Eastern Europe: Gaming and Society

In the real world social change is a long process. It takes time and effort to obtain results. Yet numerous studies prove that people are willing to assume different and challenging roles, to take on responsibilities, to dedicate time and concentration and to push themselves to the limit for a greater good – in a virtual environment.

There are now more than 1.2 billion [PDF] gamers around the globe and they spend hours daily in a virtual reality, solving epic challenges, saving the planet, using the kinds of core skills and abilities that would help people tackle the world’s toughest problems.

Why are we not also putting those skills to work in real life?

We feel that we are not as good in reality as we are in games,” says Jane McGonigal, the author of “Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World”.

So maybe the solution to solving problems like poverty, famine, global conflict, corruption, climate change, obesity, might be simpler than we assume? All we have to do is put actual problems in game-like environments to get billions of people to work together and change the world.

Of course, the problem is more complex than that. However, there are some interesting examples of how gaming and gamification are being used across European ex-communist countries:

Some of the best gamers in the world come from these countries. Yet in reality these people are accustomed to feeling and staying low. Their spirits have been broken. People are not used to forming and voicing opinions which make a social impact. They are not used to thinking about and fighting for their rights.

Through communism, the government laid down a career and a life for every individual. Each of them would have had access to education, study for a profession, receive a job after graduation, and receive a house to start a family. No luxury, but also no basic need unsatisfied, no feeling of urgency, no initiative or responsibility.

In such societies the lack of the usual social or ethical standards can be overcome through involving youths in game-like platforms that promote life skills, personal well-being and pro-social behaviors.

In Romania such a program was developed by Visa Europe, in collaboration with Romanian banks, in order to facilitate financial education for high-school and university students. Through a gamified online training program, every participant could learn about: budgeting, planning, cash flow, investments, credits and financial risk in order to see how to make wise decisions for a sustainable financial future. Since its launch in 2012, more than 100,000 people have taken part in this program.

“I am sure that the BaniIQ (MoneyIQ) program will be very successful and will play an important role in raising the level of financial education in Romania,” explained Berna Ulman, Senior Vice President at Visa Europe.

This was only one idea. In 2013, the French multinational telecommunications corporation Orange S.A. had a representative delivering a workshop for students in search of a job, called “Gamify your career,” at a major career event in Bucharest, Romania. The aim was to bring students’ attention to how adopting a positive attitude and actively pursuing goals could help them in their career paths.

Over in Poland there are almost 12 million active players, and this is one of the reasons that Jakub Swacha, the head of Software Engineering Section of the Institute of Information Technology in Management at the University of Szczecin, and Pawel Baszuro, a freelancer software developer, designed a “Gamification-based eLearning Platform for Computer Programming Education” last year. That is yet to be tested in the real life.

In Moldova, Alexander Ischenco says of the Moldovan Environmental Governance Academy (MEGA):We use the concept of gamification in education and research on environmental management and sustainable development. We apply the game design and tools – principles of behavioral economics, PBL (points, badges and leaderboards), storyline, engagement and progression loops, etc. – to motivate young people to participate in learning about the environment and contribute to research on how to make our country, Moldova, a green, clean and sustainable place”.

Whilst in Russia this year, the 2014 Winter Olympics, Olympic Change developed and installed a new kind of ticket machine in one of the Moscow subway stations. It would only accept exercise instead of money. Every rider could perform 30 squats or lunges in front of the camera, and the machine would give a free ticket. What a healthy way to pay for transportation!

These are only a few examples of how people are starting to use game’s incredible powers in solving real life problems. Yet things are not all rosy; Gartner says that “by 2014, 80% of current gamified applications will fail to meet business objectives primarily due to poor design”.

There may be a long way to go, but gamification has great deal of a potential. Especially when we look at changes in education and all the social impact that can bring.


Ioana Girmacea is a freelance writer and course author who is passionate about non-formal education, social projects and people's minds


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Ioana Girmacea

Ioana Girmacea is a freelance writer and course author who is passionate about non-formal education, social projects and people's minds.

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