The first month of 2017 marks the first post of the Five-Minute Freewrite (FMF). I'm optimistic about this feature for Games for Studies as well as the contribution this could (potentially) provide for the community as a whole.
Below are the entries to the first volume of FMF. You will also find the next suggested (and themed) topic at the bottom of the page.
Serious Play, Serious Games, Applied Games: What's the Difference?
Naming conventions for games have always left me wondering what their value is, particularly when it comes to serious games. What makes 'x' a serious game? What even is a serious game? Too often, we get caught in this lexicological bubble of trying to define games with an alternative purpose to entertainment - as if 'entertainment' is the default of games (despite games seemingly-originating as a 'very serious' medium for play; see Mancala and its predictive life-or-death outcomes for reference.) What I think we lose when we pidgeon-hole games as entertaining/serious is their diversity in application. I'm much more comfortable accepting games as a modality of play with the potential for "purpose-shifting." Doesn't that sound more encompassing than 'serious games', or even 'entertainment games'?
From all the research I have been undertaking in my masters, I still don’t know what to make of serious games.
The idea of creating games for a serious purpose such as healthcare, education, community etc. appeals to me greatly. I have personally felt games teach us when we play them. Games with complex narratives or well-designed characters that we relate to are wonderful creations. My interest in history came from playing games such as Medieval Total War and Age of Empires, this led me into reading more historical fiction. Those games would not fall under a ‘serious game’ in a lot of interpretations.
The interpretation I read a lot for serious games are ‘games that do not have entertainment, enjoyment or fun as their primary purpose’ and although on some wavelengths I agree with it, my question is why can’t it be entertaining and deliver a serious purpose?
Too often when I mention an education game, people think to those awful web browser games they used at school. But why are we still struggling to make games that entertain, challenge and educate? I know there are researchers out there creating original experimental titles but when will we see a shift in direction towards commercial development of games towards a ‘serious’ purpose with the entertainment and reward we expect.
The Myth of the "Normal" Player
I recently watched an episode of QI which asked a simple question: "are you normal or weird?" The answer provided was that everyone is weird by default of the fact that no one is normal: it doesn't exist. A study carried out in Australia found the average age, religion, sex, profession, etc. but could not find one single person to match that persona. In all of Australia.
So, why do we try to design games for "Customer X"? Doesn't that sound like an unwinnable battle to find the "normal" player?
I've always approached the design of games for a purpose, not a person. Anyone who sees value in my games is welcome to play, interpret, and understand how they wish, regardless of their demographic. (See 'Job Stories vs User Stories')
Despite the argument against "Customer X", there's one characteristic that's innate in everyone: our desire to play.
"FMF Vol. 2" Example Topic: Game Jams, Hacks, and Developer Retreats
Submission Deadline: 31st January 2017
Published: 5th February 2017