Defining Serious Games

Serious games occupy the training-based category of game development products. Serious games are utilitarian and goal-oriented, offering the user protocol-driven functional engagement, acknowledgment of task achievements, and almost zero entertainment value or fluff (outside of the necessary local and peripheral “traffic” caused by natural interaction with other life and environmental elements – human, animal, plant, mechanical, and weather). Serious games subject matter is typically taught to employees-in-training, re-assigned employees, or emergency preparedness / non-profit volunteers within any line of work, from leadership to trench-level roles. That learned material is, then, put to use in real world employment or deployment scenarios, from how to properly drain and dispose of vegetable oil from a fish-and-chips fryer to how to properly disassemble, diagnose, and repair the turbines on a military helicopter.

Serious games are almost entirely bulk or site licensed products rather than commercial store shelf offerings, with customers who tend to be interested in training large groups of personnel at once. Those customers are part of an immense range of target audiences including but not limited to:

01 – City, State, and Federal Government Agencies
02 – The Department of Defense (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines)
03 – Aerospace
04 – Mass Transit
05 – Political Think Tanks and Non-Profit Organizations
06 – Medicine and Emergency Preparedness
07 – Finance
08 – Agriculture
09 – Waste Management
10 – Energy Development and Exploration
11 – Commercial Shipping
12 – State and Private Educational Systems

The term “serious games” is a cute marketing cover for products that are, have always been, and may continue to be raw simulations. Serious games are not designed for Thursday night group gaming sessions at your friend’s house, nor are they designed as “fun for the entire family,” with respect. Yes, the end user ultimately determines how any game product is used, but the developer intent of a typical serious game is for the user to perform a specific task as instructed for a specific training result, rather than for enjoyment, and commonly with much more than an extra life or the high score at stake.

Serious games train would-be-employees or group event participants using a rigid set of instructions which ideally result in the learning or memorization of an equally rigid set of one-off skills sets. While some of these one-off skill sets can serve multiple purposes, those purposes always appear to derive from the same group (i.e. piloting skills applicable to multiple types of aircraft). Examples of the one-off skill sets learned from serious games are:

01 – Disassembling / cleaning / reassembling of various handheld and shoulder-launched weaponry
02 – Piloting a military helicopter
03 – Piloting a commercial passenger jet
04 – Managing a construction team and protocols involved in building a sports arena super structure
05 – Disassembling / diagnosing / repairing / reassembling the turbo diesel engine of a big rig
06 – Performing peaceful protests against an unlawfully assembled national government
07 – Performing a tracheotomy
08 – Creating and applying burn dressings to a burn victim during a mass casualty incident
09 – Performing the daily tasks of a bank teller
10 – Performing the daily tasks of a quality control supervisor at a soft drink distribution plant

Almost all of these serious games skill sets are performed in team settings where the order, collaboration, and timing of tasks performed are of utmost importance, placing the quality of products, services, and even lives on the line every day.

Written By: Eric M. Scharf
Posted By: Situated Research, LLC

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