When did games get so serious?
In sectors such as education, science, health care, politics and business services, games are being used to teach, as well as to entertain – known as serious games. Here, we hear from Tim Dew, Founding Director of Gingr Tech – a company at the forefront of serious games development, to find out what serious games are and how they have the power to change the world.
Unless you work in science or mathematics, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to recite the first 20 digits of Pi or list the elements on the periodic table. But if you grew up playing video games, chances are you still remember some of the cheat code combinations you spent endless hours bashing into your console controller (Up-Up-Down-Down-Left-Right-Left-Right-B-A ring any bells?).
This isn’t by chance. Gaming hits a cognitive sweet spot in the human brain that creates the perfect environment for absorbing knowledge and instigating behavioural change.
Serious games are games that are intended for a purpose other than just to solely entertain. They are used as a mechanism to educate players through entertainment and immersion. The multifaceted experience of interactive gaming has a particular effect on the human brain, creating the perfect environment to instigate changes in the mind.
Practice makes perfect, as they say. And practicing in a space where you are engaged, rewarded for progression and free to make mistakes without consequence is proving a recipe for success.
Tim Dew is the Founding Director of serious games provider, Gingr Tech, which has developed ROCKET, an award-winning business simulation platform.
He says: “It’s like learning to ride a bike. You try it two or three times and fall off the bike, you struggle to keep your balance, you might get a bump or a scratch, but you persevere and repeat the process.
“Through the continued cycle of trial and error, you start to become competent, and before you know it - you can ride a bike.”
It is this innate learning that make serious games so effective.
“It’s about unleashing the latent potential of the human mind,” says Tim.
What is most pertinent about serious games is that they are not just for gamers. The spectrum of themes, purposes and intended goals that already exist across this emerging medium is testament to its potential.
From developing psychomotor skills in trainee surgeons to a third-person adventure game used to treat ADHD in children, the applications of serious games are endless.
Gingr Tech has developed ROCKET, a platform designed to inspire organisational change through behavioural development. It is a model example of how serious games can be applied within a corporate setting.
Tim, who began his career in brewing before transitioning into the world of tech, explains how ROCKET works as a game.
He says: “We take a group of people and split them into departments. There’s marketing, sales, executive delivery, and finance – and we give them a business to run.
“Each department gets between 20 and 30-minutes training, then the game begins – this is when all hell usually breaks loose.”
The players are tasked with running their hypothetical business, condensing 26 weeks worth of trade into 26-minute rounds.
“It’s chaos,” Tim says. “Everyone is shouting at each other, mistakes are being made, and at the end of those early rounds, things usually end up a bit of a mess – but that’s fine.
“We then take time to review the round and reflect on things from a performance perspective. After that, we play another round.”
Tim explains that as the game progresses, players quickly learn that the decisions they’re making within their silos and departments have significant consequences elsewhere in the organisation.
“Players start to work together, prioritising all the issues and risks that are happening. Gradually they start finding solutions to better their business,” the Founding Director explains.
“Through this trial-and-error process, players realise they can break all the rules they like while recognising the complexity and importance of problem-solving and cross-team communications.”
The ROCKET platform isn’t intended to teach people how to run multimillion pound businesses but its combination of simulation, gamification and game theory acts as a vehicle for self-development. Players come away confident in their ability to come up with innovative solutions to complex business problems.
Though Tim is confident in the prediction that the serious games market will reach a value of $25bn over the next few years, he is aware the ROCKET platform lies at the more disruptive end of the emerging market.
“A lot of big corporate buyers don’t fully understand the potential of ROCKET. All I can do is urge people to give it a go and witness the profound organisational impact it can have.”
ROCKET’s offering can be adapted depending on the intended goal and audience whether it’s leadership training, commercial upskilling, team building or technology adoption. And company has also begun adapting its existing technology to raise awareness around sustainability and instigate behavioural changes that will help protect the planet as it seeks to develop ROCKET’s offering for a global audience. As technology and innovation continue to evolve, so will the potential of serious games. With the opportunity to reinvent the way humans learn, this forming of gaming is proving to be something that should be taken very seriously.
- Serious games are game formats intended for a purpose other than just entertainment.
- They have been used in education, science, medicine and business to instigate behavioral change and improvement.
- Gingr Tech is at the forefront of corporate serious games – its award-winning ROCKET platform is a business simulation game with the capability to transform organisations.
- The META Games Industry Index is a campaign powered by UMi, with the support of Ukie. The index highlights and celebrates the creativity, innovation, job creating and positive social impact of the games industry across the UK.