Hyatt Regency Hotel & Conference Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico. The call requests ‘papers, panels, and other proposals on games (digital and otherwise) and their study and development. Unusual formats, technologies, and the like are encouraged’. The submission deadline is October 22, 2017.

In the light of ‘economic research in the US [that] suggests that young men are dropping out of work to play games more’ a recent show on BBC world service posed the question ‘Are Videogames a waste of time?’ Here they draw on comments from four different ‘expert witnesses’ to offer insight into the issue, ultimately leading to a conclusion that we should not treat work and play as binary opposites but that there is potentially rich insight and experience that can stem from the practice of video game play.

An article explains how the Gamers Outreach foundation provides video games to children’s hospitals to help children who are undergoing long term treatment. The accompanying video demonstrates how the non profit organisation, founded in 2009, aims to use video games as a way of supporting children through treatment by providing them with the opportunity to play but also to socialise with others (adults and children) in response to their interest in games. 

An article reflecting on recent research by Englehart and Mazurek  considers the benefit of video game play for children with autism. Whilst they note that there are fears, often from parents, around addiction, specific games have demonstrated specific benefits, particularly those that support children with issues around socialisation.

Finally, The Guardian describes how Australia’s gaming industry is ‘leading the way in fighting sexism’, thought the use of initiative intended to level the gender imbalance in the gaming industry. Setting out one particular vision for the future, Ally McLean, project lead at Sydney independent game development studio Robot House, suggests that:

“The more women making games, the better representation will be both industry-wise and in the content we’re producing: more games with relatable and complex female protagonists, games that tell women’s stories, that provide role models, and that can excite and inspire them to create their own.”