Many videogame fans are used to the government trying to regulate their hobby, but the Obama administration appears to be embracing the form. Speaking at the Games for Health conference in Boston, Constance Steinkuehler Squire, a policy advisor for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said “I can tell you the rhetoric around games has changed.”
Gamasutra summarizes her presentation:
The White House is interested in video games due to the economic strength of the industry, the 72 percent of American households who are gaming, and the closing gender disparity among gamers, Squire said.
Analog engagement strategies like books, reports and events have a linear relationship between the number of people you can reach and the investment required to reach them. On the other hand, digital strategies like video games and social media require a high investment up front, but as you reach more people, the additional costs approach zero, which is of obvious financial interest to a government office. There’s also a solid body of scientific evidence establishing how video games can have cognitive and behavioral effects, she explained.
The Federal government also has a strong interest in the notion of being able to personalize experiences in digital technology, for instance measuring performance to adjust a game’s difficulty. Digital technologies start opening the doors to A/B testing and very large-scale comparisons of different treatment types.
Squire works with the Federal Game Guild, which has 177 members across 33 government agencies. The group hopes to share resources and ideas for serious games that affect the area each agency is responsible for. The development is full of general promise but it also has the potential to drift off into darker territory.
Does anyone really want their involvement in civic duty to be gamified? If having Big Brother watching was bad, what will happen when Big Brother wants to actually play?