Hi, guys. You were probably expecting the third installment of my comic book foreign policy series. Sorry. I’ve fallen behind this weekend and it’s going to take me a few more days to pull that together. I decided it was better to do it right than to do it quick.
Part of what has me distracted is that Convergence Culture is finally out. And trust me, a new book provides its own distractions. If you are one of the people who’ve bought the book already, thanks. I look forward to hearing your reactions. If you have questions you’d like to explore, send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I wil try to cluster them and address them through the blog.
Today, I am sharing with you some thoughts about Serious Games that I wrote Morph, the Media Center Blog late last week. I figure few of you would have seen it there.
I wanted to take this opportunity to respond to Clive Thompson’s recent article from the New York Time’s art section focused on the serious game movement.
Why are serious games happening now? When I spoke with Clive for the story, I identified a range of factors that were all contributing to the emergence of serious games:
1. The generation that grew up playing computer games in the 1980s are now entering adult responsibilities. They are the ones who are taking on roles as parents, teachers, workers for nonprofits and foundations, and so forth. They have a real appreciation of what has captivated them about this medium; they want to find a way to connect with it through their jobs; and they want to use its power to deliver their messages.
2. There has been a growing body of research suggesting that games may indeed represent a powerful instructional medium; there is also clear signs that the ability to interpret and manipulate simulations is going to be a central skill across a range of academic disciplines.
3. There has been a growth of games studies programs at colleges and universities that are seeking ways to give their students real-world experience conceptualizing, designing, making, and testing games. Historically, university based research explores the roads not taken, taking risks on projects that would not thrive within a commercial environment. So, they are turning their attention towards the development of games that serve pro-social purposes or that document aspects of the real world.
4. A small number of games publishers dominate the entertainment market. Small start up companies realize that they can’t compete directly with the Electronic Arts of the world and they have to direct their energies elsewhere. At the moment, their best routes forward come from casual games, mobile games, or serious games.
5. As I suggested in my blog recently, there has also been a political debate about whether games constitute a meaningful form of expression and are therefore protected under the First Amendment. Many of us who work in Serious Games have been looking for ways to expand the rhetorical capacity of the medium in response to moral reformers and judges who have dismissed the concept that games might be a vehicle for exploring ideas.
The serious games movement lies at the intersection of these five factors and often takes shape through collaborations amongst the various groups identified above — educators, policy makers, nonprofits, foundations, educational reformers, university based training programs, and political activists. Working separately and together, they have begun to develop games that demonstrate some of the far-reaching potential of this medium and working together they have begun to bring those games — in some cases, simply playable prototypes — to the attention of the larger public. The serious games movement reflects the idea that a medium can serve many functions and that restricting games to purely an entertainment medium seriously undersells its potential.