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Feature: 'GDC: Serious Games Summit - What's Wrong With Serious Games?'

In another of today's main features, and framed as an open, frank conversation, key advocates of the 'serious games' initiative met here at GDC 2006 to discuss the proble...

Simon Carless, Blogger

March 22, 2006

2 Min Read

In another of today's main features, and framed as an open, frank conversation, key advocates of the 'serious games' initiative met here at GDC 2006 to discuss the problems surrounding the serious games field. Problems discussed included funding, a lack of advocacy, and the ambiguity over what even constitutes a serious game. In this extract, some of the issues over funding are discussed: "[Ben] Sawyer, Co-Founder of Digitalmill, is currently working on serious games and games for health in particular. He warned that several people in the game industry view the ideas behind serious games as jokes and failures, or even want to see serious games fail. He equated the accusations of failure with the assumptions of companies that feel it is simple to develop a serious game and reminded the audience that Gizmondo lost $250 million, which is more than the total amount of funds in the serious games field. Henry Kelly, Ph.D., picked up on the issue of funds. Kelly has been the president of the Federation of American Scientists since 2001. One of his efforts includes negotiating and implementing administration research partnerships in the area of learning technology. He identified skepticism about the possibility for real improvements in serious games as a core issue. As demands for evidence of improvements and success increase, the idea of “success” becomes relative to sales and money. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) reviews use of funds, and although there are 207 separate programs that are available to fund innovative projects, funds depend on statistical proof of large scale success in serious games. At this time, the proof is lacking. Meanwhile, serious games receive weak support from traditional education lobbyists. Unfortunately, lobbyists have a limited amount of time to address issues, and serious games often end up lower on the list. With such a chronic budget crisis, culture wars over the use of games in education prompts the question, “does discovery-based learning work?” As there are both real and perceived weaknesses of the educational research infrastructure, funding is clobbered." You can read the full Gamasutra coverage on the discussion, including plenty of different opinions on the future of serious games (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from external websites).

About the Author(s)

Simon Carless


Simon Carless is the founder of the GameDiscoverCo agency and creator of the popular GameDiscoverCo game discoverability newsletter. He consults with a number of PC/console publishers and developers, and was previously most known for his role helping to shape the Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Conference for many years.

He is also an investor and advisor to UK indie game publisher No More Robots (Descenders, Hypnospace Outlaw), a previous publisher and editor-in-chief at both Gamasutra and Game Developer magazine, and sits on the board of the Video Game History Foundation.

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