TEXT  |  Serious Games – An Overview (2007)

Tarja Susi, Mikael Johannesson, Per Backlund

Technical Report

School of Humanities and Informatics, University of Skövde, Sweden

Serious Games : What is a serious game?

“This report discusses some issues concerning serious games, that is, (digital) games used for purposes other than mere entertainment.”

KEY QUESTIONS concerning Serious Games
  1. What does the concept actually mean
  2. What are the claimed positive effects (other areas are e-learning, edutainment, game-based learning, and digital game-based learning)
  3. Who are the actors involved and what are their roles (researchers, game developers, consumers)

The difficulty in stating what exactly a serious game is, is based in disciplines having their own definition and goals in mind for a serious game. Serious games have applications in the military, government, education, corporate, and healthcare systems. The goals of games range from management and leadership challenges in the public sector, to education and healthcare. The methods in which these goals are achieved also range in importance from their entertainment value to the extent of their ability to simulate reality.

There has been large debate on the negative effects of computer games concerning violence and a possible link to aggressive behavior. However, that view is argued by indications that it provides an outlet for aggression and thus reduces aggression. Some claimed positive effects are increased motor skills, hand eye coordination, educational / informational, social, and physiological benefits of games and game play.

The main academic actors in serious game research are in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Germany, and Sweden.

  • The American Society of Trainers and Developers (ASTD)
  • Department of Defense (DoD) Game Developers’ Community
  • Digital Games Research Association (DiGra)
  • Futurelab
  • Games for Change (G4C)
  • Games for Health
  • The Serious Games Initiative

The investigation in to the effectiveness of serious games as a method of training professionals incites thought on a quote from Sutton-Smith’s, The Ambiguity of Play, “How can unreality be training for reality?” Does this single statement null the entire serious game paradigm? However,a contradiction/common practice must be considered. That the average citizen receives most of their information and news from the television and the internet, so why not games?


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