I would like to start a little discussion about serious video games. Do you think serious games DO have their place in today's world ? What kind of serious games do you think the most interesting in term of education / work tools ?

I've recently read an article about the educational power of such games in early ages. Do you think serious video games could become a ubiquitous learning tool in primary school ?

Any experience, title share or ideas are heightly appreciated, I want to get a feel of this question from experienced game developper that are interested of writing an answer !

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    \$\begingroup\$ I do not believe that this question should have been closed. This question asks "what the value of serious games are to education and work", then delves deeper by asking how they could be incorporated into primary education. To me, this seems like a very valid discussion topic. \$\endgroup\$ – Ari Patrick Oct 24 '10 at 20:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Noctrine Thanks! I was not aware of this. @Ari Patrick I also agree that this is certainly a valid discussion topic. \$\endgroup\$ – zfedoran Oct 24 '10 at 20:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ari Which is why I reopened it. \$\endgroup\$ – Jesse Dorsey Oct 24 '10 at 20:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Noctrine I sincerely appreciate that. :) @Frédérick Imbeault Can you share a link to the article you read? \$\endgroup\$ – Ari Patrick Oct 24 '10 at 20:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Noctrine I appreciate as well, I think the topic is quite correct. Moreover, I think this discussion could get great answers / thoughs from different users. @Ari Here is one of the articles : liebertonline.com/doi/abs/10.1089/cpb.2009.0013 I've read some nices articles about serious games, but I wanted to get the feel of experienced game developpers about it, I think theses games really can help the entire community on different spheres of life. \$\endgroup\$ – Frédérick Imbeault Oct 24 '10 at 23:24

I know serious games have gained a lot of momentum over the past few years, with the growth of the simulation industry, and are beginning to gain more and more attention in the game industry, as serious game developers have started utilizing commercial game technologies.

Do I think serious games have a place in today's world? Absolutely! Video games are an incredibly powerful medium, and I think that leveraging the medium to educate, train, and raise awareness of important topics is something we as a community should wholeheartedly embrace. That being said, I do believe there is still a lot of value to traditional education and learning, and that the best use of serious games is as a supplement to traditional education, not as a replacement.

Are serious games new? Absolutely not! Although it wasn't too long ago, I remember playing a number of educational video games in my youth - and between you and me, I remember a couple of them being a lot more fun than some of today's supposed AAA games. :P


Here are some resources I think you may find useful in your quest for information on serious games:

This list is by no means definitive, but my hope is that these resources will give you a good starting point for your research. :)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Wow thanks for all the link, I appreciate. I'm not quite old (21) so for older video games, I don't really know serious ones. A question I am asking to myself is, concidering serious video games are already used for children education in elementary schools and seems to be a nice supplement, could they possibly get a place (or did they already) in Degree education ? \$\endgroup\$ – Frédérick Imbeault Oct 24 '10 at 23:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Personally, I have not run across any games designed specifically for degree education, but I can think of a number of practical applications: An economy simulator to study the long term impact of economic decisions. An injury/illness simulator that would allow students to practice diagnoses. I think the power of serious games in degree education is in their ability to simulate complex real-world situations in the classroom, providing students with an environment to fail safely, and tools to analyze the potential long term consequences of decisions. \$\endgroup\$ – Ari Patrick Oct 25 '10 at 0:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ You're probably just right, using such "Serious" games more on the "Serious Simulation" way could be a good thing. It could be a great achivement to prouve Flow in such games. If there is any, university students would probably be more enthusiast for learning more complex phenomenons on different subjects. Here is a link about Flow in games if anyone wonders : jenovachen.com/flowingames/p31-chen.pdf \$\endgroup\$ – Frédérick Imbeault Oct 25 '10 at 1:40

I'm not sure why this is "today's world": growing up in the 80s, I have fond memories of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, Reader Rabbit and Math Rabbit, Number Munchers, and the various standalone Speak and Spell devices.

I work in a game company now. We do maybe 70% commercial titles to keep the company busy, but the remaining 30% are educational, philanthropic, or otherwise socially responsible. We've done or prototyped (often for academia or government or both) games targeted at teaching science to young kids, games to teach better practices to third world denizens, and even games to help people with specific health issues.

We also regularly aim our commercial games slightly high for the intended audience, at least in terms of dialogue and story. I like to think of this as the "Rocky and Bullwinkle" phenomenon: you can teach kids very well by having something that is basically fun, zany, and engaging, and throw in more "adult" themes. Almost all of Jim Henson's work falls in this category too.

The lines blur a bit. I'm not sure I like the term "serious games" due to the connotations of "serious"; people play complicated flight or submarine simulators for fun, health-related games are often more effective with fun and/or addictive content, and on the opposite end of the spectrum, children learn more when their zany entertainment has a literate, political, social, or scientific underpinning.

The goal is to prey upon our nature: find something that sparks the desire to explore, to create, to solve problems, or even to compete. Get to a place we'll naturally be intrigued or enjoying ourselves, where we'll naturally want to do more (play more of the game, do more related activities or exploration) and the learning follows.

I don't ever see games taking over entire cirricula. I think you need balance between forms of learning, otherwise you wear things out and you don't form as many associations to strengthen knowledge.

But I do strongly believe that games will make a great part of that particular balanced breakfast. Even for adults concerned with ongoing education and expansion of their abilities; even for reflex training, exercise, or the like.

As an aside, you may be interested in Games in Education; it's a conference held in the northeast each year, which is fairly teacher-centric. Many educators come to speak about their experiences using games to teach -- what has worked, what hasn't, etc. There should be video on the site, somewhere.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for the link on Games in Education, I will surely take a look at it tonight. As for the name "Serious Games" I must only partially agree with you. In fact, maybe the term "Serious" isn't quite the word to use, but it surely is the one to use if you want everyone to understand. Is that a good reason ? Well maybe not, as Zimmerman and Salen said in their book Rules of play, the vocabulary of video games are not quite well defined for now. Finally I strongly agree with you about for balance in forms of learning. \$\endgroup\$ – Frédérick Imbeault Oct 24 '10 at 23:35

Great question. I am currently working in the education department as a developer in Australia. My role, and the people I work with, is to create resources to be used by teachers and students.

In the past year or so we have been pushing hard to try and develop more game orientated solutions. The great thing about using games as a teaching tool is that kids don't realise that they are learning, to them it is a fun game, but in the process they are learning and thinking.

Traditionally we have developed fairly boring multiple choice forms, drag and drop activities, etc. The problem with these activities is that it does not really engage students to think (who can blame them). If they want, they can just randomly click until they get something right. This passive learning has limited value. Games on the other hand force a child to actively think, I mean how many times have we subconsciously learnt things when playing AAA "non educational" games?

So if a game has educational value, then it's a win/win scenario - they get to have fun while they learn. Also, this will help foster an environment where they enjoy and look forward to "learning", which is one of the hardest things to achieve.

Unfortunately, being a lowly developer means that our vision and ideas are often overlooked. It certainly has been a struggle to create the few games that we have done. Managers tend to be much older and perhaps have not been exposed to games in the same way that Gen Y has. Perhaps there is also the association that games mean fun only and school shouldn't be fun :S

  • \$\begingroup\$ If you compare video games to other industry, they are quite young. Maybe in a couple of decades, when project managers, school teachers, politicians will be replaced by younger ones who known video games from their youth, this vision will be more likely to change. \$\endgroup\$ – Frédérick Imbeault Oct 25 '10 at 13:40

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