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July 12, 2013

Virtual Realities To Help Gamers Create A Better Future

Watch How Virtual Reality Games Can Transform Society, Prosperity on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

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Video games are one of the world’s fasting growing industries, now grossing about $80 billion a year in revenue, or roughly twice that of movies.

Now the race is on for researchers to develop a fresh way to create new virtual realities. Many are hoping to find ways that games can have a positive impact on economic and social behavior.

Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab serves to perfect virtual technology and get a handle on its psychological effects. Playing video games is known to affect people’s real life behavior as well, with research showing that those who play violent games tend to be more aggressive in the physical world.

The lab is working on a virtual reality game that would allow players to interact with an older version of themselves. In 2011, the lab reported that those who interacted with their future selves had more money set aside for retirement than others.

The lab also hopes to make a greater connection between participants and the choices they make. Virtual realities included activities like cutting down trees for toilet paper and swimming in a polluted ocean.

Researchers hope that these types of virtual activities will make players more aware of the impact of their very real decisions.


“What we need to do is to think about the wonderful things we can do in these virtual worlds that can make the world a better place.” – Jeremy Bailenson, Stanford University.

Warm-up questions

1. Do you play video games? If so, what kind of video games do you play?

2. How would you define “virtual reality”?

3. Have you ever learned something from a video game? Explain.

Discussion questions

1. What did you find most interesting about this video?

2. Do you think that playing video games affects how you make decisions in the real world? Explain.

3. Do you think interacting with an older version of yourself in a game would help you better understand your future and make choices? Why or why not?

4. What are some possible negative effects of creating virtual realities?

— Compiled by Carrie Waltemeyer for NewsHour Extra

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