Comments about serious games
What is crazy here is that the largest number of projects are based on false premises like what is good to extract from games is 3D environments, cool in-game features or (again) using 3D environments as real-world look-alike. Of course it's part of the experience but the most important thing in games is what the first speaker (jesper juul) explained: video games is a matter of having (or not) goals. Players then enjoy the challenge of working towards this goal (and if the challenge matches the player, he or she's gonna be in the state of flow). Also it can be about ignoring the goals and still getting an experience. What we see in lots of serious game projects is that there is an overemphasis on the environment, the game levels used to (re)create the real world. That's why there are tons of boring 3world in which participants have to play the role of firefighters/military/nurses... But hey! this is not a video game... Having little characters on a 3D levels and an in-game menu to move them is clearly not a good way to let people reach a state of flow so that they can learn how to fix the situation. Furthermore, from an educational technology point of view, the underlying pedagogical model (or even the pedagocial scenario) are clearly undefined. I am always amazed by the belief that a new media (like radio, tv, the web, video games) might be the solution to every problems. It's based on the assumption that the intrinsical properties of them media may support learning. The most important part is not those properties (3d rendering, cool features...) but instead what players/learners can do: their interaction between them or with the world, the activity they are engaged in, the pedagogical scenario they are involved in... For that matter, Jim Piggot's presentation about the game his company (TPLD) develops was interesting. They work on multi-users projects that aims at 'collaborative training': training people to collaborate achieving a common goal. In this case, the emphasis is put on collaborative dynamics and processes trough a very simple interface which engages players in simple activities. Caspian Learning's engine also has a good approach, trying to rely educational or cognitive psychology theories like Bloom's taxonomy of educational activities. They also stated their commitments towards attesting the validity of their products as well as their integration into existing settings (it's impossible to use Civilization in a 45minutes history lesson).
Anyway, I need to express that this is not so general, there is just a trend. There are however relevant applications that are based on interesting game features. Finally, I was really interested in how Ben Sawyer defined the serious games. He definitely expands them to all the applications that use video games in other context than just playing. Among what he said, here is a short list of pertinent serious game application, not so-tightly related to learning:
- consoles as low coast videoconf systems - pain distraction - LAN parties as team building exercises - general purpose GPU programming - machinima (game based movie marking) - game devs input on vheicle and interfaces - polling method: logging gameplay choices - economic research in online worlds (games as a petri dish for economics) - exergaming and rehabitainment (sony kinetic, using eyetoy for exercises) - PostTraumaticStressDisorder and AttentionDeficitD treatments - phobia treatments - unrealart.co.uk: artistes using game tools for artwork creation - Communication in various context (medicine, soldiers.....): VoIP chat via wifi for DS, web browser and RSS feeds to PSP, Xbox live with soldiers, in game chat in onlie games and worlds, eyetoy phonecam and xbox tv chat, p2p handwriting chat with DS
I played the party pooper here but this is really my feelings. What strikes me is that video games is taken as a miracle solution to do training or elearning by using platform that takes game aspects that are not really relevant to meet this end. I don't even mention the fact that serious game client wants packaged solution that may allow their learner/player to learn as fast as possible using the platform. This does not really work like that! To connect what Jesper Juul and Ben Sawyer said, I appreciated this comment by Ben: "beginning a news job is like beginning a new job in the sense that you have to figure out what you have to do".