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Serious Games – Getting Started 

The Greek philosopher Plato once said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” He viewed games as a vital learning tool 2,400 years ago, but despite rapid advancements in technology and the sophistication of the almighty Xbox, PlayStation, etc., gaming as an educational tool has only just begun to emerge from its infancy.

A serious game is a game designed for educational purposes, rather than pure entertainment. When designed well, they are ultimately defined by an engagement that cannot be matched by traditional learning. The main advantage of a serious game is that they allow learners to test their expertise in a virtual world, applying theoretical concepts to simulated scenarios. By creating a safe ‘test and learn’ environment, professionals can hone their skills, without the fear of failing on the job.

Although some have embraced it, some industries have yet to invest or even gain a full awareness of the potential that serious games have to offer. Vast possibilities that could revolutionize the way we learn remain untapped

A History of Serious Gaming

Like many new concepts and technology, much of serious gaming’s earliest development and application was driven by the desire to conquer other nations. Military commanders in the Roman Empire used sand tables with abstract icons to represent battle models. They would compete against each other to determine whose strategy would produce the best results. Later, more sophisticated boards evolved from these early strategic competitions. In 1812, the Prussian Army first developed the rules for Kriegspiel (German for “war game”), which would become a popular pursuit among Prussian officers and beyond.

The term “serious game” wasn’t coined until the computer age. Clark Abt was an early adopter, entitling his 1970 book Serious Games, although the book itself was focused on board and card games. During this time, early serious games could teach core lessons, but technology restraints meant that computers then lacked the ability to create a useful reality. The game “Pong” can only teach so much!

Fortunately with the leap in computer technology, these days even a standard first-person shooting game can present countless combinations of buttons and decisions. For serious games, this allows designers to create complex scenarios that can take more and more variables into account, producing closer approximations of real-life situations.

Sharpening Skills and Expertise

Numerous industries have started to take notice. The military remains active in the market. The U.S. Army has used gaming for years, forcing the British to update their models because soldiers played more realistic video games than they trained with. In March 2012, the BBC reported that the FBI and other U.S. agencies also contract video game producers to create games for training. Medical professionals are also often challenged to sharpen their diagnostic and surgical skills in a virtual world, before applying them in the real-world patients, while flight simulators used in the Aviation industry have had a huge impact on the safety and quality of our airline services.

In the corporate world, 20-27 percent of Global Fortune 500 companies have adopted gaming for learning, particularly in the U.S., Britain, and Germany.

A Rapidly Growing Trend

Estimates vary, but for example, IDATE – a French think tank that tracks telecom, internet and media markets – estimated in 2010 that the global serious games market was worth $1.9 billion and was set to reach almost $13 billion by 2015. The rapid growth projections are not unreasonable; as in 2007 estimates of the market sat around $150 million.

Though it is simpler and cheaper to design “fun” than a functional reality, the ability to harness the power of serious gaming in many industries suggests massive potential. Essentially, our expertise in creating serious games can be a game changer, as deploying more engaging and effective training tools produces more experienced, highly skilled workers that beat competitors to the punch.

A Smart Guide to Serious Gaming: PART 2

A Smart Guide to Serious Gaming: PART 3

A Smart Guide to Serious Gaming: PART 4

Contact Us today to learn more about how we can provide innovative training with serious gaming to help nurture your Human Capital!

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