Serious Games in Development

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The words “serious” and “game” generally are not associated with each other. After all, a game is a recreational activity by definition — it’s more likely to be paired with “fun.”


Increasingly, however, businesses are incorporating “serious games” as a way to train employees. But each business has different needs, and it can be difficult to determine what type of game and training program will be most effective.


Considering the wide range of games available, what do companies need to know about buying and implementing serious games?


One of the most important factors is who is providing the content. Game developers who have partnered with some form of subject-matter expert will likely produce more useful games.


For example, Distil Interactive is a company that makes digital game-based learning specifically focused on the standards and certification market.


The company recently partnered with the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), owner of the Quality Management Institute (QMI), to create two games to help train its members.


These games provide companies with the necessary skills and knowledge to implement an effective emergency response plan, as well as prepare companies for ISO audits.


Kenton White, Distil Interactive CTO, said serious games are able to counteract resistance to a process such as ISO certification.


“When companies sign on to become ISO-certified, it’s a large investment, and the benefit to the company is really that now they can have a better-quality workplace,” White said. “Many employees don’t realize this because they see it as affecting just one person or two people who are the ISO people on the site, and it’s just there to meet a customer requirement for Cisco or Microsoft or whoever they’re selling to.


“When companies start this process, one of the things they really want to do is help everyone in the company understand that ISO is about improving quality everywhere within the company. This is what they use our products for.”


White admitted it is a challenge to make games that are actually fun when based on dry content but said Distil succeeds at this by not getting too technical with its delivery methods.


“We’re focusing very much on games that can be enjoyed by everyone, not just gamers with the latest greatest 3-D hardware on their machine,” White said. “Our games are Flash-based. They tend to have much simpler control schemes, and we don’t put so much emphasis on high fidelity. 3-D graphics are nice, but they’re also cumbersome sometimes for people who aren’t completely immersed in the whole gamer world.”

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