The Definition and Usefulness of The Term Serious Games

Within the Game Based Learning research community there isn’t a fixed definition of the term ‘Serious Games.’ The general consensus is that Serious Games are games that have another purpose other than to just entertain people and/or have the intention of teaching specific predefined skills or knowledge whether it be integral to the game or is developed through deeper thinking.

In Origins of serious games Damien Djaouti and Jean-Pierre Jessel debate the term ‘Serious Games’ as being an oxymoron. Saying that video games have been shown as useful in education, and many educational games are “Serious” so the term “Serious Games” isn’t really a oxymoron. However there are many examples of games having both education and entertainment, through both direct and in-direct learning approaches, this creating the definition of serious games as “games that do not have entertainment, enjoyment or fun as their primary purpose” (Michael & Chen, 2005) rather than the definition that games that are solely focused on education.

In the book “Serious Games” by Clark Abt (1970) he explains “Games may be played seriously or casually. We are concerned with serious games in the sense that these games have an explicit and carefully thought-out educational purpose and are not intended to be played primarily for amusement. This does not mean that serious games are not, or should not be, entertaining.”

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The Relationship Between Games, Serious Games, Simulations, Educational Simulations, and Virtual Worlds

Games, Serious Games, Simulations and Educational games all share the same word, play. They all l feature some type of interaction within a ‘game space.’ All of these game types allow players the ability to learn or use a particular set of tools, motions or ideas to a point. There are a couple of different ideas and controversy about what a game actually is and the relationship between the different types. This is my interpretation of the relationship between games from reading some of those ideas.

Clark Aldrich in his article Virtual Worlds, Simulations and Games for Education describes the different game types. He says that entertainment games are more fun flappy-bird-what-happens-when-you-reach-high-score-999-videoand engaging activities. They are played in virtual worlds structured by specific rules and constraints, and are different to simulations because they aren’t as defined. For example, “FlappyBird” can be seen as a entertainment game as it has no further goals than entertainment and achievement. It also has a high level of constraints that aren’t defined as useful simulations.

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