In the age of rapidly changing technology it comes as no surprise that innovators have created unique ways to use gaming platforms for the overall betterment of society. Serious gaming has infiltrated industries including healthcare, education, and bioscience. But what are “serious games” and what makes them different than other video games? This article simply scratches the surface of serious gaming and all the benefits it stands to offer.
What are Serious Games?
Since serious gaming is a new and growing concept, there is no firm definition to what it consists of. However, serious games are what you are probably expecting them to be. They are video game technologies that provide serious value beyond entertainment purposes. This value can be applied to multiple purposes in different industries. In other words, serious gaming is the design and use of video gaming technology to promote or assist in some other aspect of a person’s career, training, or advancement of an industry. Serious games can be defined as the intersection between learning, simulation, and gaming.
Origins of Serious Gaming
Although it may seem like serious gaming is a recent and novel idea, research shows that the use of games of different varieties as a training and education tool has existed for many years. One of the first and most popular serious games is Microsoft’s Flight Simulator released in 1982 and designed to be a comprehensive simulation of civil aviation.1 Infamous pilot, Chesley Sullenberger (“Sully”), credits game-simulated flight training for improving his ability to successfully land the disabled U.S. Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River off Manhattan in 2015, saving over 150 lives.
Another early example of serious gaming includes the video game America’s Army published by the U.S. Army in 2002, and served a serious purpose. This was the first well-known case of the government using gaming technology for more than entertainment. The U.S. government released this game as a tool for strategic communication, and to promote U.S. Army recruiting.
Serious Gaming Industry Data
According to Allied Market Research, the global serious gaming market was valued at $2.7 billion in 2016, and is projected to be valued at over $9.1 billion in 2023; projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 19.2%. Similarly, Statista estimates the industry has grown to about $3.2 billion currently, and will grow to over $8.1 billion in the next five years, representing a growth of 153% between 2017 – 2022. By all estimates, this industry is significant and rapidly growing.
Applications of Serious Gaming
Today, serious gaming is reaching an even wider audience and is being used in unexpected industries to catalyze new developments.
Serious Gaming in Healthcare
Serious gaming is impacting both health practitioners as well as patients. In addition to the increase in demand for active video games such as Wii Fit sports like bowling and tennis, there is new demand for games that take an even more active role in patient engagement. For example, a game called Re-Mission was developed for young adult cancer patients. It allows patients to play as a robot traveling through a human body destroying cancer cells and managing symptoms. Similarly, Nintendo Wii created the Home Automated Telemanagement (HAT) system designed as a serious game simulation geared towards self-care and helping patients with congestive heart failure.1 In addition to direct patient services, serious games development agency Playgen recently developed a simulation based video game for high school biology students teaching them about potential health impacts of climate change, simulating policies and adaptation strategies.2This game was designed to teach students about healthcare and bioscience and garner interest in research.
For practitioners, serious gaming is taking an increasing role in service delivery. Computer based e-learning training courses as well as surgery simulations are being used to increase the skill level of new surgeons. Additionally, some serious games are being designed to improve doctor to patient communication skills and are improving practitioner’s people management skills.
Serious Gaming in Education
As mentioned with the design and creation of Playgen’s climate change video game for high schoolers, serious games can be an effective tool for education and training in schools. According to Marianna Stenger, gaming in education has potential to turn routine learning assignment into interactive and creative activities which motivates students to perform better. By 2020, games will be used to engage students at all educational levels and teach the public about global problems.3 Allied Market Research projects that the serious games market in the education sector is expected to witness the highest growth rate during the forecast period.
What Serious Gaming Means for Economic Development
As with many industries in the age of technology, remaining agile and seeking to innovate is key for success. In industries such as education, healthcare, national security, and others, it will be important to understand and hone the opportunities that come from market improvements such as serious gaming. Top drivers of the serious gaming industry include:
- The Best Broadband - We're not talking your average internet speeds, serious gamers require serious Mbps.
- Interdisciplinary Labor Pool - Because serious gaming is at the cross section of multiple-sectors, it requires individuals that have not only great IT skills, but those skills combined with knowledge in design, education, health, military operations, etc. Colleges like George Mason University are cultivating the future serious gamers in this way.
- Innovation Economy Climate - This industry is constantly innovating and is most likely to succeed in places that embrace an entrepreneurial spirit and have the networks an infrastructure to support strong entrepreneurial ecosystems.
“Serious Games Market Expected to Reach $9,167 Million, Globally, by 2023” By Kalyani Sonawane Research Analyst, ICT & Media at Allied Market Research
“Defining Serious Games” by Frederick Joseph F. of Leadership & Flow Global Research Network
1 “Growth in the Serious Games Industry” By Alliance Experts
2 "Serious Games: Key Trends for the Healthcare Sector” by Susi ONeill of Creation Knowledge
3 “Serious Games: The Future of Gamification in Learning” by Marianna Stenger
4 “10 Serious Games that Changed the World” By Growth Engineering