From 2003-2009, Water Cooler Games served as the web’s primary forum for “videogames with an agenda” — coverage of the uses of video games in advertising, politics, education, and other everyday activities, outside the sphere of entertainment.
The site was maintained at watercoolergames.org, where it was edited by myself and Gonzalo Frasca from 2003-2006, and by me alone from 2006-2009. Water Cooler Games is now archived in full on this site, including comments.
When Gonzalo and I first started Water Cooler Games, the very idea of “videogames with an agenda” was novel. The Serious Games Initiative and conferences had not yet begun. Brain Age and Wii Fit were years away. The field of academic game studies, a hotbed for the study of games like the ones we covered on the site, was about to hold its first major conference. There had been earlier examples of educational games, like Oregon Trail and even earlier examples of political games, like Balance of Power and Hidden Agenda. But the widespread application of games to learning, news, politics, health, business, advertising, and other uses outside entertainment has since become much more common—thanks in part to our work at Water Cooler Games.
While the site primarily introduced general readers to the idea of games beyond entertainment, it also served as a research blog. My 2007 book Persuasive Games drew many examples from games covered on Water Cooler Games. Our coverage of newsgames also prefigured my later research in journalism and games at Georgia Tech.
All links to watercoolergames.org remain active and will forward to their correct pages in the archive.