And here I thought video games caused social problems. I still remember putting down my Sega Genesis controller, saying goodbye to games like “Altered Beast,” because it seemed like the appropriate time for me to focus my attention on things like… attending college. Now I learn that WILL Interactive produces games that help people make decisions and adjust to real life difficult situations. (I knew I shouldn’t have turned my back on my obsession.)
Maybe “video games” isn’t the right term for WILL Interactive’s products. Their “serious games” are interactive movies that place users in decision-making roles intended to educate and alter behavior. Not your standard arcade fare. More than 70 programs address topics under the headings of Youth Education, Military, Law Enforcement, Corporate, and Health Care.
In “Leading the Way,” you play a mid-level manager working with a Reservist employee. Simulations aim to instruct business owners on how to properly support returning Service Members through cycles of deployment/re-deployment while balancing everyday business concerns. Reintegrating returning soldiers back into the workforce will likely remain a social issue the health of our communities will depend on for years to come.
“The Engineer” tests undergraduate engineering students on their understanding of the profession’s code of ethics. Students are guided through the process of making ethical choices in day-to-day scenarios.
Other serious games strive to educate struggling homeowners on how to avoid foreclosure, equip teens with the ability use cell-phones safely and deal with problems like cyberbullies and sexting, prepare police officers for handling crisis situations involving domestic violence, and much more. Many Will Interactive programs are geared toward navigating different aspects of military life.
The Long Road
Some startups begin with a flash in the pan idea, and hinge on speed to market, while others take several years to evolve. WILL Interactive uses its own signature medium patented in 1998, known as VEILS or Virtual Experience Immersive Learning Simulation. WILL holds the only patent for the interactive behavior modification system that has been shown in independent studies to improve individual’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviors. Creator of the system and current WILL President & CEO, Sharon Sloane, has been working in the field of educational software and serious games for over 25 years. She received the 2009 Women in Film and Video “Women of Vision Award” for her efforts as a technical innovator, educator, and business leader.
The company takes our complicated world seriously. Despite the technology and experience at it’s disposal, WILL Interactive doesn’t scoff at outside contributions. That’s why they launched the “$500, 000 Simulate a Better World Challenge.” Contestants were asked to submit proposals for creating a virtual experience using the company’s interactive technology that could impact the world in a positive way. The winner will be awarded $500, 000 to develop a serious game with VEILS, and, if commercialized, receive royalties and co-branding recognition.
The competition has been narrowed to three finalist. You can help to choose the winner by voting here. Assist the world in addressing a pressing social issue. Excuse me while I crack my knuckles and return to the gaming world.