By Dolly Rairigh Glass
Serious Games. What are they and who uses them? The definition of Serious Games: any games that are designed for a specific purpose other than pure entertainment. They can be based on a simulation of a real event, or created specifically to help solve a problem. Although these games can be, and sometimes are entertaining, the main goal is to train or educate its user.
Celebrating its ninth year, the Serious Games Showcase & Challenge (SGS&C) was born from the desire to inspire creativity, and generate interest and enthusiasm toward the use of digital game technology and approaches for training and education.
The SGS&C event is the foremost venue for recognition of excellence in the field of Serious Games development, and it gives developers the opportunity to have their submissions evaluated by a panel of judges made up of representatives from all areas of gaming. The finalists are invited to Orlando to showcase their games and share with attendees at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC), Dec. 1-5.
From the group of finalists, seven awards are given; the majority of them chosen by the judges. However, two are not: the People’s Choice Award and the Students’ Choice Award.
Entries over the years have produced some amazing games, and even greater success stories following those wins. Orlando’s RealTime Immersive, Inc., which recently expanded into Research Park, was recognized in 2012 for Best Business Game.
Their game, Virtual Attain, was one of 18 finalists. The win was a follow on for RealTime Immersive’s CEO, John Brooks, who submitted a game in 2007, and won the prestigious SGS&C People’s Choice Award for his entry, Vigilance. “Contributions by Serious Games developers will only continue to grow in the world of virtual training,” said Brooks. “Companies like Google and Facebook are building the framework for this mass virtual market space and there is a substantial role for Serious Game developers to play in producing those endless experiences.”
Stu Armstrong, Chief Technology Officer for QinetiQ Training and Simulation, Inc. in Orlando, is the SGS&C Industry lead and one of many volunteers on the SGS&C committee who work throughout the year promoting the Challenge. “The Serious Games Showcase & Challenge is attempting to identify and expose, to the wider I/ITSEC audience, some of the best uses of games to educate and train, and showcase truly exceptional and effective methods of teaching,” said Armstrong.
This will be the second year of the Students’ Choice Award, initially championed by the Orange County Public School System (OCPS) in partnership with SGS&C. A pool of appropriate STEM educational games will be identified from the finalists, and OCPS middle and high school students, as well as students from other parts of the country, will evaluate and pick the winner of the Students’ Choice Award.
“Game play has been, and remains an important part of today’s culture,” Armstrong said, citing recent statistics from the entertainment industry that estimate that 97% of teenagers play games. By the age of 21, the average American will have played more than 10,000 hours of games, which is equivalent to working a full time job for five years,“ he said.
”The Serious Game movement is attempting to tap into that huge expenditure of energy and motivation, and turn it from pure entertainment into something that has serious real world benefits,” Armstrong said. “Serious Games have been used to educate, train, solve complex medical problems, prevent bullying, and myriad of other real world uses.”