Monday, August 21, 2006

Irked: Serious Games

I'm quite interested in games for education. I think games are made to educate and there's nothing wrong with exploiting this to make learning more fun for kids and adults. Games like Civilization and Colonization have done this to some extent for me when I was learning history at school. I know of one Polish guy who learnt his English with the help of Monkey Island one. Great! An exciting future. The DS already has a "brain training game" that lets you brush up on your maths as well as inmrove less defined "brain skills" and in Japan there are several language games that help you learn English, Spanish or French (and also deal with the history and sites of countries using those languages.)

So that's good, but what's not good is a growing number of people labelling such games as serious games. This is a bad bad label, if the person who created this label was here now I'd very much like to bop him (or her) on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper and maybe waggle a warning finger at them. Here's the wikipedia definition of "serious games":

Serious games (SGs) are computer and video games that are intended to not only entertain users, but have additional purposes such as education and training. They can be similar to educational games, but are primarily focused on an audience outside of primary or secondary education.

Pah! Psst! Pah!

If you call one group of items serious you are suggesting all other items are some how less serious. Let's take people, if I said "serious people" you might form the following model in your mind.

Serious People: Buisness Men, World leaders, ...
Non-serious People: Comedians, Artists, Bums, Clowns, Mimes...

So imagine if this shadowy education group had targetted music instead of computer games, they would like us to form the following mental model.

Serious Music, music that educates:
Sing 2 School - Multiplication Hip Hop
Alphabet - Music for Clever Kids

Non-serious music, music that fails to educate:
Classical, Rock and Roll, Pop, Jazz, Rap, Indie ...

Non-serious music, is that worthless, for kids stuff, that has nothing to redeem it - it merely entertains - it doesn't convey FACTS! Therefore it's not "serious" - it's a waste of time and you should be feeling very guilty about listening to it at all! You grubby hippie frittering your life away by enjoying yourself, I hope this chastizes you sufficently.

The same labels could be applied to books, instead of fiction and non-fiction we could relabel them serious and non-serious (or waste of time, guilty pleasure, whatever label seems to fit best.)

As I hope you can see this way of naming things doesn't help anyone and is a little insulting to anyone not creating media that's not primarily educational. I'd intially distrust anyone "seriously" throwing the term around. Serious is quite subjective, let's keep that way.
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