A new research lab at the prestigious Parsons design school aims to develop video games with a conscience - called "serious games" - and study whether playing them can be a force for social good. The games, which aim to educate, appeal mostly to a niche market and are used to train public officials, students and professionals in various fields. The U.S. military, for example, trains with games that model terrorist attacks, school hostage crises and natural disasters. Other serious games teach nonviolent ways of fighting dictators and military occupiers.
Director Colleen Macklin hopes research at Parsons The New School of Design's PETLab, launched Wednesday and made up of students and faculty, will make serious games more mainstream. "Our goal is really to create intersections between game design, social issues and learning," she said. PETLab, in the first such effort in the country, will create models of new types of games or interactive designs that address social issues and will do interactive research on whether playing the games helps effect positive social change.
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