Terry Lavender's "Homeless: It's No Game"

Can videogames change attitudes and behaviour, and if so, can the change be measured? Persuasive games, such as advergames, political games, health games, edugames and advocacy games, are growing in popularity but there is little empirical evidence for their effectiveness. Indeed, some have argued that their effectiveness either cannot or should not be measured empirically.

Yet, with corporations, organizations, politicians and social activists all investing time and money in these games, it can be argued that some measure of accountability would be useful.

Homeless: It’s No Game has been developed to test the effectiveness of videogames as persuasive agents. In the game, the player assumes the role of a homeless person who is trying to survive for 24 hours on the city streets. Subjects were surveyed on their attitudes towards homelessness and towards videogames both before and after playing the game and the results compared with a control group.

Although there was no significant difference in empathy towards the homeless after playing the game, a significant percentage of those who played the game self-reported that it changed their opinions of homeless people. Also of statistical significance was a shift in the perception of the main causes of homelessness. A follow-up survey to try to determine the direction of change in feelings towards homeless people and the persistence of the change is planned.

Attached are the speaking notes for my September 7 presentation on my videogame, Homeless: It's No Game

Update: I will be presenting a paper with further results and analysis at the European Games in Education conference in Barcelona in October, 2008. Once the conference is over, I will add a link to the paper.