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What are serious games?
How do serious games work? Are serious games any good?
In the realm of digital entertainment, games have captivated audiences for decades. From The Oregon Trail to Red Dead Redemption 2, they provide immersive and interactive experiences which have become increasingly popular over the last twenty years.
However, beyond entertainment, there exists a genre of games that holds the potential to impact education, recruitment, training, and other dimensions of the professional sector, as well as being able to have various real-world applications such as raising awareness for NGOs and social issues. These games are known as "serious games".
In this article, we delve into the concept of serious games, exploring their definition, their purpose, and their ever-expanding impact on different domains.
Defining Serious Games
Serious games are interactive digital experiences designed with a specific purpose other than mere entertainment. They combine elements of game design, technology, and educational principles to engage their players in purposeful activities that provide meaningful learning experiences, which could otherwise be hard to convey.
Unlike traditional “entertainment-focused games”, serious games are developed with the primary objective of teaching, training, informing, or raising awareness about real-world issues. When a serious game is well made, its interactivity and engagement can be a net improvement over an e-learning course or a simple digital classroom.
Purpose and Benefits
Serious games serve a multitude of purposes, making them a versatile tool in various fields. Some of the key objectives of serious games include:
- Education and Training: Serious games offer an engaging and interactive platform for learning and skill development. They can be used in academic settings, corporate training programs, or professional development initiatives. By simulating real-life scenarios, serious games provide learners with practical experiences, fostering knowledge retention and enhancing problem-solving skills.
- Health and Wellness: Serious games have gained significant attention in the healthcare industry. They are used for medical training, patient education, and rehabilitation purposes. These games can simulate surgeries, medical emergencies, or health management scenarios, allowing healthcare professionals and patients to acquire practical skills and knowledge in a safe and controlled environment.
- Social Impact and Awareness: Serious games have the power to raise awareness about social issues and promote positive behavior change. They can tackle topics like environmental conservation, global warming, poverty, and equality. By immersing players in these virtual experiences, serious games evoke empathy and understanding, encouraging players to take action and make a difference in the real world.
- Corporate and Government Applications: Serious games have found applications in various industries, including defense, emergency preparedness, and business management. These games can simulate complex business environments, crisis situations, or military strategies, enabling employees and professionals to develop critical thinking, leadership, and decision-making skills.
The Key Elements of Serious Games
Serious games encompass a range of game mechanics and design elements to achieve their intended purpose effectively. Here are some key elements commonly found in serious games:
- Game Mechanics: Serious games utilize game mechanics to create engaging experiences. These can include challenges, rewards, levels, leaderboards, and problem-solving activities. By incorporating these elements, serious games motivate players to actively participate and achieve specific goals.
- Immersive Simulations: Serious games often include realistic simulations that mimic real-world scenarios. These simulations allow players to apply their knowledge and skills in a controlled environment, ensuring practical learning and minimizing real-life risks.
- Feedback and Assessment: Serious games provide continuous feedback and assessment mechanisms to track player progress. By receiving feedback on their performance, players can identify areas of improvement and enhance their skills over time.
- Collaboration and Social Interaction: Many serious games promote collaboration and social interaction among players. By incorporating multiplayer features or online communities, serious games foster teamwork and encourage knowledge sharing.
Serious games have emerged as a powerful tool for education, training, and social impact. With their ability to combine entertainment and purposeful experiences, they engage learners in a unique and effective way. As technology advances, the potential applications of serious games continue to expand, opening up new avenues for learning, raising awareness, and transforming various industries. Whether it's acquiring new skills, fostering empathy, or addressing global challenges, serious games offer a compelling platform to inspire change and make a positive impact