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View Sara de Freitas

Sara de Freitas, Coventry University, Serious Games Institute

The ‘gamification’ of life

Slides from this talk are available here.

The Serious Games Institute designs games for serious purposes such as education and training in a serious and often real-life context. Worldwide population growth and globalization have led to many problems which games have the potential to solve - problems such as financial and economic crisis, debt and inflation, wars, environmental changes, epidemics, migration, terrorism, etc. Games are a living platform for global scale simulation of our techno-socio-echomoic-environmental systems. For example, using participatory methods games can simulate and create crisis observatories which can be used to predict the sequence of possible impacts after an earthquake. This can also be used to generate policies and priorities based on the data and predictions gathered within the game.

Serious games must rely on open innovation, crowd sourcing, and the rise of community. We’ve moved away from linear diffusion of innovation models and come to rely upon more complex Actor-Network Theory and Social Shaping of Technology models instead. These models of user innovation need to be tested and understood more deeply. We can think of diffusion of innovation as a fluid dynamic process with a feedback loop of how people engage with technology and interact with each other.

The ‘gamification of life’ refers to the potential of games to play an important role in social and behavioral changes as well as awareness raising. Games have become increasingly pervasive and popular. The game industry posted total sales of $1.7 billion in Jan 2010. Several studies have demonstrated the efficacy of serious games for training in particular behavioral change. Games facilitate learning in multimodal ways: mixed reality, mobile learning, haptics, which allow players to interact a more immersive environment. Additionally, serious games employ sociality and collaboration and allow for more complex social structures. 

Game design also draws from euro-psychology approaches to learning with games, (that is, how brain works during learning). Design also takes into consideration artificial intelligence and real life (data sets as characters), multimodal interface (interfaces between user and environment), semantic web, standards and metadata (layer up information and data sets). They must create complex systems of interaction with the environment.

Sara demonstrated several examples of how virtual environment and social collaboration are changing much about how we live, learn and work. For example, “dying Dave” was part of a triage game which encouraged immersion and engagement with triage patients after a disaster. The game was tested by nurses and paramedics and it was found that those using the game performed significantly better than more traditional modes of training. So why successful? It’s more realistic, enhanced learning, allowed the transfer of skills, can rehearse and make mistakes and go through it again, and the feedback is personalized.  Another example was Roma Nova which focuses on social interactions with a dialogical approach. It is a cross curriculum approach to studying history, math, and citizenship. The game allows for layering of complex data sets and real world interactions.

There are still many research challenges to serious game design, particularly because it is a fragmented research community.  There is literature in different disciplinary areas and virtual worlds are a new area so lack of frameworks and metrics. Of course there are also technical and cost issues preventing uptake as well as a division between practice and theory. The education sector tends to still be rather conservative and a new paradigm of learning is just slowing emerging. We need to bring the academy and industry to work together to establish methods and evaluation strategies.

Serious games have a lot of potential to change the world, effect social and behavior changes, and the way we learn and train. We need the serious games community to work with educationalists and user communities. The definition of gaming is broadening and allowing for more people to participate which is a good thing, but it makes it more difficult to coalesce.  Games have become and will continue to become cheaper and cheaper to produce, additionally more users will get into development. However, what we really need more people doing this!