Why So Serious: Videogames Going Beyond Entertainment

Why So Serious: Videogames Going Beyond Entertainment

Serious gaming is the field that looks at using videogames for something other than just entertainment, allowing users to gain knowledge that they might not be able to otherwise. A great game will blur the lines between entertainment and education in a way that makes learning something that occurs implicitly.
Videogames are starting to be recognized more and more as a serious and reliable form of education and are being used in the classroom, for medical training, and even in the military.
Serious games are games that have been created for purposes other than entertainment, some games have been developed with this purpose while others use already developed games with added content. In the school setting, games can be a huge benefit to increasing motivation in students while providing them with an opportunity to learn in a fun and exciting environment. Games have also been used to train in the medical community by providing simulations that can test knowledge, skills, and reflexes. In response to the increase of using gaming for educational purposes, there has been a lot of growth in research dedicated to serious gaming. This research looks at the effects of including serious gaming in educational practices including knowledge gained, motivation, digital literacy, etc.

Games like The Sims can teach individuals practical real-world skills like management, leadership, or planning. Tycoon-type games can also be a valuable way of learning new skills or testing skills in a simulated environment. Tycoon games series like Zoo Tycoon, Tropico, and Harvest Moon present scenarios where gamers must apply newfound skill sets into action in order to be successful in the game. These games typically address important concepts like economics (money management, supply and demand), marketing and public relations (ensuring a successful venue and customer service), and even simple lessons like not putting a lion in the same cage as your zebras.

There are a lot of historical games that literally bring history lessons to life. Gamers are able to walk in the shoes of famous characters and be part of the lesson that they are learning. Even popular titles like Age of Empires indirectly teach world history lessons to gamers who also engaging cognitive skills like strategy. The Age of Empires series allowed gamers to learn surface information about time periods (and effects of steroid use) in a highly engaging environment. Other games like the Civilization series also make historical references that can be much more appealing than learning this information from a textbook.

Zumba Fitness video game

Serious games are not limited to education. Games have also been used to promote healthy lifestyles by taking advantage of console systems like Wii, Xbox Kinect, and PS3 Move. Exercise type games have flooded the market with titles like Wii Fit, Your Shape Fitness Evolved, UFC Personal Trainer, Just Dance, Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum, The Biggest Loser Challenge, and Zumba Fitness. These games mimic personal trainers in the sense that they track body movements and some will even provide suggestions for improvement. Although it can be very entertaining watching an older relative attempt Zumba Fitness, the goal of the game is to increase activity in the gamer’s lifestyle. Using exercise games can promote activity as they provide a safe, fun, and competitive environment to workout in.

Perhaps one of the more exciting applications of serious gaming is in military training. For years, militaries have turned to serious games for simulations (battle, flight, critical thinking, etc) to ready soldiers for fieldwork. Traditionally games have been developed specific to military requests with each game coming with a large price tag. Videogames have also been used in recruitment, with the American GoArmy.com website featuring an interactive simulation of three different military personal. The simulations used by the military have been privately developed for the purpose of training only. The UK Ministry of Defense has recently stated that they need to continuously catch up to the first-person shooter games being released, like Call of Duty, Battlefield, Ghost Recon, etc. as these titles pride themselves on using the best technology to create the most realistic environments. The government has implemented Project Kite to ensure that the army has the best simulation training available to them, looking into technology that is being used to produce these best-selling games. Recruits, who are used to playing these first person shooter titles, could be disappointed or frustrated by the subpar graphics that training simulators offer. This issue is something that militaries are trying to address. Currently, the US army is adapting CryEngine in their new serious gaming software called Dismounted Soldier Training System. Intelligent Decisions will be developing this new system, which will cost the military $57 million. Although this isn’t chump change, it is not far off base with how much most videogames cost to make. The preview for this title, which is private to the US military, makes the game look like it could have some great potential as a training tool with some neat looking features.

Although serious gaming is by no means a new industry, there have been some strong developments as we see videogame technology steadily increasing. Hopefully, these tools will become more mainstream and available to more industries. Who knows, all of the reading in Skyrim could come in handy some day!

Comments are closed.