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Abstract

In recent years, with the coming of age of a new generation of social activists raised on video games and the release of new tools that make video game development easier for individuals and small groups, many activists have begun to release video games designed to further their cause. However, there is little evidence as to the effectiveness of video games in changing attitudes. The video game, Homeless: It’s No Game was developed to determine whether people could be persuaded to become more sympathetic to the plight of the homeless by playing the role of a homeless woman in a video game and whether this persuasive effect could be measured. Volunteers were recruited to answer a survey of attitudes towards the homeless and were then assigned to either play the game, read a short story about homelessness, or to be part of a control group, after which the survey was re-administered. Results were mixed, with some indicators showing an increase in sympathy towards the homeless and others showing no significant effect. There were also some indications that playing the video game led to a strengthened belief in the effectiveness of video games in raising awareness of social issues. The results indicate that games can help reinforce a social activist message, especially if their audiences consider them realistic.

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