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Serious game

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Serious games (SGs) or persuasive games are computer and video games used as persuasion technology or educational technology. They can be similar to educational games, but are primarily intended for an audience outside of primary or secondary education. Serious games can be of any genre and many of them can be considered a kind of edutainment.

A serious game may be a simulation which has the look and feel of a game, but corresponds to non-game events or processes, including business operations and military operations. The games are intended to provide an engaging, self-reinforcing context in which to motivate and educate the players. Other purposes for such games include marketing and advertisement. The largest users of SGs are the US government and medical professionals.[citation needed] Other commercial sectors are actively pursuing development of these types of tools as well.


Long before the term "serious game" came into wide use with the Serious Games Initiative in 2002, games were being developed for non-entertainment purposes. The continued failure of the edutainment space to prove profitable, plus the growing technical abilities of games to provide realistic settings, led to a re-examination of the concept of serious games in the late 1990s. During this time, a number of scholars began to examine the utility of games for other purposes, including early work by Henry Jenkins at MIT, and books such as Janet Murray's Hamlet on the Holodeck, contributed to the growing interest in applying games to new purposes. Additionally, the ability of games to contribute to training expanded at the same time with the development of multi-player gaming. In 2002, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington D.C. launched a "Serious Games Initiative" to encourage the development of games that address policy and management issues. More focused sub-groups began to appear in 2004, including Games for Change which focuses on social issues and social change, and Games for Health which addresses health care applications.

There is no single definition of serious games, though they are generally held to be games used for training, advertising, simulation, or education that are designed to run on personal computers (such as a PC running Microsoft Windows or Linux) or video game consoles (such as the Xbox or PlayStation 2). Alternate definitions include the application of games concepts, technologies and ideas to non-entertainment applications.


The concept of using games for education dates back before the days of computers, but the first serious game is often considered to be Army Battlezone, an abortive project headed by Atari in 1980, designed to use the Battlezone tank game for military training. In recent years, the US government and military have periodically looked towards game developers to create low-cost simulations that are both accurate and engaging. Game developer's experience with gameplay and game design made them prime candidates for developing these types of simulations which cost millions of dollars less than traditional simulations, which often require special hardware or complete facilities to use.

Outside of the government, there is substantial interest in games for education, professional training, healthcare, advertising and public policy. For example, games from websites such as are "very political games groups made outside the corporate game system" that are "raising issues through media but using the distinct properties of games to engage people from a fresh perspective," says Henry Jenkins, the director of MIT's comparative media studies program. Such games, he said, constitute a "radical fictional work."1


Video and computer game developers are accustomed to developing games quickly and are adept at creating games that simulate—to varying degrees—functional entities such as radar and combat vehicles. Using existing infrastructure, game developers can develop games that simulate battles, processes and events at a fraction of the cost of traditional government contractors.

Traditional simulators usually cost millions of dollars not only to develop, but also to deploy, and generally require the procurement of specialized hardware. The costs of media for serious games is very low. Instead of volumes of media or computers for high-end simulators, SGs require nothing more than a DVD or even a single CD-ROM, exactly like traditional computer and video games require. Deploying these to the field requires nothing more than dropping them in the mail or accessing a dedicated web site.

Finally, while SGs are meant to train or otherwise educate users, they often hope to be engaging. Game developers are experienced at making games fun and engaging as their livelihood depends on it. In the course of simulating events and processes, developers automatically inject entertainment and playability in their applications.

List of serious games

Since serious games are developed for private customers such as the US military and not the public at large, information on them is sometimes hard to come by. But some serious games either completed or in development are listed below.

  • 3rd World Farmer An online simulation game where the player gets to experience the hardships of 3rd World Farming.[1]
  • The Adventures of Josie True Online educational game for girls, targeting 5th grade science and math curricular areas.[2]
  • America's Army (Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac, Xbox, PS2): leading example of a serious game
  • Close Combat: First to Fight (Xbox and Microsoft Windows): Began as a USMC training game, converted into a commercial game
  • Crate (Windows): 3D Image Generation library for creating aquatic environments featuring pixel shaders and accurate physics models
  • Cyber-Budget (Internet) [3] puts players in the shoes of the French Budget Minister [4]
  • Dangerous Waters Developed by a company that makes actual training simulators for navies.
  • Darfur is Dying (Internet) An online game by mtvU that simulates life in a Darfur refugee camp.[5]
  • DARWARS Ambush! Convoy Simulator developed as part of DARPA's DARWARS project, designed to create low-cost experiential training systems
  • DoomEd is a single-player first person shooter learning game that combines science and history with FPS action, taking players through the horror of bio-terrorism and WWII chemical experimentation gone wrong. Developed by DESQ.[6]
  • Eduteams (PC) An immersive team-based software package built to ensure effective development of core and enterprise skills for young people, developed by TPLD.[7]
  • FF56! (PC & Mac - Flash-based), an interactive, educational graphic novel about the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Created by Lauer Learning.[8]
  • FINN (PC) Based on the idea of a group drawing board with 4 games and a freestlye mode that can be played by up to 64 players across either an internal network or the Internet, developed by TPLD.
  • Food Force (PC) Humanitarian video game. The UN's World Food Programme designed this virtual world of food airdrops over crisis zones and trucks struggling up difficult roads under rebel threat with emergency food supplies.
  • Full Spectrum Warrior (Xbox and Microsoft Windows): Began as a military training game, converted into a commercial game
  • GY$T (PC) Web based single player game which enhances a sales persons 'complex business to business sale' skils, developed by TPLD in conjunction with The Definitive Solutions Company.
  • Harpoon (Mac/DOS/Amiga/Windows): Entertainment version was "dual use" from 1989 forward. Professional version Harpoon 3 Professional created in 2002 with help from Australian Defense Department.
  • Incident Commander (Microsoft Windows): Game to teach NIMS-compliant incident management for multiple scenarios, including terrorist attacks, school shootings, and natural disasters
  • Infiniteams (PC) Multi player real time strategy game, which focuses on leadership development and team building, developed by TPLD.[9]
  • Interactive Trauma Trainer (Microsoft Windows): Currently under development, a decision based surgical training tool for the UK MOD.
  • LegSim: Legislative Simulation (Internet) Web-based virtual legislature used in college and high school government and civics courses.[10]
  • Life Preservers Evolution Learning Game (Internet) Life Preservers is a video game that teaches National Science standards on evolution, adaptation, and the history of life on earth. [11]
  • Making History (PC) Turn-Based historical strategy game designed specifically as an educational tool to develop critical thinking and negotiation skills for college and high school students.[12]
  • Nanocure (Flash): Real-time strategy game for teaching kids about nanotechnology. Developed by The Game Design Initiative at Cornell University (GDIAC) for Nanooze magazine.
  • NTE: Strike and Retrieve (PC): Recruiting game created for US Navy Recruiting Command.
  • Pulse!! (Microsoft Windows): Still in development, game to teach military and civilian health-care providers procedures and systems in an interactive virtual environment simulating operational health-care facilities
  • Re-Mission (Microsoft Windows): 3-D Shooter to help improve the lives of young persons living with cancer. [13]
  • Real Lives (Microsoft Windows): Life simulation that gives player the opportunity to learn how people really live in other countries.[14]
  • Real War and Real War: Rogue States (Windows): RTS game originally designed as a military training strategy game before being rejected and becoming a commercial game.
  • SimPort is a multiplayer game with the aim to develop a new port area in a period of 30 years simulated time. website
  • Steel Beasts Pro: Used by Finnish defence forces among others to train tankers.
  • STRATA (Synthetic Teammates for Real-time Anywhere Training and Assessment) developed as a part of DARPA's DARWARS project to support on demand, team training in the Close Air Support (CAS) domain.[15]
  • Tactical Language & Culture Training System (Microsoft Windows): Computer-based learning system that lets people quickly acquire functional knowledge of foreign languages and cultures. Current titles include Iraqi Arabic, Pashto and French.
  • The Basketball IntelliGym (Microsoft Windows): Used by basketball players for developing their cognitive skills, such as decision making, anticipation, team-play and execution. [16]
  • Trex (Xbox): Tactical simulation which uses satellite data to generate synthetic urban environments
  • VBS1 (PC) Based in the Operation Flashpoint game technology, sold as a training tool for the USMC and other military forces around the world.
  • VBS2 (PC) Based in the Bohemia Interactive Australia simulation, VBS1 using the "Real Virtuality Engine 2" developed by Bohemia Interactive and used in Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis in version 1. Related PC game title is Armed Assault.

Serious game developers

  • 3T Productions Limited, a UK-based interactive media company specialising in the development of serious games for the UK schools market - Official Site
  • ACE - Applied Cognitive Engineering, developers of Cognitive Training Systems, such as The Basketball IntelliGym - Official Site
  • Acron Capability Engineering, Inc., a Canadian based company specializing in the integration of games into HLA simulation federations - Official Site
  • Advanced Gaming Systems, Inc., Developers of the computer Computer Harpoon series of air/naval wargames.Official site
  • Asylum Entertainment UK Ltd, long-standing creator of both entertainment and learning games. Based in london, UK. Serious gaming sectors served include: corporate, schools, home learning, special needs. - Official Site
  • Blockdot - Advergame developer Official Site
  • BBN, defense contractor working on the DARWARS project.
  • BrandGames, develops corporate learning videogames. Official Site
  • BreakAway Games, developers of Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom, Cleopatra and Tropico expansions and other games
  • CAGATTI Storytelling Games
  • CHI Systems, Inc. - Official Site
  • C2C Simulation - Official Site
  • Cyberlore Studios
  • D2 Creative - Official Site
  • Destineer
  • DESQ, a UK based serious games developer, specialising in learning games for CD ROM and online platforms, in particular role-playing learning games.
  • Digitalmill, Inc. - Official Site
  • Ethical Entertainment Inc. - Official Site Vancouver, Canada based developer specializing in the creation of socially responsible games and entertainment products.
  • Forterra, formerly
  • Fusion Learning Systems, Inc. - Official Site develops custom experiential learning solutions for K-12 and corporate training.
  •, founded in 1998 by Marc Prensky Official Site
  •, Michigan State University GEL Lab (Games 4 Entertainment and Learning)
  • Information in Place, Inc. - Develops serious games and also performs contractual instructional development for serious games. Official site
  • Learning Games - Dutch Serious Game development company. Official site
  • MÄK Technologies, Inc. - Official Site
  • Muzzy Lane Software, Inc. - Official Site
  • PIXELearning - Official Site, a developer of serious games software engines aimed at non-technical learning professionals.
  • PlayGen, An established UK based developers of serious games for education and corporate sectors.
  • Serious Games Interactive, developers of Serious Games currently in development is Global Conflicts: Palestine Official Site
  • TPLD, developers of SG applications and platforms, predominately for educational and business use.
  • TruSim - Official Site, One of the UK's leading serious games developers. A division of Blitz Games.
  • Tiltfactor games research laboratory - official website, Hunter College, NYC
  • Transmodrify - Official Site
  • Tygron - Official Site
  • Virtual Heroes, Inc., developers of Serious Games training applications Adaptive Thinking and Leadership (ATL) and Future Soldier Training System (FSTS)
  • Whatif Productions LLC - Company Website, developers of a platform for the production of games and simulation, developers of serious games, interface visualization and simulation.
  • Red Redemption Ltd - Company Website, developers of climate change related games including the upcoming Climate Challenge[17] for BBC Science and Nature[18] and Operation: Climate Control for the UK Department of the Environment
  • University of Skövde - Research page, developers of trafic simulator used together with driving schools to research correlation between gaming habit and driving skills. Currently developing a simulator for fire fighters.
  • Ranj Serious Games - Official Site, Dutch creative game development studio, producing entertaining serious games since the mid nineties, like the "Professionals" Series and "Sharkworld", a project manager alternate reality training game.

See also

  • WaterCoolerGames[19]: website reviewer of serious games

External links

  • The Serious Game Initiative official website
  • The Serious Game Summit official website
  • Games for Change, the Serious Games branch addressing social issues
  • Social Impact Games, a list of over 200 serious games
  • DOD Game Community, lists most major games developed for the Department of Defense
  • Home of the Underdogs - Edutainment for Adults Collection
  • Simulation & Games for Education
  • Defence Gaming, Swedish Defence Serious Games Initiative
  • UK Serious Games conference
  •, serious game networking trade association
  • University of Birmingham (UK) Serious Games Group
  • UK Serious Games Alliance
  • Serious Games Magazine
  • Serious Games Summit Europe


  • "Technology Disruption in the Simulation Industry" by Roger Smith (US) in Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation (Fall 2006)
  • "Serious Gaming" by Bob Stone (UK) in Defence Management Journal (Issue 31; December 2005)
  • "Applications in Defence" by Bob Stone (UK) in Defence Management Journal (Issue 32; March 2006)
  • "The Future of Defence Simulation" by Bob Stone (UK) in ETS News
  • "The Twitchspeed Generation" by Bob Stone (UK) in ETS News
  • "Proof of Learning: Assessment in Serious Games" from
  • "Video Games are Serious Business" talks with Serb student-resistance leader and developer BreakAway Games about the upcoming game A Force More Powerful.
  • "Country's first virtual training space for health care professionals", serious games article on virtual learning space called Pulse!!
  • "Let the games begin", serious games article on
  • "In case of emergency, play video game"
  • "Navy Video Game Targets Future Sailors"
  • "Gaming Is All About Fun", serious games article on prioritizing entertainment over pedagogy.
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