Serious Games are here. This time last year, the term “serious game” was not widely accepted as appropriate within many federal agencies. “The Federal Government doesn’t play games”, was an oft heard refrain. Serious games have been around for a long time, and there have been important initiatives within the Federal Government throughout the past decade, both big and small. While America’s Army is one of the most visible examples of a government sponsored serious game, there are countless other examples championed and developed by forward thinking leaders within agencies. Take a look at CyberProtect® developed by Carney and SAIC for DISA.
So what’s so special about serious games now? An old adage comes to mind about the chicken that miraculously hatches an egg one day. Stunned bystanders applaud at this seeming miracle, completely unaware of the fact that the chicken has been caring for and incubating that egg for the past 3 weeks.
I am calling out three things that point to the coming of age for serious games within the Federal Government:
- Digital natives are increasingly filling the ranks of government. Young people have been brought up in a highly connected social mix facilitated with technology that is adaptive based on the way users interact. There is an expectation that systems are interactive, and responsive to individual needs. Static eLearning that fails to engage learners with relevant-to-the-job challenges has never worked for any age, and it has never been truer now with digital natives.
- Gaming is becoming socially main stream. 2011 has been cited by many as one of the worst years for movies, with sequels dominating the box office, and the number of critically acclaimed movies can be counted on one hand. While the economy is part to blame, according to Sharon Waxman editor of The Wrap, the number one movie going demographic is watching fewer movies and playing more games like Call of Duty. Smart phones too have ushered in a new era of casual game play and introduced whole new audiences to gaming.
- There is a backlash against ineffective eLearning that has all too often become the standard for agency distance learning. In some ways this is a forgone conclusion from the above two points, but I think it deserves to be called out. First of all, let me say that I don’t think all eLearning is bad, and the good stuff really stands out amidst an otherwise desolate landscape. eLearning is a mature market that has become increasingly commoditized. As such, developers compete on price, and inevitably quality suffers. As long as we prop up existing eLearning models as the standard, along with the commodity pricing that comes with it, users will suffer through mind numbing time wasters, and agencies will not impact their mission in any significant way. Serious games are one challenge to the standard, “text on screen/clip art/multiple choice”, model that currently holds sway.
2012 is the year to challenge existing eLearning models, and innovate around ways to maximize impact with constrained resources, and serious games are an important part of the solution.
Join us in Orlando on February 15 for the New Learning Technologies 2012 SALT Conference, where we will be presenting From Jeopardy® to Americas Army® - Linking Serious Games to Performance Objectives.