Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Future Of Serious Games

Serious Games moving into fields that deal with complex topics

Via: Social Technologies - Learning From Playing

Games that provide players with opportunities to learn and understand complex situations or different points of view have emerged as a distinct subset of videogames.

Increasingly, creators are taking the definitions of “play” and “learn” in new directions, often blending the two creatively.

“This shows the maturity of the gaming industry as a medium for educating children—and adults,” explains Simeon Spearman, an analyst at the futurist research and consulting firm Social Technologies.

“This new genre of games moves beyond entertainment into fields that deal with complex topics such as healthcare, governance and poverty.”

Serious Games also show that organizations are realizing the potential for videogames to spread their message to larger audiences—for they provide an interactive experience that draws people in, he says.

The trend is spurred by the spread of technology and game culture. In fact, due to their viral nature and ease of development, Serious Games are propagating.

They are now on a trajectory to become a mainstream genre of gaming applications, in both the commercial and noncommercial spheres.

Driving The Game

A number of trends are converging to drive the Serious Games movement, including:
  • Growth in popularity of simulation games. From simple simulator games like NeoPets to the bestselling computer game of all time, The Sims, games that allow players to “manage” sophisticated, multi-choice environments and determine outcomes have been popular since the 1990s, and their growth shows no signs of slowing.
  • Improving technology. From more intelligence and processing power to better displays and broadband access, powerful personal-computing technology is available to ever-growing numbers of people. They are using it not only for work and entertainment, but increasingly for learning and training as well.
  • Digital learning on the rise. Younger consumers worldwide are receiving more education via game and digital play environments, and educational theorists are beginning to explore the application of more sophisticated games to prepare students for complex situations in the real world.

Emerging Genres of Serious Games

Serious Games are evolving into several distinct genres, which can be broken down into at least five types of applications based on each genre’s principal goals. However, many games serve multiple purposes by design. Most are available for free or at a low cost to encourage broad distribution.
  • Education and training. Games in this genre aid learning or vocational training. Examples include Making History, which teaches history to students, and Incident Commander, designed to help officials and first responders prepare for emergency situations.
  • Politics and governance. Some of the most widely known Serious Games have emerged as training tools for political movements, public administrations, and governance. A Force More Powerful, for instance, is an interactive game that teaches nonviolent techniques for handling conflict. It was developed by the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict with assistance from Ivan Marovic, leader of Otpor, the group that helped bring down Slobodan Milosevic’s regime in Serbia.
  • Marketing, communication, and advocacy. A broader, expanding group of games includes both marketing and nonprofit issues advocacy. Some, like America’s Army, are explicitly intended as recruitment tools; these run on commercial videogame platforms and issue new releases as commercial videogames do. From 2003–2005, America’s Army ranked among the top six online games in terms of concurrent players.
About Simeon Spearman

Simeon Spearman is a futurist and contributing writer for ST’s Technology Foresight and Global Lifestyles multiclient projects. He also contributes to custom client projects, and tracks emerging trends, values, and segments for the Futures Observatory, Social Technologies’ trend-feed program.

Simeon’s professional interests include digital lifestyles, contemporary Japanese culture, and development in emerging markets. He is currently pursuing his MS in studies of the future at the University of Houston, and graduated with a BS in International affairs and modern languages from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He spent a year abroad in 2004–2005 as an exchange student at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan.

About Social Technologies

Social Technologies is a global research and consulting firm specializing in the integration of foresight, strategy, and innovation. With offices in Washington DC, London, and Shanghai, Social Technologies serves the world’s leading companies, government agencies, and nonprofits. A holistic, long-term perspective combined with actionable business solutions helps clients mitigate risk, make the most of opportunities, and enrich decision-making.

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