Impact of Massively Multiplayer Educational Gaming (MMEG) on Science, the Environment and Health



Introductory video to MMEG


Overview of MMEG's Impact on Science


Current Impact

external image redir?src=image&clickedItemURN=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.rickard.gunee.com%2Fprojects%2Fvideo%2Fpic%2Ftetris_big.jpg&moduleId=image_details.jsp.M&clickedItemDescription=Image%20Details Science is in a symbiotic relationship with the gaming industry: Science and technology have permitted increased game complexity to meet customer demand. In order for games to evolve over the years from something as simple as Tetris to the level of complexity involved in 3D environments and intricate characters such as in the popular World of Warcraft, personal computers and game consoles have had to incorporate faster, smaller, lighter, more robust and less expensive components to compete on the basis of functionality, portability, reliability and price. Graphics cards, for example, have become more powerful to support more detailed in-game environments; cards more than a few years old may now be obsolete, unable to support current games. The symbiosis is in new technology creating more exciting gaming opportunities and consumers demanding better hardware to play the new games.

external image redir?src=image&clickedItemURN=http%3A%2F%2Fxbox360.qj.net%2Fuploads%2Farticles_module%2F3314%2Fworld_of_warcraft_050905.jpg&moduleId=image_details.jsp.M&clickedItemDescription=Image%20DetailsEducational games can spark young people's interest in scientific issues and careers, prompting the players to go on and make new scientific findings, to become science teachers, or to support scientific research. Games, where nothing is impossible, open people's minds to dream and to question the scientific status quo. Beyond creating a mindset favorable to exploration, MMEGs can also be used to design futuristic gadgets and cities in collaboration with other players. Playing as a team is practice for working in a team as is the norm in many scientific careers. Normal single player games, as well as the MMOs are where many ideas are able to be gathered and pooled into. Some of the technology simulated in games is actually currently available or under development, or contain elements of truth. Examples are Command and Conquer and Counterstrike.


Although few games are known to have been created solely for the purpose of science education, some games have been shown to help science. Research has shown, for example, that a game called "Super Monkey Ball 2" may improve surgical skills, as it requires considerable dexterity.

While recent science fiction games such as EVE Online have had some success, in general, science and science fiction have not been popular features of many current games.

Future

Projects such as Avant Game are being created to provide the public and the science community with interesting ways to learn about science. Players interactively solve problems by combine elements of gaming as well as true data. Recognizing that students and the people in general learn through different modes, educational game designers could facilitate more learning in science by opening exciting new channels beyond the traditional classroom or science library.

In the future, games may contain more realistic elements or bits of information in them. Entertaining games which will allowing people to gain scientific knowledge while actually having fun and spending time with others.

What needs to happen to have more effective scientific research

Scientists, especially social scientists, can gain more insight into the human brain, into pyschological responses, and into childhood development by using games as research tools. Games can be made widely available over the internet at low cost and a large volume of game results can be easily compiled and analyzed electronically. This is one way educational and other games can contribute to scientific research.

Scientists who are aware of trends in the entertainment and edutainment industries will be more successful if they incorporate popular topics and features into their games and diagnostic tests. Knowing the opportunities and limitations of gaming will help them design the most effective game tools for their research. Grant organizations and award panels should reward scientists and teams who are forward-looking and ready to gather and analyze data in the most modern way.

Overview of MMEG's Impact on Health


Introductory video: MMEG's Impact on Health and the Environment


by David B

Current Impact

Computer and video games can offer benefits for medical patients, students and anyone in need of light physical activity. Caution is advised to avoid the deleterious effects often associated with excessive computer use and video gaming.

Games have been used to minimize the anxiety experienced by those about to undergo medical operations by shifting their concentration to something unrelated. Dr. Patel, associated with “Games for Health” in the United States, once provided a juvenile surgery patient with a portable Game Boy console and a Mario game; the child became so absorbed in the game that he did not seem to notice the work being done on him, and fell asleep. (1)

external image Wiimote%20et%20Nuchak%20s.jpgThe phenomenon of physical exercise in computer and video games has been recently brought to light by the launch of the Wii, a revolutionary game console by Nintendo. Most games made for the Wii make use of the Wiimote, a game controller that can sense its own spatial position and that is moved in various ways by the player to perform tasks (e.g. wielding weapons or sports equipment).

external image nintendo_0131.jpgIn view of the increasing trend of youth obesity in the United States, it is good news that children burn three times more calories playing physically "active" games versus playing traditional games in which the player only moves his or her fingers, as per a report published by the Mayo Clinic (2).
The study was conducted testing Sony's EyeToy and Microsoft's Xbox, before the Nintendo Wii’s introduction (3).

Besides games that give the player beneficial exercise, games that teach players about health issues have an indirect, positive impact on health to the extent that players make advantageous changes in their behavior as a result of what they learned. One health-education gaming session involved three games set inside a human body with various goals such as destroying cancer, creating organs and training white blood cells to fulfill their purpose in the body (4).

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Nearly all forms of conventional electronic entertainment are notorious for imparting pleasure while demanding little or no physical activity. Prolonged gaming can lead to negative health consequences such as obesity, poor muscle tone and lung capacity, eye strain, repetitive stress injuries, poor circulation and posture, hearing loss and other ergonomic problems. Players with addictive tendencies may also suffer from lack of sleep or poor nutrition as their gaming interferes with good health habits.

Mental health issues may be exacerbated when anti-social people retreat into excessive gaming as a means of escaping real interaction with other people. For people who prefer to avoid contact with others, a little gaming could be good (superficial contact with other players) but too much gaming to avoid real-life conversations could be bad for their mental health.



Future

The declining health of current and future gamers will raise costs to society at large as insurance premiums and worker absenteeism rise. If educational games become more popular, however, their helpful content may prevent some of the negative effects of gaming. MMEGs could persuade players to take care of their bodies and of their personal relationships, improving their physical and their mental well-being.

What needs to happen to solve potential problems

Educational institutions, students and their parents need to take edutainment seriously. Studies showing the effectiveness of MMEGs in teaching valued skills and required curriculum will spur investment in the design and marketing of more, better MMEGs. Along with introducing students to useful games, educators need to teach coping skills to help students avoid addiction, poor time management, and bad ergonomics.
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The multiplayer aspect of MMEGs can be particularly beneficial in developing good social skills: players practice communication and teamwork. With the right messages, MMEGs may also teach good judgment, as players are more influenced by their peers - other players - than by traditional authority figures.



Overview of MMEG's Impact on the Environment


Current Impact

external image planet_green_game.jpg

Educational computer games may persuade players to adopt environmentally-friendly lifestyles. To the extent that games succeed not only in imparting information but also in changing behavior, they have a positive impact on the environment. An example of a game with such an ambition is “Planet Green Game” by Starbucks Coffee and Global Green USA. About energy conservation and consumption, it is set in a hypothetical town named Evergreen. The player chooses a character and transportation mode and engages in a variety of energy-related mini-games. Unfortunately, a player review of this game on Water Cooler Games was less than enthusiastic (5). Other games aimed at raising environmental awareness (particularly concerning biodiversity), also single-player, include those listed on Countdown2010.net.

At the moment, empirical data suggest that gaming has a negative environmental impact due to the massive energy usage of game consoles and computers. These devices are among the appliances projected to use 20% more energy by 2020 than used by all domestic appliances in 2006. A study by the British government’s Department of Industry and Trade in July 2006 indicated that gaming consoles in the U.K. alone waste about €102.6 million worth of energy each year (6). Part of the problem is that players leave the consoles in standby mode. As console makers such as Nintendo enable automatic downloading new content to consoles while in standby mode, such energy use is likely to continue to rise (7).

external image 060629computerDump.jpg
Another of gaming’s negative contributions to the environment is the volume
of toxic materials used in computers and game consoles. The United States generated 2.6 million tons of electronic waste in 2005, of which less than 13 percent of that was recycled, according to figures from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Among the harmful substances in the devices are lead, cadmium and benzene. Lead is a well-known neurotoxin; high levels of cadmium can lead to kidney failure; benzene is associated with cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma and with blood disorders. Plastic and various chemicals used as flame retardants are also hazardous (8).



Future

Environmental issues such as global warming, declining biodiversity, and contamination of food, water and air have entered public consciousness. This public awareness of Earth’s degradation should lead to demand for more and better games educating players about the issues and about responsible steps people may take with regard to these issues. With better and more environmental games, these games are more likely to be played and more likely to persuade people to change their behavior for the better. They will also disseminate economic and political views from players to non-players by word-of-mouth and blogs. Media buzz, voting and purchasing are powerful agents of change.

This rising consciousness should lead consumers to demand environmentally friendly, recyclable computers and game consoles. Consumer demand will also foster technological progress permitting more widespread access to MMEGs.

This confluence of more players playing better games with more ecology-oriented content on less-polluting and more energy-efficient technology will have a positive effect on the environment.

What needs to happen to protect the environment

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While public opinion and market forces will go some way towards the implementation of
environmentally-friendly technologies, government regulation may be necessary to bring about
necessary changes in time to avoid catastrophic consequences (e.g. environmental resistance).


Every single person has an impact and should exercise his or her individual power by, for example,external image green-money.jpg
limiting his or her personal carbon footprint. However, people must also voice their priorities to politicians and give their support to leaders and organizations who have global influence and can mobilize large amounts of resources to protect the planet. The trade-off between "the old way" versus change for the better, which may be costly and inconvenient in the short term, is going to require grassroots support and serious public policy at the domestic and international levels.

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    Games For Health. 10 June 2004.
    Games For Health. 8 May 2007 <http://www.gamesforhealth.org/archives/000198.html>

    2. Lanningham-Foster, Lorraine. "Energy Expenditure of Sedentary Screen Time Compared With Active Screen Time for Children."
    Pediatrics - Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. 13 July 2006.
    Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota. 11 May 2007 <http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/118/6/e1831?maxt oshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=Lorraine+Lanningham-Foster∧ orexactfulltext=and&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec=relevance&resourcetype= HWCIT>.

    3. Schmidt, Tracy. "Is the Wii Really Good for Your Health?."
    Time. 1 Feb 2007.
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    4. Smith, Peter. "G4H 2006: The Body is a Game."
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    Games For Health. 12 May 2007 <http://www.gamesforhealth.org/archives/000196.html>.

    5. Bogost, Ian. "Advertising and Ecology: Planet Green Game."
    Water Cooler Games. 10 Apr 2007.
    Water Cooler Games. 1 May 2007 <http://www.watercoolergames.org/archives/000773.shtml>.

    6. Fahey, Rob. "Consoles waste GBP 70 million of energy every year - report."
    Gamesindustry.biz. 20 July 2006.
    Gamesindustry.biz. 13 May 2007 <http://www.gamesindustry.biz/content_page.php?aid=18441>.

    7. Rahmat, Omid. "The environmental impact of video gaming."
    Fringe Drinking. 21 July 2006.
    Fringe Drinking blog. 13 May 2007 <http://omidr.typepad.com/twitchblog/2006/07/the_environment.html>.

    8. Michael, Sara. "Caution: Hazard ahead in computer dump."
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