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Computer games in the developing world: The value of non-instrumental engagement with ICTs, or taking play seriously

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2 Author(s)
Beth E. Kolko ; Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering at the University of Washington, University of Washington, Seattle, 98195 USA ; Cynthia Putnam

This paper argues that it is important to study non-instrumental uses of ICT, including computer games. Specifically, the article presents the results of qualitative and quantitative work spanning eight years of investigation in Central Asia focused on computer gaming in public Internet cafes as well as private spaces. The results presented demonstrate that people do indeed play games in resource constrained environments. The paper demonstrates that games constitute a significant portion of the ICT ecology in developing regions and provide a pathway to people's "first touch" of a computer, that gamers have more frequent interaction with technology than basic Internet users, that games bring more diverse users to computers by providing a pathway to ICT use for people with lower levels of education, and that games can motivate innovation in the technology space. Additionally, our findings indicate that both genders engage in game playing. The article makes the case that games can be a source of informal learning about ICT, and as such, games and gaming culture in the developing world merit further study.

Published in:

Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD), 2009 International Conference on

Date of Conference:

17-19 April 2009