Thursday, August 7, 2008

Serious Games as a Serious Business

Normally when one thinks of the Video Game industry, he or she is drawn to the many broadcasts of those who stood out in the freezing cold for the release of the Wii or PS3. Or perhaps their brains remind them of the daily news stories about the adverse affects of Grand Theft Auto on children, or (if they're slighty tech-savvy) the corporate bitch slap Microsoft received when they produced faulty hardware for the Xbox 360. It is rare that one thinks of anything other than the entertainment or business aspects of video games. But I ask you, reader, isn't there something more?

Try not to gasp when I declare this, but there is this whole other side to video games that those in its core call "serious". Serious games are those which aim to educate, promote ideas, and create cultural or societal change; they benefit the player in some way, whether it be physically, mentally, or even morally -- not too far off from what most games do on a regular basis. A prime example is Hush, (pictured above) a rhythm game that tastefully outlines the frightening conditions of Rwandan genocide . This new wave of serious games in the world has sparked much attention, henceforth creating tremendous industry projects such as Games For Change and my current life work, Emergent Media Center of Champlain College's United Nation Project (project name pending). Check out Games for Change and see the wonderful work they do to impact the world.

The United Nations project is a fresh-out-of-the-oven grant that my school, Champlain College, just sealed with the UN to make a game that will help stop violence against women in developing countries. I was hired just a meager two weeks ago as a Game Designer on the project, and hope to keep you readers posted on our development progress. We have the highly acclaimed industry professional Heather Kelley as our Creative Director, and a wonderful team of 15 students and 4 faculty members working our way through this interesting and challenging project. This project gives proof to the ever growing industry of serious games throughout the whole world.
In early June the ESA announced that E3 is adding a Serious Games component to the convention. As they promised, E3 2008 had this component, although it did not get much media attention. There are many serious game conventions each year, including the Serious Games Summit and the Games For Change Annual Festival.

For more news and interesting information on Serious Games, check out the Serious Games Source (Add this to your daily video game browsing, along with Gamasutra, of course.)