Corney Harnish examines how playing games can actually improve your life, leave you feeling better than ever, and create a social impact.

Are you someone who is skeptical about games? Do you believe that they are bad for our youth or can cause social issues among people? You’re not alone.

This debate over whether or not video games negatively affect us has been going on for years. However, it turns out that it depends on what games you're playing. There is great evidence that some games actually are good and can positively impact us! These are called Games for Change.

There’s  a community of amazing people who have been working on these types of games for the last 15 years through the Games for Change festival that’s happening right now in NYC. Creators and social innovators are driving real-world change by empowering people to take social action through games.

These savvy techies are working on cutting-edge technology that leverages games for change making an impact in the civic sector, directly addressing issues around social justice, human development, as well as environment and responsible citizenship.


“Creators and social innovators are driving real-world change by empowering people to take social action through games.”

Beyond this, games are being used to transform education in and out of school, making learning a fun and easy process! And, even more, gaming is being explored to improve health, fitness, cognitive skills, and mindfulness through interactive experiences and new technologies. Pretty versatile or what?!


So what kind of positive impact do games have?

Playing games can bring together fundamental aspects of psychology, sociology, and technology to engage people for social change.

For starters, it allows children to develop and experience life in a safe environment. Additionally, it encourages people in general to pursue their ambitions, develop a realistic framework for achieving them, and improves our emotional intelligence. [1]

Fair game: playing video games does have benefits


And, what’s great, game designer Mary Flanagan outlines four ways video games can have a positive behavioural and social impact:

  • Encourages open-mindedness
  • Provides an easier way to spread messages and tell stories
  • Develops new mental associations
  • Provides multiple perspectives for people to view situations [2]


Any cool examples of these Games for Change? Yes, of course!

One that Better World International has developed, and that I have been working on directly,  is a great example:

The Good Cards: a digital platform and mobile app that empowers and motivates people to do good deeds and  track the ripple effect they’ve inspired. Through partnerships with schools and community groups, we create customized missions for social action like our environmental clean-up mission we did with EliteYouthTour. The Good Cards also guides individuals in doing good for themselves and those around them to make a positive impact in their community.

Game on: playing some types of games can have a positive impact


Or, there’s SuperBetter, which is a meaningful creation from Jane McGonigal, a leader in the field of gamification. “SuperBetter increases resilience – the ability to stay strong, motivated and optimistic, even in the face of difficult obstacles. Playing SuperBetter makes you more capable of getting through any tough situation — and more likely to achieve the goals that matter most to you.” [3]

One other impressive example is Zombies, Run!, a mobile app that makes fitness and running fun. Players have to complete  a sequence of missions to rescue survivors, pick up supplies, and defend their home all while trying to avoid the zombies. It’s a neat little way to make running more exciting.


Woah, that’s awesome! What does the future look like?

This is something that is absolutely limitless with the technological advancements we are experiencing. At the moment, the field of gamification is trending.

Briefly, gamification is the application of motivation psychology with game mechanics to inspire people to engage in a specific behavior that they might not have been motivated enough to do on their own.

This has the potential to result in applications that help improve productivity and office culture in companies, empower people to build the daily habits they strive to have, and make learning a seamless process. Yet, there’s more.

Virtual Reality (VR)  is going to change the future of gaming. This rapidly-evolving technology will have an incredible impact, whether in healthcare, entertainment, or space exploration. For example, VR is to be used to train surgeons, helping them receive substantial practice before they move on to live humans. [4]


“This is something that is absolutely limitless with the technological advancements we are experiencing. At the moment, the field of gamification is trending.”


So, there’s a lot of groundbreaking stuff going on. It’s not just about making money anymore; there are a lot of people and organizations out there who want to make a difference to the world we live in.


One last thing, how can I get involved?

Grab a Good Card and see how far your ripple effect of kindness will last. Find a game from the list at Games for Change and start making a difference by having fun! ●


Written by Corey Harnish

charnish.jpgThe poster child of community, Corey is a great listener and huge believer in humanity.

Currently the CEO of Better World International a 501c3 tech nonprofit, Corey is leading The Good Cards development; an innovative online-gaming platform and app that engages people worldwide in doing good deeds for happiness and global sustainability. Corey is an AmeriCorps VISTA Alumni, an Honorary Rotarian of Rotary International, as well as a volunteer of Defy Ventures, providing business coaching to EITs (entrepreneurs-in-training), and an active personal life coach. Corey empowers individuals and communities and help them to flourish through personal development coaching and community service involvement.

An aspiring Social Justice activist with a passion for community/sustainable development, service learning, juvenile justice rehabilitation, and brain-based coaching.


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