Serious Games Advancing the Technology of Engaging Information

Serious Games Advancing the Technology of Engaging Information

Peter A. Smith (University of Central Florida, USA) and Clint Bowers (University of Central Florida, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7601-3.ch013
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Game researchers are now moving from exploring if games can teach to how games teach. The caveat is that not all games teach but that all good games teach. Leaving a simple truth, it is hard to make a good game, no less a good game that is also educational. The real challenge is getting the people with the right design abilities to make these types of games and establish best practices and quantify what actually makes games as educational systems work. Efforts to move in that direction must begin with establishing terms and defining a framework for what goes into games for learning as formal systems.
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Before the more modern notion of Serious Games took hold, the military made many attempts at using video games for training. The earliest being in 1980 when the Army commissioned Atari to build the Atari Bradley Trainer (P. Smith, In Press). This game was a modified version of the popular vector graphics based game Battlezone, also published in 1980. Only 2 Atari Bradley Trainers were ever built and shown at a trade show. It is unknown why the Army never deployed the game, but it was never actually used by soldiers.

Another military project was started by 1984, this time by the Navy, to use a video game to teach Morse Code (Driskell & Dwyer, 1984). This project also only made it through the prototyping phase. The military’s view of games at the time was that they were not serious enough for military training, though the problem seemed to be one of vocabulary only. This is illustrated by the Marines common use of games under the name, Tactical Decision-making Simulations (TDS) since development of the game Marine Doom in 1996 (P. Smith, 2005). Marine Doom is a modification (mod) of the popular first person shooter game Doom, and was created by the Marine Corps Modeling and Simulation Management Office (MCMSMO) developed for the training of Marine fire teams.

This prejudice against video games didn’t carry over to the common practice of table top War Gaming, or the use of Flight Simulator Software on PC’s, which were sold as games to the rest of the world. The military did not seem completely ready to embrace games for training until after DARPA created DARWARS Ambush, a mod to the game Operation Flashpoint, which was followed up by the Army creating TRADOC Capabilities Manager for Gaming (TCM Gaming) and deploying Virtual Battle Space 2 (VBS2) as one of many official Army Games in 2008. However this prejudice persisted after Serious Games were well established outside of the department of defense. (R. Smith, 2009)

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