Serious Games and Virtual Reality for Education, Training and Health

Serious Games and Virtual Reality for Education, Training and Health

Ronei Marcos de Moares (Laboratory of Technologies for Virtual Teaching and Statistics (LabTEVE), CCEN, Federal University of Paraíba, Brazil), Liliane S. Machado (Laboratory of Technologies for Virtual Teaching and Statistics (LabTEVE), CCEN, Federal University of Paraíba, Brazil,), Fátima de Lourdes dos Santos Nunes (University of São Paulo, Brazil) and Rosa Maria Esteves Moreira da Costa (Institute of Mathematics and Statistics – UERJ, Brazil)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0149-9.ch017


Since the first electronic game produced in the 40s, a large market of entertainment games has been established. Since then, the main focus of games continues to be provide fun for users. However, Serious Games (SG) have been developed as a special class of games devoted to join fun activities with specific content. The multidisciplinary aspects necessary to the development of such applications is enhanced when they are devoted to training and education purposes. This chapter presents details of development of five serious games in which intelligent methodologies and/or virtual reality techniques were incorporated. The games include education for children and adults and training for professionals.
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Games are voluntary activities that stir imagination and motivate people from all ages. The creation of games depends on professionals of different expertise. The designing of scenarios, setting of platform, implementation, distribution strategy, and programming of intelligence are examples of tasks present in the development. These needs evidence the multidisciplinary approach that characterizes this activity (Figure 1). It also highlights the main problem related to game development: the synergy among teams and distribution of tasks are elements that affect the success of a game.

Figure 1.

Example of some expertise necessary to the development of a game

The serious games (SG) have been developed as a special category of games devoted to increase a fun activity with specific content (Blackman, 2005). In fact, SG have been used to provide training, education, advertisement, planning and awareness (Michael & Chen, 2006). They use a playful and/or challenging approach to motivate users. It demands a careful strategy in their development in order to achieve good results. Thus, experts in the subject approached by the game must be included in the development team. Additionally, SG can demand the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to identify users knowledge in the specific content and use it to advancements in the game.

Several Virtual Reality (VR) techniques have been used in games, mainly in visualization and navigation techniques and also in interaction approaches with special devices. VR refers to interactive and immersive environments that involve users in a real-time computational simulation (Burdea & Coiffet, 2003). In the beginning of games history was not possible to associate them to VR, mainly due hardware limitations that demanded high costs platforms and advanced processing capability. This relationship began to change with advancements in hardware and processing techniques. Thus, off the shelf games started to demand other issues inherent in Computing, as three-dimensional environments, rendering quality, non-conventional interaction and real-time feedback. Those issues started to become interesting research subjects for Computer Science and, particularly, for VR area researchers (Machado & Moraes, 2010).

In fact, VR did not accomplish the promise of changing the way users communicate with computational applications (Stone, 2009) and provided a set of achievements and failures throughout the 1990s. However, games requirements offered an opportunity to VR become popular, particularly in the enhancement of interactivity and immersiveness for SG. From the moment that both areas (VR and games) are investigating and applying the same resources, the subject and goal of researches have become very similar. Some points can be highlighted on the development of both areas:

  • visualization techniques with stereoscopy, explored in VR allowed the games become more immersive;

  • interaction techniques developed in the context of VR allowed to expand possible movements in games as the use of body movements;

  • features as development of script, soundtrack and challenges in games have been used in VR applications to obtain more motivating simulations.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Virtual Reality: 3D computer environments that simulate real-time scenes with realistic and immersive aspects.

Immersion: Feeling of being part of something

Advergame: Serious game developed for advertisement

Stereoscopy: Capacity of joint a pair of images to provide visualization with depth perception

Artificial Intelligence (AI): Algorithms and programs that simulate intelligence for decision making

Interactivity: Capacity of interact with something, sending actions and receiving feedback.

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