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.”
Although since then (1970) the digital platform has become the mainstream in Serious Games due to its increased accessibility, which has made it difficult to separate serious games from leisure games. Without the clear distinction between the two it becomes difficult to assess games for formal education (FutureLab 2010.)
In conclusion the term Serious Games means a game that has a purpose other than entertainment. The definition is essentially needed as a way for it to be recognized by and considered for formal educational systems.
Abt, C. C. (1970). Serious Games. Viking Press.
Djaouti, D. Jessel, J P. Origins of Serious Games. 1 IRIT, Toulouse III University (France)
FutureLab, Senior Researcher Mary Ulicask, Games in Education: Serious Games, June 2010.
Michael, D., & Chen, S. 2005. Serious Games: Games That Educate, Train, and Inform (1er ed.). Course Technology PTR.