The Serious Games Front

Posted on March 31, 2008, 6:23 pm, by Elizabeth LaPensée, under Games, INSPIRATION.

I’m glad to hear from Simon that is making a comeback soon. On that note, the field of educational games is growing past its phase as “edutainment” (please, please, would people stop making up silly merged words that date us?). James Paul Gee’s What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy points to the already-present characteristics of games that lend to learning. Of course, the problem is that most games that set out to be educational often miss these basic fundamentals found in commercial games. Ironic indeed!

Since my work is culturally based, I see myself following the track of activist game design within serious games based on my motivations of self-representation as mixed blood (Irish, Anishinaabe, Metis). However, as far as the bullet point categories of serious games go (health, education, training), my work doesn’t fall inside those areas. I can see opportunities in First Nations communities for health games, particularly related to big topics like diabetes or the importance of mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional health. Training games lean too much towards simulation for me but people like Garry Oker (Doig First Nation) could make use of that field for training on-reserve resource management. Educational games as a whole for me are distinguished by their main audience–youth. In a way, it’s not useful for me to term a project as an “educational game” since I feel that all games are educational.

Having said that, what I’ve found is that serious games is the current hot spot (casual games are soooo old, gawd) for the money-making buzz. What government units can we attach ourselves to?! Where can we get funding for a non-profit world-saving game?! Certainly, it’s easy at the forefront to say, “I’m making a health game to help this community,” but at the end of it all, we need to look back at the iterative game design process and ensure we’re making good, fun games with strong game mechanics and hopefully even new innovations in mechanics.

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