If you are in the serious gaming industry, then probably, you would be familiar with this conversation.
(The conversation starts with me saying that I work with a serious gaming company)
The Other Guy: So, you develop games like Angry Birds? Which one have you developed?
Me (Exasperated already): No! We develop serious games. Not the fancy ones like Angry Birds or Candy Crush.
The Other Guy: Serious Games? What is it?
Me: These are games which are developed for purpose other than entertainment. These are games for training, research or marketing. In other words, these games are not just for fun, but for solving real world problems.
The Other Guy: Real world problems? Oh! Never heard about them. Seems like a new concept.
Me: Many think so, but it’s not. It’s been used since the 19th century, mostly for military or defence purpose. You know, Prussian forces used to have one called ‘Kriegsspiel‘. But the buzz around serious games began once the digital scenario started booming. The term ‘Serious Game‘ was coined in 2001 and then it was adopted increasingly by different industries.
The Other Guy: Whoa! I had no clue. By the way, do these games work? I mean, after all these are just games!
Me: Well, you are right! These are just games. Only, they have a serious purpose. Serious games use entertainment and engagement to convey serious and strategic information or achieve communication objectives.
The Other Guy: I am not sure I understand it.
Me: Alright! So tell me, why is a game fun?
The Other Guy: Because … it is a fun activity which you play and try to win.
Me: There you go, my friend! In any game, you play to win. You make decisions or plan moves in order to win. Serious games work in a similar fashion, except, it delivers some kind of learning using the same mechanism. Amusement is secondary here, and yet it is the secret ingredient that makes serious games work. That’s the reason why we use games to teach our kids. Don’t you think? It makes boring stuff interesting!
The Other Guy: You have a point! Can you name any of these games?
Me: Yes, there are many out there! There’s this puzzle game called ‘Foldit’ which explains how protein folding happens in a human body. Even games like ‘Need for Speed’ can be termed as ‘Serious Games’ …
The Other Guy (Not letting me complete my sentence): Need for Speed? What does one learn from it? I have been playing that one for years!
Me (Now Frustrated): While playing the game, have you noticed advertisements for Porsche or any other racing cars?
The Other Guy: Yes! They’re always there!
Me: That’s the purpose. Need for Speed is an Advergame, a version of serious games, that is used for advertising brands. There are many out there! Even Movies come up with games for promotional purpose. Iron Man has done it. The Harry Potter game was a rage when it was released few years back.
The Other Guy: I remember that one!
This is how it starts and continues … But in most cases, at this point, either I am bored to continue or the other guy is!
So, have you ever had a conversation like this?