Serious games or seriously gaming?

Posted: February 10, 2012 in citizenship, ethics, newmedia, politics, technology
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Do you remember the good old boardgames? Many of us had a good many nights of playing boardgames for hours and hours with friends and family.  As cosy as those nights were, they were often educational to some extent as well. If you have ever played Trivial Pursuit – you’re bound to remember the “heureka-moments” connected with showing off your knowledge to your friends and family.

Then along came the computer. With it, gaming moved to a new digitalized platform, which had parents worried about loosing their teenager children to the power of virtual life. Spending too much time in front of any screen was generally regarded as developing a bad habit.

Nowadays, games and gaming has by far moved into its new platform – namely digital devices. And with a wide array of purposes too. To conceive of gaming today as merely entertainment is too simple. A lot of games do  not only include rational decision-making, but also a new way of communicating a given message. Companies and institutions are increasingly utilizing games to get across a certain message. This spans from educational to political purposes. For instance, take a look at America’s Army – the official game intended for U.S. Army recruitment:

The intention of this game is to educate American would-be soldiers about the facets of war. This is something quite different than “innocent apps” such as WordFeud. Games such as America’s Army does not restrict the player to an already outlined story, but rather the player creates the story through his choices in-game. Another example of this, is the Primaire à gauche.newsgames from the French newspaper Le Monde.fr. In it, the player is a political candidate, and has to shape his or her own political campaign. This is a way of providing insight into the vast amount of variables which go into political campaigning.

The potential benefits of these new Serious Games are many. It is a new way to create and share informations across a variety of subjects – even to introduce subjects to new target groups – in the case of Primaire à gàuche, one of its stated intentions was to get more young people interested or informed about politics.

One does not have to think far in order to grasp the opportunities this new media tool. It can be used for many ends, commercial, educational or political.  One could think about the efficiency of this kind of communication. Also, couldn’t this be used for manipulation – for instance promoting a certain ideology and rewarding its user for uncritically promoting it?

Want to learn more?

http://www.americasarmy.com

http://seriousgames.msu.edu/games.php

http://coventry.academia.edu/EikeFalkAnderson/Papers/110808/Serious_Games_in_Cultural_Heritage

http://www.omnsh.org/spip.php?article148 (in French)

 

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