Video games may have risen to popularity as (relatively) mindless distractions that often feature violent and/or sexist imagery. But in the future, they may well make the world a better place–or at least that’s the argument of Asi Burak, a video-game creator, and Laura Parker, a journalist, in their new book, Power Play. In lieu of focusing on, say, Grand Theft Auto, the authors highlight a range of “games for change”–like Re-Mission, which enables young cancer patients to bust virtual cancer cells with microscopic robots in an effort to help them during treatment. Or the iCivics platform, a game from former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor that lets players make the same decisions as lawmakers, judges and Presidents. Or virtual reality, which could be an invaluable way to impart empathy. After all, they conclude, if there’s one thing video games excel at offering, it’s “the opportunity to see life from another point of view.”
This appears in the January 30, 2017 issue of TIME.