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Ben Sawyer Talks Serious Games At E3

While attending last week's E3 Expo in Los Angeles, Serious Games Source spoke with the Serious Games Initiative and Games for Health's Ben Sawyer regarding the past, present, and future of the serious games space.
While attending last week's Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, Serious Games Source had a chance to speak with the Serious Games Initiative and Games for Health's Ben Sawyer (who is also one of the central figures behind the CMP Game Group-operated Serious Games Summit) regarding Games for Health, and the serious games gamespace in general. Sawyer and Games for Health represented several serious games from the non-profit's booth at E3, including Revolution, an American history mod of Neverwinter Nights developed by MIT, Elemental, a marriage of Tetris and the periodic table in which players line up blocks labeled with different elements in order to form compounds, and Peacemaker, which last week took home $5,000 by winning the Reinventing Public Diplomacy through Games Contest at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy in Los Angeles, California. Another game called Binary, which is designed by Cisco Systems as a way to teach binary skills while engaging the player in an entertaining format, was illustrated by Sawyer at E3 as a game that players outside of the title's target audience might enjoy, a key factor in the future success and growth of the serious games space. “If you are a hardcore gamer, you might like it for thirty minutes,” said Sawyer regarding Binary. “If you are a casual gamer, you might like it even more.” HopeLab's Re-Mission, a traditional action shooter for the PC created to aid children and young adults who have been stricken with cancer, was playable in the Games for Health booth. Sawyer pointed out that the game bridges the gap between serious games and more traditional video games, commenting: “My point is that we don't want to get way from serious games, but we're going to have things that marry it nicely.” The key, according to Sawyer, is for games coming from the serious games space to “feel, play, and look like games” in order to not offend or play down to the person playing the game the way “playing some of the typical eduware games might make you feel.” He also pointed out that for companies entering into or continuing to invest time and energy with serious games, it is an economic and business decision, rather than something purely altruistic. “HopeLabs' vision is altruistic, but RealTime and Terminal Reality worked on this. Sure, they felt good about working on a project like this, but they are getting paid.” He continued regarding Square Enix's recent announcement regarding its entry into the field of serious games: “I was talking with a representative from Square Enix, and he said that the company sees this as a business decision, and that this is a space that is going to grow and they want to be a part of it.” Serious Games Source will follow up on this topic with another more in-depth interview with Ben Sawyer and Games For Health, as well as presenting a number of full session write-ups from the Games For Health day last week, in the near future.

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