My Bright Idea: Jane Harman on Using Games to Fix Government

Photograph by Paul Morigi/WireImage/Getty Images

The Economist says “video games will be the fastest-growing and most exciting form of mass media over the coming decade.” That excitement and its audience can also be put to serious use. At the Wilson Center, we’ve been into “serious” gaming since 2002—developing new media approaches to ever-evolving, complex social and political challenges. Why? Because it’s fun! Yes, fun. That’s what games do well.

Our Budget Hero game (, designed to make fixing the broken federal budget everybody’s business, has been played over 1.2 million times since 2008.

Today there are more than 180 million gamers of all ages in the U.S., and over 40 percent are female. Game use is increasing by 10 to 20 percent per year and expanding onto smartphones, which have almost 100 million subscribers in the U.S. alone. If “serious” games can be used for training, advertising, simulation, or education, can one about fixing our broken Congress be far behind?
Jane Harman served in Congress (D-Calif.) and is now head of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

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