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"Serious Games" Industry Gains Traction

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the insert-serious-business-joke-here dept.

Businesses 92

schliz writes "So-called 'serious games' are gaining traction in military, business, education, and medical applications as Gen X and Y come into power, iTnews reports. While game developers acknowledge the risk of trivializing real-world issues (as in the Six Days in Fallujah controversy), intelligently designed 'serious games' could allow complex situations to be presented in a simple way. Cisco, for example, has an amusing online games arcade that prepares networking professionals for a variety of certifications."

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Intelligently designed? (-1, Offtopic)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 3 years ago | (#32162980)

So you're saying a gradual process of game evolution would not allow you to present complex situations in a simple way? *ducks*

Serious Game = Sim? (1)

toastar (573882) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163108)

What the difference between a game and a simulator, Srsly what's the difference between the f-16 flight trainer that pilots train on and the fancy Racing simulator games you play at dave and busters? other then the cost.

Re:Serious Game = Sim? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32163178)

The difference is that the simulator's identical to flying the real F-16, and the racing simulator game you play at "dave and busters" isn't nowhere near realistic.

Re:Serious Game = Sim? (4, Insightful)

dave562 (969951) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163188)

The level of realism and computing power available to the simulator is what sets it apart from a game. A game at D&Bs is going to be focused on fun. You'd be able to put the airplane through all sorts of fun and exciting manuveurs that would tear the wing off of a real plane. A simulator is going to be focused entirely on making a reproduction of the real thing that is as accurate as possible. The purpose of a simulator is to train a pilot to fly a multi-million dollar airplane without destroying it. The purpose of a video game is to provide some entertaiment and a momentary escape from reality.

Re:Serious Game = Sim? (2, Insightful)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163330)

there used to be games that did both. But that was before the big corps started gunning for the lowest common denominator so as to make the shareholders happy.

Re:Serious Game = Sim? (4, Informative)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163496)

I hear the KA-50 Black Shark [digitalcom...ulator.com] simulator is pretty close.

Rigid body dynamics equations have been used to calculate the helicopter's flight trajectory. In essence, this means that all external forces and force momentums are used to calculate a body's position and rotation in 3-D space.

The Ka-50 airframe aerodynamic properties are derived from its sub-element parameters: fuselage, wings, tail, and landing gear. Each of these has its own position and orientation within the airframe local-coordinate system and each has their own aerodynamic characteristics. Each sub-element is calculated by independent lift-drag coefficients diagrams, damage degree influencing the lift properties, and center of gravity (CG) position and inertial characteristics. Aerodynamic forces acting on each sub-element of the airframe are calculated separately in their own coordinate system taking into account local airspeed of the sub-element.

Then it continues to describe each system (rotors, hydraulics, electrical, etc) and how it simulates each one.

Re:Serious Game = Sim? (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#32169800)

ah yes, i keep forgetting that there are some smaller companies still interested in this area. Heck, there is also bohemia interactive, that seems to have specialized in simulators where one can go from soldier to pilot (tho the latter is simplified to fit within the controls of the former).

http://www.bistudio.com/ [bistudio.com]

Re:Serious Game = Sim? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32163898)

You mean they made games that lots of people wanted to play rather than simulators that only a few people wanted to play?

Oh, the horrors!!!!

Seriously, I like simulators as much as the next nerd, but I don't blame game companies for making games with a wider appeal...

Re:Serious Game = Sim? (1)

Labcoat Samurai (1517479) | more than 3 years ago | (#32172552)

Also, calling people who want to play a game to be entertained rather than to get a realistic flying experience the "lowest common denominator" is a bit condescending, don't you think?

Re:Serious Game = Sim? (1)

carp3_noct3m (1185697) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163794)

The issue that many people try to draw clear lines between but that is hard to actually do is the amount of realism vs fun that constitutes and escape from reality. As a former military person, I tend to stick to FPS games, but when it comes to some of my favorites, (rainbow six, Operation Flashpoint 2, ARMA 2 etc) many of friends find it not as fun due to the "slow pace". But I still find it an interesting escape from reality. Its all in the eye of the beholder.

Re:Serious Game = Sim? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163250)

What the difference between a game and a simulator, Srsly what's the difference between the f-16 flight trainer that pilots train on and the fancy Racing simulator games you play at dave and busters? other then the cost.

The laws of physics make most "simulators" vastly harder and much less "fun" in comparison to "games".

For example: The Army took their combat simulator, made it easier, then called it "America's Army"
The vast majority of gamers want only enough realism to keep the game authentic.

Re:Serious Game = Sim? (1)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163608)

Even better example was Full Spectrum Warrior, which was a game version of a squad training tool for the military. They actually put the full version of the military tool on the disc as an easter egg. Interesting but not as fun as the game, though difficulty wasn't much more than the "hard" setting of the game.

A while back my buddy who is a pilot got me some time on some of the sims they use. The difference is realism of course, but there's no reason home software couldn't do the exact simulation they're running there. These were state of the art 1970's-80's computers delivered for the jets back when they were new(er). Big machines for the time, but no reason it couldn't be crushed by the average netbook nowdays. (Of course, you can't beat the I/O which is a full working cockpit with every dial and switch you can imagine plus a full quarter sphere projected display which was enough to make you want to turn your head to match what your eyes were telling you.)

Re:Serious Game = Sim? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32165298)

Of course, you can't beat the I/O which is a full working cockpit with every dial and switch you can imagine ...

Yes you can, it's called a USB device which accepts the I/O for you and tells the computer via Serial. I've made many of these, for aviation sims too.

Re:Serious Game = Sim? (3, Interesting)

kestrel bait (1344135) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163298)

The difference is fidelity. Simulators strive for real-world emulation. Educational sim games abstract away a lot of details and will have lower fidelity. The purpose is often to get familiar with basic cause/effect within an environment in which the player can win or lose and experience a variety of situations. Sim games also tend to contrive the virtual world to present conflict and entertainment. I build CyberCIEGE, which most definitely is NOT a real-world simulation of network security. However it is a constructive management simulation that confronts players with choices that lead to learning. And, for at least some students, it is fun.

Re:Serious Game = Sim? (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163314)

One difference that strikes me: in one you fly a plane, the other you drive a car? If I were to make a car analogy, I'd say that it was as if in one you drove a car, and the other you did not drive a car. Seems quite clear cut.

Besides, most arcade racers are utter tripe. The only one I've played that seemed to make any attempt at realism was a Ferrari licensed one.

Re:Serious Game = Sim? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32163768)

All games are, at their heart, games. As in, some players follow some rules in an attempt to best each other. In computer games, the computer can create the effect of having more opponents whether that be by adding fake names and scores to the high scores table (as in Tiger Woods Golf, for example) or by using an AI routine to control a character in the game in much the same way a human would. Every game has players competing to best each other.

All sims are, at their heart, sims. They seek to recreate some (usually real life) situation as accurately as possible. What is created my not be fun to interact with. It may not be challenging either. But it is, presumably, useful to whoever created it. Flying an F-16 for real involves a lot of boring stuff that most people aren't interested in but fighter pilots still need to learn and practice it. Some people enjoy playing with simulations for fun and a lot of flight sims genuinely deserve the moniker.

Sim City was sometimes called a toy rather than a game, as it lacked opponents to best. Because, although it leant towards simulation at times, it strived first and foremost to be fun. But it had a score - money, population, etc. and it had many players. And those players could communicate with each other and compare scores and thus it became a game. But it does leave this third classification - sims which are not designed to be realistic, simply interesting. Conway's life comes under this heading. So it's not an entirely clear-cut distinction.

Fun (1, Insightful)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163080)

But are these "serious games" fun to play? That seems to be the most overlooked part of educational games.

Re:Fun (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32163132)

But are they supposed to be fun?
I thought the whole point of them is that they aren't

Re:Fun (2)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163164)

I dunno. I'd find an actual F-16 flight sim to be full of win and fun.

Re:Fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32163214)

Obviously, you've never flown a real F-16 OFT.

Re:Fun (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163584)

Think I'd be posting on /. if I was a pilot of military jet aircraft? I'm sure I'd be sitting at home with my wife right now doing something much better than respond to ACs on /.

Re:Fun (2, Insightful)

kaizokuace (1082079) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163606)

like back when the falcon games were around? People stopped making full on flight sims. It's sad.

Re:Fun (1)

TheReij (1641099) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163680)

Companies stopped making full-on simulations because the niche market of PC Flight Sims became even smaller with the advent of online gaming for consoles, which made PC gaming itself a niche market in comparison. Less resources are allocated and you really don't have the funding or time to put on the polish necessary for a flight sim as in-depth as Falcon. MSFS does not count - it has funding out the wazoo and AFAIK does not replicate combat the way Falcon did.

Re:Fun (1)

kaizokuace (1082079) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163778)

yea, it is a super niche market but you know, it was still awesome. The last good sim I played was like Janes F-15.

Re:Fun (1)

TheReij (1641099) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163874)

When I'm in the stores, I look around. Sometimes I imagine myself buying MSFS, but then I realize I don't have a decent joystick, and I'm sure I'd get tired of it. I'd like a nice combat flight simulator. One of the harder ones I played in the early 2000s was the B-17 simulator. It was an achievement if you could even get the damn thing off the ground.

Re:Fun (1)

oatworm (969674) | more than 3 years ago | (#32164202)

I remember those games - what really caught my attention was how the instruction manual was thicker than many of the technical manuals I have lying around these days. On the one hand, that attention to detail was conceptually fantastic; I mean, it's great that somebody sat down and made a game that tries to capture everything about flying an F-15. On the other hand, if I'm going to basically go through the effort of getting a pilot's license before I get my simulated plane off the ground, I'd like to actually have a pilot's license in my pocket to show for it.

Re:Fun (1)

kaizokuace (1082079) | more than 3 years ago | (#32164274)

you will never get to pilot a fighter jet unless you go through the difficult career path of becoming an airforce pilot. You also have to be physically fit for it. Flying a Cessna is not quite the same as an F-16. Also some people just wanna play the game instead of actually flying. Also back then I was a lot younger and probably couldn't get my parents to let me get a pilots license.

Re:Fun (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 3 years ago | (#32164752)

I never liked the computer flight sims because a) never had a joystick and a mouse and keyboard just don't cut it and b) no front, left, right, back view.

Also, I've never had a computer up to the task of actually running them (I usually played on a friend's computer).

Re:Fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32164288)

No, you wouldn't. I still can't figure out how to start the engines on the SR-71 Blackbird in FlightGear. Sitting in the cockpit looking at the view around the airport might be realistic and interesting, but it's not what I would call fun.

Re:Fun (5, Informative)

Colonel Sponsz (768423) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163714)

Oh hey, a /. topic where I have first-hand knowledge!

But are these "serious games" fun to play? That seems to be the most overlooked part of educational games.

They don't have to be. You're confusing serious games with edutainment - the latter is entertainment with an educational value (even if it, as you pointed out, quite often fails at the "entertainment" bit), while the former is basically education in the form of a game. Think "military war game [wikipedia.org]" compared to "chess". Different aims, different audience. A lot of serious games would actually be called simulators, if that word hadn't carried so much semantic baggage with it.
The project I'm involved in, aimed at firefighters and other rescue workers, is intended to be an replacement for and complement to certain live (and therefore dangerous and expensive) exercises, for example. That means it's meant to be played with instructors present, as part of their normal education regime. Thus, there's no need to "sell" the game with entertainment. Trainees can practice on their own if they want to (PC-based software), but if they do, they do it for the sake of their own education.

Anyway, if anyone's interested in the subject I can recommend the freely available
From Gaming to Training: A Review of Studies on Fidelity, Immersion, Presence, and Buy-in and Their Effects on Transfer in PC-Based Simulations and Games [bbn.com]. It's DARPA-funded (DARWARS - I love that name!) so it's aimed at military educational gaming, but it's a good introduction to the field.

Re:Fun (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 3 years ago | (#32185142)

I’m sorry, but your definition of what is a “game” is way off.

A game is by definition fun. If it is not, it is not a game, but a simulation. (Yes, if you have fun with a simulation, it becomes a game.)
The reason is, that fun is essential to motivation which itself is essential in good progress. E.g. learning progress.
See it like this: Fun is pleasure with surprises. Surprises are all things that your brain did not expect. (Essentially all spikes in a neural network.) And pleasure is essentially just the result of growth/improvement/sustainment of biomass/ideas. Or in other words: Positive feedback. Even if it’s only virtual/simulated.
Motivation is controlled by how close your success actually was. The closer to the center between too hard and too easy you are, the more motivating it will be. Which maximizes learning and how hard future tasks can be. (A genius is someone who is really good at keeping that balance, and can structure/group his thoughts. That’s it.)

So success in a motivating work, that has some unexpected things to learn, results in the most fun.
Which means that you can tell the amount of learning by looking at how much fun it is.
(What you can’t tell with that, is of course if you are learning what you wanted to learn, or something pointless like having better skills at standing high G forces on a roller coaster. ;))

This is why I have no doubts that the progress of humanity and the average intelligence will vastly improve, when we replace school by a couple of well-designed games whose challenges are based on real-world challenges that we want to succeed in.
Which won’t be anything like school today. And that’s a very good thing. Since school nowadays does inhibit free independent thinking and problem solving, and focuses more on creating dumb automatons. It also does focus way too much on one side of the brain, leaving social skills, emotional skills, and creativity nearly completely neglected.

Re:Fun (1)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | more than 3 years ago | (#32164120)

I'm sure marketing will tell us they're fun, the reviewers will follow whatever either IGN and Eurogamer say and then Penny Arcade will tell us that the concept is flawed - with the assistance of puppets.

Re:Fun (3, Funny)

Kingrames (858416) | more than 3 years ago | (#32164710)

I fail to understand your question. What could not be fun about a fully realistic simulation of the inner workings of the reproductive system of the Liturgusidae?


tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#32169930)

What could not be fun about a fully realistic simulation of the inner workings of the reproductive system of the Liturgusidae?

It would be its own Rule 34 at least.

Re:Fun (1)

Keill (920526) | more than 3 years ago | (#32164996)

IT does not matter if games are fun or not in themselves - it only matters if your audience wants them to be.

Although we use the word 'play' with a game, since there is no equivalent of game under 'work', games (things we do in a structured, competitive environment), can be used for both work AND play.

Of course, understanding what the word game truly represents is the real underlying cause of most of it's problems anyway...

http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/DarrenTomlyn/20100505/5089/An_objective_foundation_upon_which_to_build_a_theory_of_games.php [gamasutra.com]

Re:Fun (1)

ElderKorean (49299) | more than 3 years ago | (#32165882)

But are these "serious games" fun to play? That seems to be the most overlooked part of educational games.

'Serious Sam' is seriously fun to play, though perhaps that is not the type of game the article is about.

in other news from 1983 (3, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163084)

Apple Computer and Scholastic Inc. are pleased with the inroads "educational games" have been making in K-12 education, and argue that intelligently designed games can be both entertaining and educational, and usefully supplement the traditional curriculum, especially in terms of engagement.

(And seriously, a lot of those games were better than the kind of stuff in that Cisco game arcade.)

Re:in other news from 1983 (3, Interesting)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163236)

There is a difference between Educational and Serious. I do not take Bobo the mathematical Monkey counting bananas as serious.

I do take seriously the simulation of what war is really like overseas in countries that experience the real blunt end of it. Civilian casualties, oppression, vulgar and obscene acts of violence. These are the kinds of things that have been a little taboo for video games, because the idea has always been to make a game fun, not realistic. The real world isn't fun, and now they are making games that aren't, to prepare people for the harshness.

Thats basically what they are getting at, not the whole education part.

Re:in other news from 1983 (2, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163490)

Well, a big part of their push seems to be training-games/etc., which just seems like the adult version of educational games.

I do agree that there are other aspects games can cover, of which the representing-what-something-is-like part is a big one. But those haven't always been taboo for games, either. One of the best 80s games on the Cold War was Chris Crawford's Balance of Power [wikipedia.org] , which aimed to illustrate the issues involved, not just provide a "fun" war simulation. To emphasize the point, if you triggered a nuclear war, the game did nothing but end and print a textual message: "You have ignited a nuclear war. And no, there is no animated display of a mushroom cloud with parts of bodies flying through the air. We do not reward failure." There's a lot more [amazon.com] examples too, although I agree expanding them would be good.

Is that really where "serious games", especially in the form of the "serious games industry" is going, though? Things going vaguely under the heading "newsgames", like Darfur is Dying [darfurisdying.com] seem to be doing that better, while the "serious games industry" seems to be focused on, well, people who would pay them to make a serious game, which tends to be more training-ish stuff.

Re:in other news from 1983 (3, Interesting)

MBCook (132727) | more than 3 years ago | (#32164026)

I'd agree. I was quite impressed with Full Spectrum Warrior. You run your little squad of 4 guys around in Iraq (yeah, it had a fake name). But you'd run them around with tactical commands and you had to be really careful. One stupid move and your whole group had been taken out by and RPG. Forget to use cover fire and a guy is shot down and you have to go get him and drag him for the rest of the mission or back to the med truck at the start. The game was really a RTS/squad hybrid of sorts.

The game was developed for the military as a training sim, and made less punishing and realistic for civilians. If you dared (I didn't), you could put the game in full military mode which was much much more difficult.

It had a story, and it was fun to play, but it gave you a real sense of just how dangerous and hard that kind of anti-insurgency close quarters combat could be in a way that traditional FPS games don't.

Re:in other news from 1983 (1)

svvampy (576225) | more than 3 years ago | (#32175186)

I found Full Spectrum Warrior to be more like a puzzle game. Each level was designed with specific challenges. Move to cover here, flank insurgent there and so on. As you said, a single mistake could be devastating, but unlike sokoban you can recover. Albeit by trudging back to the healing point. I did like that feature, but when I started thinking of the game in that fashion, it sort of lost its appeal.

Maybe the game was more dynamic than that, but for some reason it stopped being interesting for me and I moved on to other games.

Re:in other news from 1983 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32165148)

Civilian casualties, oppression, vulgar and obscene acts of violence. These are the kinds of things that have been a little taboo for video games, because the idea has always been to make a game fun, not realistic. The real world isn't fun, and now they are making games that aren't, to prepare people for the harshness.

Thats basically what they are getting at, not the whole education part.

Wrong. Realism takes time, research, money, and most importantly, processing power. Games are not realistic because they are simplistic, not because they are fun. Nothing new is available now in the "realism" game department that wasn't here 10+ years ago. You just weren't aware of them, because due to their inherent (graphical) constraints, they were not advertised as much nor as popular as the latest Quake incarnation.

Re:in other news from 1983 (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 3 years ago | (#32185328)

Success is fun. Especially close calls.

So you are very wrong, by suggesting that because the real world isn’t fun, the simulations of it also shouldn’t.
Quite the opposite is true. Have you ever noticed how in every game, film and book, there usually is this horrible base scenarios, which then has to be fought to make everything good again? And it feels great and fun, doesn’t it? Well, that’s because it is.

I understand how you might be wondering how that could be fun and feel right too. So I will give you examples based on your examples:
- Civilian casualties: Prevent them even though they get harder and harder, thereby becoming really good at it, and in return seeing happy communities that you saved, and getting their support as a reward.
- Oppression: Find ways to subvert and overcome oppression in real-world scenarios. Then get punished really hard ingame, trough events that really make you feel angry and raising your emotions. Meanwhile you come in contact with other oppressed people (modelled after real people with real stories. [Example: A neighbor of mine, a sweet old lady, once told me with tears in her eyes, how she had to witness how they first put some of the town’s children on sticks and roasted them over the fire, and then left the rest of the town on a locked field to die of thirst. This was in Yugoslavia. You can’t hold back the emotions there. Not a chance.]) Until you finally flee, and come back, trained and fit to overthrow the enemy and free everybody.
Vulgar and obscene acts of violence: Again, the same basic patterns work: 1. The game creates an emotional attachment between you an some characters. 2. In waves you see A. those things happen, and B. fight them successfully while learning from it, in an ever-growing crescendo (= 3. ...), until 4. the final win.

If those games are based on real-world experience from real people and events, and if the story writer / game designer succeeds in creating an emotional attachment and a motivation based on it (= a real goal), then becoming good at those things, and having so much fun succeeding (doing good, having success and everything) are the exact same thing. :)

Re:in other news from 1983 (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#32185940)

I'm not suggesting that serious and fun are mutually exclusive, just that a serious game tends to turn some people off. For example, Call of Duty 4's big stink with players being told to kill civilians. While its true that its not necessary to progress the game, you can even skip the scene, it still upset people.

What you've been describing are the cliche stories where you fight against Oppression, against vulgar acts, and against injustice in general. These have been around since the 90's.

The "Serious games" the article talks about, are the ones that blur the lines, just like in the real world. At what point does a civilian casualty become acceptable? Can you afford 1 civilian for every 1 insurgent? These are the kinds of moral question brought into the eyes of soldiers the world round day after day. While no one wishes a civilian casualty, most would gladly take that life if they rationalized a greater good coming from it.

The serious games are where Success is difficult to measure, because the consequences of your actions don't always balance out to be righteous. You may take out the villian to find yourself the greater evil.

Re:in other news from 1983 (1)

ShogunTux (1236014) | more than 3 years ago | (#32165158)

I prefer evolved games to intelligently designed games any day. Far more believable. ;)

Re:in other news from 1983 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32166674)

Somebody mod up this guy!

Re:in other news from 1983 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32179676)


Well, duh. This is news? (2, Informative)

EWAdams (953502) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163206)

Serious games have had their own conference (in D.C., where the government and charity funding sources are, of course) for several years now. Serious games are major -- and they're no longer just low-grade "edutainment." They're about things like teaching kids how to manage their diabetes; teaching firefighters how to handle hazardous materials; helping injury recovery and rehabilitation; training surgeons; teaching Third World executives how to manage a water system efficiently. And yes, they are fun.

Imagine a form of physical therapy that ISN'T both agonizingly painful and mind-bogglingly dull. Distraction works as well as painkillers; video games have been demonstrated to be efficacious.

Re:Well, duh. This is news? (5, Funny)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163282)

You're right. We've had serious, realistic games for years. Just many of the situations haven't come up yet.

But when the Zerg come, we'll be ready.

Re:Well, duh. This is news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32163936)

Are you ready now? We're in your base right now dude! Where's your barracks?!?!
- Overlord # 561213 of Mar Sara

Re:Well, duh. This is news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32164254)

My fleet of carriers should be ready by then.

Re:Well, duh. This is news? (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163648)

Considering that supposedly "low-grade" edutainment was also demonstrated to be effective in improving learning outcomes, it seems strange to dismiss it just to bolster some industry's claims to novelty. See, for example, Lepper & Malone's 1987 paper, "Intrinsic motivation and instructional effectiveness in computer-based education".

Well there WAS a lot of crapware... (1)

EWAdams (953502) | more than 3 years ago | (#32167612)

"Educational software" and "edutainment" got a bad smell in the early 90s thanks to a whole bunch of people jumping on the bandwagon and cranking out cheap and nasty products. A lot of it was thinly-disguised (or not disguised at all) drill and practice. Kids were turned off and parents got fed up.

We know perfectly well that software can educate, and the industry isn't trying to claim that this is new. After all, it goes back to the PLATO system in the 1970s. What IS new is ditching the tired old methods for something that really engages people.

Check out Seymour Papert on the subject (in 1998!):

http://www.papert.org/articles/Doeseasydoit.html [papert.org]

Re:Well there WAS a lot of crapware... (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#32191004)

Whoa, Papert in 1998 feels like some sort of ghostly communication. But yeah, I agree, there was a lot of crap. Mostly, though, I feel the 80s form of edutainment has been unfairly maligned. I'd trace a lot of my personal engagement with CS and mathematics to Apple ][ edutainment software, some of it even fitting the mold people seem to dismiss (i.e. you do some math problems, and you get some sort of reward). Stuff like Number Munchers was both fun and improved my arithmetic!

And some of it depends a lot on how you measure. For example, I'd bet there's a whole generation of students who know what "Chimney Rock" is solely because of Oregon Trail. How highly do you value that as geographical and historical knowledge? Seems like a pretty subjective question...

Re:Well, duh. This is news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32165394)

There are tons of 'serious games' that are both engaging and instructive. Some time back a new story in the mainstream media, I think it was the NY Times discussed the mental training that even the pure fun games gave troops entering combat.

There’s been a huge change in the way we prepare for war, and the soldiers we’re training now are the children of the digital age who grew up with GameBoys,” says retired Rear Adm. Fred Lewis, a 33-year U.S. Navy veteran

This site [battlegroundsims.com] has a large group of articles from many reports and stories, like:
Virtual Combat Training Center [battlegroundsims.com],
Engagement Skills Trainer [battlegroundsims.com],
Alexian conference highlights veterans’ mental health issues [battlegroundsims.com],
Defence Simulation, Training & Wargaming 2009 [battlegroundsims.com],
and more.

Not just the old standbys like VBS2 and Steel Beasts any more, but with LVC game map table simulations like JCATS can be integrated into realtime training simulations. That is just the area I work with - There are some very serious people working on games based around Second Life as well.

Getting a kick (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32163232)

I've been playing the typing tutor edition of Canabalt recently (http://adamatomic.com/canabalt/edu/), and my typing is improving at an impressive rate.

Generally any break from the current favoured forms of education (hour-long lectures, hefty books with little demonstration of the subjects they describe) is ok by me.

Entertainment has many forms (1)

masterwit (1800118) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163294)

Describing a generation of non-linear thinkers who are becoming decision makers in the workforce, Kilsby expects a new wave of serious games for training and education.

Oh it's still very linear, see "shortest path algorithm". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dijkstra's_algorithm [wikipedia.org]

We just think more "efficiently" in our tunnel vision these days...

On another note, this has been going on for quite a while. Some of these systems have 360 degree screens (circular room)... but I've only heard that stuff as a rumor. Interesting read:
http://publicintelligence.net/the-u-s-militarys-video-game-training/ [publicintelligence.net]

What's New? (5, Funny)

qpawn (1507885) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163322)

Games have always had serious real world applications. Pitfall! for the Atari 2600 was used by the Boy Scouts of America to demonstrate survival tactics in the wild. Throughout the United States, Super Mario Bros. is still considered essential training for elite plumbers. In recent years, Call of Duty has saved the military millions of dollars in automated weapons costs by relying solely on long range knife throws.

Re:What's New? (1)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | more than 3 years ago | (#32164656)

They can also have a detrimental effect. I'm afraid to open barrels now. It's either going to be explosives, ammunition or medical supplies.

Re:What's New? (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#32172640)

I still maintain that videogames are just propaganda funded by the world's crate builders and suppliers.

Kobayashi Maru? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32163440)

Will the game be sophisticated enough to handle ... creative solutions?

Publicly fresh, internally not so. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32163536)

I have it on very good authority (my eyes) that military has been in the "serious" game market for at least 5 years running. And I am not talking about stocking a Quake clone with Mujahideens. Given the ultimate linearity of games, due to limitations of human mind, and the current evolution-solution to this problem of network games, which merely masks the linearity problem by masking it into a carpet of singular plot threads. The military did a pretty good job of weaving together a complex mesh of simulators to give a feel of a real non linear battle space, where conditions may be introduced to make the life of any, or all players, seemingly completely non linear. Not sure how public this info is, but I saw a demo over a year ago and they still had some work to do, still beat out multi million titles in the feature department. As for the article, this public call, just seems like a lure for ideas from the public sector.

Not a bad thing, but... (1)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 3 years ago | (#32163722)

[...] intelligently designed 'serious games' could allow complex situations to be presented in a simple way.

The problem is that, eventually, you have to present complex situations in a complex way. As an introduction, simulations are a great way to provide a high-level view. They're also often good ways to hone skills. The danger -- as with television "science" programs -- is that people often walk away with them thinking they've learned a great deal from something with the informational content of an index card. Personally, I find the trend toward oversimplification alarming. The universe is a complex place, and if all of our problems were amenable to simple solutions, simpletons would have ushered in a utopian age long ago.

All that said, as part of a more complete educational system, this sort of thing could be quite useful.

Re:Not a bad thing, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32163806)

Thinking like this tends to over complicate things which do not need to be so. Take a math text book for example. How many of those are tedious and boring to read because of over complication. In fact, the order in which you present the information impacts greatly how complicated of an idea you can pass along and how simple of information blocks you can use to pass it.

Re:Not a bad thing, but... (1)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 3 years ago | (#32164004)

Take a math text book for example. How many of those are tedious and boring to read because of over complication.

Most of them that I've seen are tedious and boring because of oversimplification, endless examples explaining the same simple crap over and over again for the benefit of people who weren't interested in the first place, flashy and largely irrelevant sidebars and callouts, and reduction of complex but coherent mathematical structures into simple but disconnected parts. There is a danger of over-complication, of course, but this usually arises from writers and teachers who either lack communication skills or a sufficiently complete grasp of the subject to be able to communicate it clearly in the first place.

The problem with thinking that reducing everything into simple parts is sufficient is that the interrelation of those parts is anything but simple. All mathematics, for example, can be reduced to set theory, and set theory is itself composed of very simple parts. But going the other way around -- starting with set theory and ending up at, let's say, integral calculus -- is neither easy nor simple. You can use mathematics without a deep understanding, but in so doing you make it all but certain that you will eventually (and possibly frequently) run into situations where your math is impeccably correct but your application of it is in error because you don't fully understand the context the math was designed to work in or the implications of extending it beyond that context.

Granted, most people get through life just fine by half-assing their way through it, but I can't help but think that half-assing one's way through life is not a very worthwhile goal.

I learned to drive with gran turismo and I learned (1)

Sam36 (1065410) | more than 3 years ago | (#32164332)

I learned to drive with gran turismo and I learned kill with grand theft auto. My weapon of choice is the flame thrower. I love to see the people run.

This debate again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32165186)

The games weren't intelligently designed...they evolved from earlier, simpler ape-like games. The real difficulty is in finding the so-called "missing link".

Re:This debate again? (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#32167740)

The games weren't intelligently designed...they evolved from earlier, simpler ape-like games. The real difficulty is in finding the so-called "missing link".

Is it Donkey Kong?

Part of the advantage of "serious games" is Fun (1)

zaffir (546764) | more than 3 years ago | (#32165322)

Simulators are not good enough. Fun is necessary.

I just finished a "serious game" for the Ford Motor Company. We dealt with an incredibly boring, dry topic. The key was to deeply embed all of that in a fun game. In order to do well in the game, you need to know the material we're trying to teach. On top of that, provide enough motivators for the player and purely-fun gameplay mechanics that aren't related to the subject matter and you have players that teach themselves without even realizing it.

Military (1, Interesting)

mqduck (232646) | more than 3 years ago | (#32166426)

Can we finally stop acting like the games industry helping sell/train the military is a good or acceptable thing? It's truly shameful that the art of games is used to purposely aid real-world killing and it's time the community stands up to it.

Re:Military (1)

that IT girl (864406) | more than 3 years ago | (#32167592)

I'm not being sarcastic, I want to hear your reasoning. If there's a safer, more efficient way to train the military to better protect themselves and us, why is that bad?

Re:Military (1)

Sal Zeta (929250) | more than 3 years ago | (#32168862)

In entirely subjective terms, a game creator could be politically and philosophically against the use and misuse of his game by the army or some political party or ideology. Creating a game about real world or imaginary conflicts could be both a critique or a propaganda of a specific ideology ( and no, I don't believe them when they say that their game "has no political point of view, really!", nothing is unbiased).

See for example the case of Ed Rotberg and the "battlezone bradley training". [dadgum.com]

It's nothing not unheard on other mediums, but the lack of strong authorship on videogames makes the problem somewhat worse.A writer could usually dissociate from intepretation given to his own texts by some others, without depriving the opportunity of reinterpret the original work. A videogame writer / game designer usually has to censor himself, or is forced to follow the positions expressed by their producers and publishers.

Re:Military (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32180744)

I get what you're saying, I really do. But I have two points of contention. First, once a game is released, the creators really doesn't have that much control over how it's used. They're selling a product, and that copy becomes the property of the person purchasing it. They may not agree with the views of everyone who plays it, or even the ends to which their game may be a means, but they don't get absolute control over how it's used once it's released.

Secondly, I think at least in my mind, I was considering a game specifically designed for that that type of training. Games sold to the mass market often have a bias and/or emotionally "grabbing" storyline to draw the player in and keep things interesting. It's possible to leave those things out, especially if you're writing a sort of hybrid game/sim thing for such a specific purpose.

Re:Military (1)

that IT girl (864406) | more than 3 years ago | (#32180752)

what the?? That last post was me... I must have accidentally clicked the "post anonymously" box. Bah, it's early.

Re:Military (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#32167752)

The killing is going to happen regardless of the actions of the gaming industry, but it would be nice if the games helped prepare and therefore save the lives of a few of our troops, non?

If movies can do it, why not games? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32169154)

I never understood the problem of Six Days in Fallujah. If done poorly, yeah it could be insulting. If done properly and well, it would just be the game version of Saving Private Ryan. There's no shortage of excellent war movies that properly respect the subject, no shortage of war movies that disrespect it, and no shortage of war movies that parody it. If movies are allowed to look at war from all angles, why not games?

What is this mental block that people get where they assume medium X can't appropriately handle a subject when medium Y has been doing it for years, decades, or centuries?

Intelligent Design? (1)

ubermiester (883599) | more than 3 years ago | (#32169392)

intelligently designed 'serious games' could allow complex situations to be presented in a simple way

Here go the "intelligent design" folks trying to dumb down the complexities of life again. We'll probably see a game where you have to "cause" genetic mutations with lighting bolts.

Airsoft guns (1)

minstrelmike (1602771) | more than 3 years ago | (#32169764)

For simulation training in real-life, the military uses airsoft guns (soft BBs) so they soldiers actually shoot weapons at people instead of pretend shoot. It increases their reaction time in real life. They train in cityscapes to get used to not shooting civilians, too.

"Fake" training on 'gaming' simulators is probably just as good, a lot better than using real guns you can point but not fire.

Ender's Game (1)

Feyshtey (1523799) | more than 3 years ago | (#32170756)

I love the potential in these games. If it were possible to teach people some deeper skills in any number of fields while they had fun doing it we might be able to really make leaps forward in productivity and efficiency.

I'm not a big conspiracy theory person by any means, but the idea brough to mind the Orson Scott Card novel "Ender's Game". The premise of the book includes the concept of using computer game simulations in the abstract to solicit solutions to complex problems from unwitting players. (Great book, btw.)

That being said, the concept could be used for good as easily as not. Imagine abstract games in fantasy or sci-fi garb soliciting solutions from the millions upon millions of game players worldwide to issues like hunger, education, finance.... The trick of course is producing hyper-accurate simulations that are fun to engage in, and a mechanism to catalog and evaluate the solutions offered.
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