At a military-dominated training technology conference like I/ITSEC, one would expect the winners of a serious games contest to be, well, military.

But three of the six winners of this year’s I/ITSEC Serious Games Challenge didn’t seem very martial. Take Machineers, which won the best student game category. Designed by the IT University of Copenhagen, Machineers is a 2-D puzzle adventure set in a robotic world, where the main character works in a machine shop and must solve puzzles in a story-driven approach to help students learn. But discovering effective learning technology is also a goal of many Western militaries.

According to Kent Gritton, director of the Serious Games Showcase, the organization abandoned the call for “military serious games” after the first year, when people interpreted it as a limited call for first-person shooter games.

“There is virtually no training objective in the civilian work space that does not have a parallel application in the military,” Gritton said. “Our goal was, and remains, primarily to advance serious games as a training medium, and secondarily look for games, concepts, or technology that could be applied to military training objectives.”

The DragonBox+ app from French-Norwegian developer WeWantToKnow AS won best mobile serious game. DragonBox+ uses graphics of evolving dragons and other weird and wonderful creatures, plus digital playing cards and puzzles, to find an entertaining way to teach the childhood terror known as algebra.

“I was quite pleased with the variety of games that were on the floor,” Gritton said. “While all the games were fantastic in their own right, a standout for me was the mobile winner DragonBox+, due to its training objective (algebra), simplicity and elegance.”

Of course, a military training conference is all about our tax dollars at work, so it’s only fair that Government in Action from McGraw Hill won the adaptive training award. Government in Action is a multiplayer game that takes more of a roleplaying approach by putting players in the shoes of a congressman who must first run for office and then get legislation passed.

Still, the military had its day at the Serious Games Challenge. Adaptive Force category winner C-ID, from Aegis Technologies, uses gaming to teach combat vehicle identification, with players identifying vehicles through a simulated UAV camera.

Virtual Attain, champion of the business category, places a dismounted security patrol in an Afghan village and asks players to identify suspicious objects and people.

Finally, the Cross-Cultural Competence Trainer from the Joint Staff and Joint Knowledge Online won in the government category. The program uses interactive video and gaming to teach cultural awareness to Provincial Reconstruction Teams and civil affairs missions.

“The overall quality of the entries is going up,” Gritton said. “I can confidently say that this was the best Challenge to date. I believe it is because developers are getting more comfortable with the medium, and there is a greater use of the science of learning as they create their story lines and matching training objectives.”