Thursday, April 29, 2010

How the Video Game Industry Can Save Our Streets

I woke up this morning to a news report of kids using kids for target practice on the southeast side of Chicago. Each time, I am sickened and the only relief I feel is when I hear that they’re in stable condition. Our streets are under siege and our children are the insurgents.

Our children have too much unstructured time. Families have limited resources to connect to meaningful activities. And what outlets do kids who are not athletes, musically inclined or aloof have?

As a youth, I spent many days hanging out at the video game arcade. I only developed proficiency at foosball but enjoyed the sights, sounds and watching others compete and bring those machines to their electronic knees. But now, all of the technology that amazed me then exists in the current generation home console units.

It is time to bring back the neighborhood arcades, version 2010.3. Storefronts and mini-malls remain vacant in these troubled areas and could be quickly modified into a technological drop-in community center. Donations from video game and computer industry corporations would provide hardware, software, consultation and technical assistance needed for start-up. Once locations have been set-up and established, the community impact would be immediate and resonant:

  • Area residents hired and trained to manage sites, provide guidance in using the equipment, monitor activity in and around the facilities, etc.
  • After-school, weekend and school holiday access for families,
  • Multipurpose use for school-sponsored field activities, structured mentoring and tutoring areas, kiosks for product demonstrations, appearances by industry professionals and game celebrities, corporate-sponsored healthy eating cafĂ©, gross motor activity sections,
  • Corporate-sponsored areas with featured hardware and software, opportunities for training, certification and continuing education geared toward video game industry, and
  • Support for learning styles and intellectual strengths.

Once established, these educational and entertainment centers can provide needed family and community supports. Students and parents could earn credits through scholarship, stewardship and volunteer efforts; local law enforcement personnel can include the centers as part of their patrol routes and possible off-duty work; legislators and community leaders can show evidence of working and flourishing community-corporate partnerships and educators can encourage game developers to include learning standards in game design.

These are a few benefits of the video game industry directly investing in communities for immediate results. While this will not solve all community ills, it would be a start. And I do not believe we will see news reports of shootings by children with a gun in one hand and a game controller in the other.


  1. The concenpt, as you describe it, is novel to me. Certainly, I've never looked at gaming in such a light. I do know, at certain points in my own life, I have resorted to gaming (sometimes excessively, in my own opinion)for various reasons. I can't say that it hasn't helped me by. I just can't say exactly how, or to what degree it might have helped, other than keeping me from doing stuff that would be really stupid (That, I can say!)

    It would be interesting to know, per your discussion, what kinds of philanthropic efforts game companies do participate in. What kind of scholarships or grants to they make, if they make any?

  2. Thanks for your comments. Corporations do those usual things and support community organizations with monies. However, they could do more by, say, donating hardware and software and providing consultants to incorporate their products into school curricula, family activities, community development and the like. Many kids are involved with some type of video gaming and rather than harp on the ills, why not use the interest and involvement to engage our youth?