Video Games: Altering Behavior for the Good of the Human Race

This year, the National Institute of Health highlighted a series of games that used their influence on human behavior to help instill positive lifestyle traits, particularly among young people. 

There’s little disputing the effects of video games on behavior. Online fantasy games have proven so addictive that medical staff have taken to signing up for the online multi-player adventures to treat at-risk young people as they play. Now game publishers are using that coercive potential to create games that actually benefit players, with humankind possibly looking to benefit long-term.

This year, the National Institute of Health highlighted a series of games that used their influence on human behavior to help instill positive lifestyle traits, particularly among young people. Games like the Asthma Files helped children manage their asthma while titles like Nanoswarm: Invasion from Inner Space helped teach children the benefits of exercise and healthy eating. While these games had the best of intentions, most of them were produced on a budget by smaller publishers and barely made a dent in the massive gaming industry. A wave of new games revolving around Nintendo’s motion-sensing Wii video game consoles has further popularized these types of games, which have been used to help treat everyone from stroke victims to cerebral palsy patients. But a new title produced by one of the gaming industry’s largest brands could potentially make a greater contribution to humanity than anyone expected.

Warner Bros Entertainment was recently honored with the Core Competence Business Excellence Award for a video game they released through a partnership with game developer Virtual Heroes and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The company received the honor at the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria’s Business Excellence Awards Dinner in Washington DC in June. The award recognized Warner Bros’ LAN-based PC video game, Pamoja Mtaani. Named after the Swahili expression meaning “together in the hood,” the game was launched at specific youth venues in Kenya to help educate young people about HIV and AIDS. By integrating elements like dance, music, sports, and hip-hop culture, the game has touched a number of at-risk youth on a continent where HIV and AIDS education is of the utmost importance. It will probably never be as popular (or addictive) as World of Warcraft, but it’s the most compelling example yet of video games as an innovative social force.

Antimicrobial resistance is a growing threat to good health and well-being

Antimicrobial resistance is growing worldwide, rendering many "work horse" medicines ineffective. Without intervention, drug-resistant pathogens could lead to millions of deaths by 2050. Thankfully, companies like Pfizer are taking action.

Image courtesy of Pfizer.
  • Antimicrobial-resistant pathogens are one of the largest threats to global health today.
  • As we get older, our immune systems age, increasing our risk of life threatening infections. Without reliable antibiotics, life expectancy could decline for the first time in modern history.
  • If antibiotics become ineffective, common infections could result in hospitalization or even death. Life-saving interventions like cancer treatments and organ transplantation would become more difficult, more often resulting in death. Routine procedures would become hard to perform.
  • Without intervention, resistant pathogens could result in 10 million annual deaths by 2050.
  • By taking a multi-faceted approach—inclusive of adherence to good stewardship, surveillance and responsible manufacturing practices, as well as an emphasis on prevention and treatment—companies like Pfizer are fighting to help curb the spread.
Keep reading Show less

22 months of war - condensed in a 1-minute video

No, the Syrian civil war is not over. But it might be soon. Time for a recap

Strange Maps
  • The War in Syria has dropped off the radar, but it's not over (yet)
  • This 1-minute video shows how the fronts have moved – and stabilised – over the past 22 months
  • Watching this video may leave you both better informed, and slightly queasy: does war need a generic rock soundtrack?
Keep reading Show less

Bespoke suicide pods now available for death in style

Sarco assisted suicide pods come in three different styles, and allow you to die quickly and painlessly. They're even quite beautiful to look at.

The Sarco assisted suicide pod
Technology & Innovation

Death: it happens to everyone (except, apparently, Keanu Reeves). But while the impoverished and lower-class people of the world die in the same ol' ways—cancer, heart disease, and so forth—the upper classes can choose hip and cool new ways to die. Now, there's an assisted-suicide pod so chic and so stylin' that peeps (young people still say peeps, right?) are calling it the "Tesla" of death... it's called... the Sarco! 

Keep reading Show less

How to bring more confidence to your conversations

Entrepreneur and author Andrew Horn shares his rules for becoming an assured conversationalist.
  • To avoid basing action on external validation, you need to find your "authentic voice" and use it.
  • Finding your voice requires asking the right questions of yourself.
  • There are 3-5 questions that you would generally want to ask people you are talking to.
Keep reading Show less