Serious Games and the Technology of Engaging Information

Serious Games and the Technology of Engaging Information

Peter A. Smith (University of Central Florida, USA) and Clint Bowers (University of Central Florida, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch252

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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 (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 (Smith, 2005). Marine Doom is a modification (mod) of the popular first person shooter game Doom created by the Marine Corps Modeling and Simulation Management Office (MCMSMO) developed for the training of Marine fireteams.

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 defence (Smith, 2009).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Serious Games: An umbrella term referring to any game developed for a non-entertainment based purpose.

Game Feature: An underlying component that defines what a game is.

Game: A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome ( Salen & Zimmerman, 2004 ).

Learning Games: Games with the primary goal of education or training.

Tactical Decision: Making Simulation: A term used by the marines to denote a Serious Game.

Edutainment: A name given to games developed during a briefly successful attempt to popularize educational games in the 80s.

Games For Change: Games with the primary goal of social change.

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