Serious Games

FWD News: Industry Events Focus on Diverse Power of Games, Pt 2

Tech@State LogoSerious, training and educational games were the focus of several industry events in North America and in Europe this past spring. Game Forward has put together an overview of some of these recent events which took place between February and May 2011.

In this round-up, we take a look at Tech@State: Serious Games, ITEC, GameFest 2011, GameTech 2011, Game to Learn: Take 2, Pax East 2011 and the Serious Games Summit at the Game Developers Conference 2011. Read More...


The United States State Department hosted the Tech@State: Serious Games conference on the campus of George Washington University, May 27-28, 2011. The event brought together commercial games makers, international agencies, non-profits organizations and academic institutions to discuss the use of games for serious purposes, including for education, social change and simulation.

The conference featured an introduction to serious games by Ben Sawyer, of Digital Mill and Games for Health, and panels on lessons learned and the future of such games, which included Asi Burak of Impact Games and Games for Change. Games for social change, psychology and games, games in education, as well as military and government games were also the subject of a talk.

Some other participants included David Aunier of Applications for Good, which develops programs for “public purpose,” Jeff Lopez of, Nick Martin of TechChange, Garth Jensen of MMOWGLI—or Massively Multiplayer Online Wargame Leveraging the Internet—a collective intelligence gathering project developed by the United States Office of Naval Research.

Slides and other information from the Tech@State conference are available here.


From May 10-12, 2011, was the 22nd annual ITEC conference and exhibition for military training, education and simulation; which took place at Koelnmesse in Cologne, Germany. The event attracted many visitors and brought together military experts from such countries as Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States to discuss the training opportunities that come from advanced simulation.


GameFest 2011, a symposium and exhibition that took place May 6-7 at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's School of Humanities and Social Sciences. The symposium introduced students to philosophers, computer scientists, artists and cognitive scientists who conduct research in game design, development and production, to promote collaboration between these and other sectors.

Speaking as part of a serious games panel was Heidi Boisvert of Breakthrough, a human rights organization that uses media to promote social justice. Breakthrough is also the maker of America 2049, a Facebook role-playing/alternate reality game in which players confront human-rights themed issues that plague a fictional dystopian future America. Boisvert was joined by Suvranu De from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Lauren Nishikawa of Champlain College.


A U.S. Army Virtual Battlefield 2 Training RoomA U.S. Army Virtual Battlefield 2 Training RoomHeld from March 22-25, in Orlando, FL, was the 2011 Defense GameTech Users' Conference—known as GameTech—Organized by Team Orlando, it welcomed government, industry and academic personnel to share expertize in various sessions.

They looked at serious government games, including mobile learning and training applications, social games, language training systems and medical games, and at the use of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, social games and virtual worlds for training and collaboration. A summary of each day’s proceedings and documents related to most presentations are available here.

The conference also unveiled the winners of the 2011 Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge, in addition to the winners of the Innovations in DoD Gaming competition.

Co-located with the conference was the U.S. Army's Games for Training Conference, which provided an opportunity for U.S. Department of Defense staff to learn how some of the Army's most innovative trainers and operators use video games, particularly the Virtual Battlespace 2 platform, to enhance training and mission rehearsals.

Game to Learn

Taking place at the University of Abertay Dundee and at Dundee College in Scotland from March 17-19, 2011 was the Game to Learn: Take 2 conference. The free event opened with a 24-hour Codebash, where 10 developers worked around the clock with subject matter experts to create an educational game.

The first day talks featured keynote speeches by Daniel Livingstone from the University of the West of Scotland, who discussed the economic limits to using games, simulations and virtual worlds in education; Nicola Whitton from Manchester Metropolitan University, who mused on the place of fun and games in adult learning; Michelle Hoyle from the School of Informatics at the University of Sussex, who spoke about the potential learning outcomes of playing World of Warcraft.

The second day of presentations included a keynote presentation by Derek Robertson, National Adviser from the Consolarium of Learning and Teaching Scotland, who discussed how educators can learn from the assessment methods found in games, while Siobhan Reddy, Studio Director at Media Molecule, looked at the benefits of using the commercial game LittleBigPlanet 2 and its level creator in the classroom.

Seminars and workshops touched on a variety of topics, such as using game development as an engagement tool for students, playing music games for health and well-being, and introducing off-the-shelf games in the classroom, for example, Nintendogs to enhance learning and to motivate students, Kinectimals with young children. Hands-on workshops looked at active gaming with Just Dance, using mainstream games for foreign-language education, playing games like Hotel Dusk: Room 215 to promote reading and writing, as well as other games to teach science, hygiene, and history.

Pax East

This year’s edition of PAX East, the annual festival for tabletop, video game and PC gamers, which took place from March 11-13, 2011, in Boston, MA included a few items of interest to Game Forward.

The event featured with a keynote presentation by Jane McGonigall, author and game creator, known for her promotion of games as agents of social change. One panel looked at the use of video games for the greater good, particularly how some combine their passion for games and charitable action, and featured members of The AbleGamers Foundation and the Gamers Outreach Foundation, while another presentation discussed how to organize a fundraiser for the Child’s Play charity.

Serious Games Summit

Returning for the 8th year was the Serious Games Summit at the 2011 Game Developers Conference, which ran from February 26 to March 1 in San Francisco, CA. The subject of the event was video games going outside of the limits of entertainment, being used for training, health, education, behavior change, science, advertising and general productivity.

Gathering serious games developers, researchers and investors, the 2011 Summit was broken down into theme days. The first day focused on health care and wellness and notably featured presentations by Paul Tarini of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, who spoke about the organization’s interest in supporting serious game development and by Jane Gackenback of Grant MacEwan University, who discussed research on video games helping fight nightmares such as in the case of patients living with post-traumatic stress disorder.

A series of microtalks touched on subjects like exergaming, a game for relatives of depressed individuals called Elude and an 8-bit awareness game on malaria by Playpower. The first day also offered attendees the chance to try some serious games for themselves.

Gamification was the topic of the second day and included sessions by Molly Kittle of Bunchball who gave some tips to consider in implementing gamification; the makers of FOLDIT introduced the principles behind others games being developed at the Center for Game Science at the University of Washington on STEM subjects; and Jane McGonigal of Social Chocolate took the opportunity to argue against gamification and to promote a more holistic approach to the integration of gameplay for a purpose.

The day also included a full debate on the concept of gamification and its applications, while a GameJamification session pitted two teams of experts against each other in a challenge to move past the rhetoric of gamification in order to define and use it as a game development process to solve a particular problem.

While these events have already passed, they offer us an interesting look at some of the latest developments in the serious games industry. Game Forward highlights on other recent industry events can be found here.