The World of Serious Games | Digital Worlds: Interactive Media and Game Design | Sheila's Edtech |

by Tony Hirst


"One natural question regarding serious games might be what distinguishes them from ‘learniong games’. For example, what sort of differences do you think there are if you compare “Darfur is Dying” with a physics based educational game such as Launchball?


"For me, one of the defining characteristics of a ‘serious game’ compared to an ‘educational game’ is that the serious game requires the player to make reasoned choices and decisions that correspond to ‘real (non-arbitrary) decisions that need to be made in the real world. Thinking back to the question So What is a Game?, two things stand out for me that make a game ‘serious’:


"1) Huizinga defined play as “a voluntary activity or occupation, executed within certain fixed limits of time and place, according to rules freely accepted but absolutely binding, having its aim in itself and accompanied by a feeling of tension, joy, and the consciousness that it is “different” from “ordinary” life.” In a serious game, the intention is very much to simulate situations that might occur in the real world, and try out or rehearse different actions in the safety of the game that might inform decision making in a similar situation the real world.


"2) Games were seen as providing “a context within which arbitrary obstacles to performing an otherwise easily achievable task create the possibility of play rather than irritation.” In the serious game, the obstacles faced by the player correspond to obstacles that the player may encounter in the real world, and so in a sense are not ‘arbitrary’."