Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Serious Games

Serious Games: Yesterday, I attended a meeting of our Faculty Instructional Technology Training committee and in the course of our discussion about potential in-class laptop activities, we began discussion the potential for games to provide a dynamic learning environment. One of my fellow committee members mentioned the Serious Games Initiative.

I have been a proponent of the use of games and simulations for learning envirnoments for a number of years but somehow missed any references to this new special interest group. So I looked them up on the web after I returned to my office and was quite pleased to review a list of their showcase projects. Under their link labeled Games for Change, I found The United Nations World Food Program’s (WFP) FoodForce Game.

I also read the absolutely inspiring keynote address delivered by Adam Singer, Group Chief Executive, The MCPS-PRS Alliance at the Edinburgh Interactive Entertainment Festival in August 2005. Some particularly striking points:

"The games industry is facing an opportunity to be more than entertainment, and more than education. It has the opportunity to be a medium.

Games are currently not a medium.

A medium makes you laugh, cry, aroused, gives knowledge, induces epiphany, and creates excitement. When you can do all of these you are a medium.

Film can do this, television can do this, radio can do this, print can do this, and even comics, graphic novels and Manga can do this, but can games?

I see no reason why games shouldn’t be a major medium: that can convey all moods and emotions, and why games should not be the equal of movies, not just in terms of image quality, or box office takings but in terms of art and emotional catharsis...

Education has traditionally been about preparing you to win at the game Who Wants To Be A Millionaire by stuffing your head with just-in-case-you-need-it knowledge, for that left of field question: In 2015 would Chris Tarrant get any viewers if every contestant had access to Google and the net?

In a network world the traditional education of just-in-case-you-need-it knowledge, combined with the necessary tribal information (i.e. knowing the date of the Battle of Hastings) no longer makes sense.

All video games teach, as a metaphorical and collateral act, how to gain knowledge in an electronic world.

This is why Educational games are gaining momentum. can be the equivalent of Documentaries on television. You can have games doing current affairs, you can have a game showing what it is like to be an oppressed minority, or how Enron-like corporations can stray into corruption, you can have games that deal with difficult issues like AIDs, or where you learn compassion by suffering loss.

There is no subject a book cannot tackle, and all novels are simulations and, likewise, there is no subject too big for games, there are only gamers not big enough for the subject.

There is no reason why we cannot have the equivalent of public service gaming. As the gaming generation goes forward does the license fee just fund TV programmes or does it fund interactive information?

Ofcom is talking about a new service, the Public Service Publisher, and if it gets through Government, it has a faint chance of being in action by 2010. Surely by then we don’t need more TV programmes, we will need pubic service games."

"The Serious Games Initiative is focused on uses for games in exploring management and leadership challenges facing the public sector. Part of its overall charter is to help forge productive links between the electronic game industry and projects involving the use of games in education, training, health, and public policy."
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