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Opinion 25 What’s the difference between a game, an app and a website? An app is just generally something that you download specifically from a site (such as iTunes or Google Play) for your smart phone or tablet and has its own button on your screen. Sometimes an app is a game or an optimised version of the website or service it applies to. the same computing power that NASA had to launch a man into space, how are we using this technology? The uptake of smartphone technology outstrips the number of babies born daily by about 5 to 1. By harnessing the collective energy of humans spatial reasoning and Getting real about games pattern matching abilities, as well as problem solving schema and the emotional engagement that teamwork creates, games such as the www.fold.it I experimental research project have createdComputer gaming recently presented a demonstration of a solving real-world problems, starting with breakthroughs using crowdsourced efforts has moved on game called SuperBetter to my school their own. of the players. counselling colleagues. My boss was Welcome to the serious gamesfrom self-absorbed In foldit, gamers use a range of tools to genuinely surprised when she realised movement, where games (physical or fold proteins, which are then analysed by playthings to it did not involve shooting anything with mental contests) are tackling social, researchers to seek real-world applications powerful weapons, flinging birds into environmental, health issues and any practical and objects or chasing medieval goblins in real-world problem, employing similar for disease eradication and biological innovation. socially aware fantasy lands. thinking skills as those used in Tetris. The Not quite ready to save the planet? How SuperBetter is an alternate reality game difference is the emotional investment and technology that designed by Jane McGonigal to assist her practical application of winning the game. about giving teenagers and artists in cities can help people. safer and more legal ways to display their recovery from a concussion received when What is more real about these styles of street art? TagDis is a virtual graffiti game By Jocelyn she whacked her head into a cupboard games is that they avoid “gamification” which uses street views and paint/draw door in 2009. – the superficial application of gaming Brewer Some people heal by slowing down principles to already existing platforms, apps to “tag” and create pieces on urban features. Players compare their pieces with and following doctors orders, McGonigal usually for corporate gain. one another and create virtual maps across healed by applying her 10 years of game The games apply “gameful design” the city to share their art. design experience to building a game to (integration of more complex concepts of As gaming becomes more mainstream overcome the anxiety of living with a human motivation, agency and emotion) and players are offered a wider range of “vacuum pressurised brain” (and a range of to build games (goal getting tournaments games, apps and experiences, the challenge other health and wellbeing issues) and, you and adventures) in which you actually care for developers is to entice the games/ guessed it, get super, better. about the outcome because they directly technology consumers in a menu of more Fast forward to this year when, in June, relate to your quality of life. “healthy” choices. SuperBetter is released as an iOS (Apple) There is also a rich science behind Games that employ the most app* on iTunes and shoots into the top five the development of “serious” games like sophisticated design characteristics, in the United State’s Health and Fitness SuperBetter –which is based on leading integrate cutting-edge research while category within weeks, in a market where empirical research centred around providing pleasurable experiences and about 3500 apps are released weekly. resilience, risk and protective factors, engagement in pro-social, positive McGonigal, and her avatar the coping strategies and positive psychology. behaviours for purposeful action are those whose potential to save the planet is not Smart phones have about the same computing only very real, but suddenly much closer. To play SuperBetter (no experience power that NASA had to launch a man into space, required) see: www.superbetter.com. You how are we using this technology? can play it via the website or download the actual app from iTunes App Store. You can join the author on her quest to become “concussion slayer”, later gave a keynote While the only thing serious about superbetter at meditation by friending her address at New York City’s Games for SuperBetter is its determination to provide in the game. Change conference and another talk at the a platform for Epic Wins (goal attainment) Games for Change is coming to exclusive TED Conference in Edinburgh. and overcoming Bad Guys (obstacles), Melbourne this November. Keep up More and more, games are being there are a range of other games that seek to date with the program at www. designed that move beyond the pointless to solve specific world problems – such as gamesforchange.org n to the purposeful. Rather than collecting finding a cure for AIDS or a solution to meaningless tokens and cartoon farm the future oil crisis. Jocelyn Brewer is a school counsellor and animals in fake realms with little What is exciting is the technology to do provisional psychologist. She is a founding emotional connection, people are some of these things is right in the palm member of Network for Internet Investigation recognising the ability to have fun while of your hand. Smart phones have about and Research in Australia www.niira.org.au www.educationreview.com.au August 2012 25