Serious Gaming

June 19, 2008 at 12:44 am 1 comment

Today, I wanted to discuss an up and coming segment in the gaming arena that is starting to get some serious traction – the area of serious games. Serious Games is a term given to a category of games that provide a form of educational or training experience to the gamer, as compared to leisure games that provide more of a fun factor with little or no educational component to it.

With the boom in the gaming industry, coupled with educational institutions, government organizations and companies fighting for customer attention and dollars, it was only a matter of time before they put 2 and 2 together to fuse gaming with education/training to capture the attention of customers in new and innovative ways. In fact, with the popularity of virtual worlds like Second Life, virtual worlds are not becoming a popular channel to both host virtual environments and teach/train. This post will discuss my thoughts and findings of what is going on with serious games, what the challenges are and what are the future trends.

Serious games and virtual worlds offer great potential for people to learn about different topics by stepping in to a lively, fun, often 3D environment, where they can become a different person, get a visual and hands-on experience and engage in a highly creative form of learning using an extremely engaging user experience. The more fun the experience, the more likely the person is likely going to want to learn and more importantly, retain what they have learned.

The possible business applications of serious games and virtual worlds are almost limitless – from school based education material (teaching Math, Science, etc) to streaming lectures to remote collaboration to medical research, military training and much more. Think about students being able to conduct lab experiments in a virtual space or learning how to load, use and tear apart a military weapon online. Or how about walking through a virtual recruiting campus, meeting virtual recruiters and giving them your resume all without leaving your house.

An interesting example of this trend is the emergency training sessions led by Stanford University and being piloted using Forterra. Previously, every time an emergency training session needed to be conducted, Stanford was closed down to allow involvement of different organizations including medical and police forces. For the last two years training has been taking place in the virtual world and this has allowed distributed teams to role-play serious incidents using real people to play act victims and for the trainees to undertake lifelike training. This form of application has real potential for training with different organizations and allows Stanford to create many different mock up scenarios.

Leisure gaming (casual gaming), especially online gaming is growing at an alarming rate (and with it, new innovative business models to monetize online gaming), and serious games are getting a boost because of this trend in online casual gaming. The challenge is figuring out how best to use gaming to facilitate learning, while at the same time maintaining a high level of user engagement and entertainment. There are many different trends in this area which I will discuss in subsequent posts, but I will mention a few here – Alternate Reality Gaming (ARGs), Augmented Reality Gaming and Mobile Gaming are a few to begin with. In addition, virtual worlds and these trends are also impacting game play and game design. So there is lots happening in this space and lots for me to talk about in future posts.

Some of the other trends I see in this space is integrating social networking concepts, mashups, 3D Web and user generated content to create new and rich serious games. Studies show that if the game is flexible enough to either adapt to, or better, be created by the user community, users are better engaged and demonstrate increased learning. Serious games, like casual gaming, also has the potential to make use of rich media and integrate with various back end systems, making it very attractive to utilize such applications for a variety of different purposes. It is important to note that much of the flexibility to integrate will be provided by adopting a solid SOA approach.

In a future post, I will expand on the trends and usage patterns of serious games and give concrete examples of how corporations and institutions are adopting serious games and integrating them in to their overall business strategy. I will also discuss studies on serious games and if serious games are any more or less efficient and addictive than casual games.

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Entry filed under: Marketing, Social Gaming. Tags: , , , , , .

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