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

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Jane Harman writes about the potential of serious games – like the Wilson Center’s own Budget Hero – to engage citizens in public policy and even fix our broken Congress in Bloomberg's "My Bright Idea" column.

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

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?

About the Author

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Jane Harman

Director, President, and CEO, Wilson Center

Jane Harman, the Director, President, and CEO of the Wilson Center, is an internationally recognized authority on U.S. and global security issues, foreign relations and lawmaking. A native of Los Angeles and a public-school graduate, she went on to become a nine-term member of Congress, serving decades on the major security committees in the House of Representatives. Drawing upon a career that has included service as President Carter’s Secretary of the Cabinet and hundreds of diplomatic missions to foreign countries, Harman holds posts on nearly a dozen governmental and non-governmental advisory boards and commissions.

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