A serious game or applied game is a game designed for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment. The "serious" adjective is generally prepended to refer to products used by industries like defense, education, scientific exploration, health care, emergency management, city planning, engineering, and politics.
The use of games in educational circles has been practiced since at least the twentieth century. Use of paper-based educational games became popular in the 1960s and 1970s, but waned under the Back to Basics teaching movement. (The Back to Basics teaching movement is a change in teaching style that started in the 1970s when students were scoring poorly on standardized tests and exploring too many electives. This movement wanted to focus students on reading, writing and arithmetic and intensify the curriculum.)
The early 2000s saw a surge in different types of educational games, especially those designed for the younger learner. Many of these games were not computer-based but took on the model of other traditional gaming system both in the console and hand-held format. In 1999, LeapFrog Enterprises introduced the LeapPad, which combined an interactive book with a cartridge and allowed kids to play games and interact with a paper-based book. Based on the popularity of traditional hand-held gaming systems like Nintendo's Game Boy, they also introduced their hand-held gaming system called the Leapster in 2003. This system was cartridge-based and integrated arcade–style games with educational content.
A Force More Powerful (Windows): The video game is designed to teach the resolution of conflict using nonviolent methods. Intended for use by activists and leaders of nonviolent resistance and opposition movements.
Amnesty the game (Facebook and Internet): A game that supports Amnesty International efforts to worldwide abolish the death penalty.
Awkward Moment (card game): A Tiltfactor Lab game that challenges players to consider other's viewpoints and assess their own biases, strengthening associations between women and STEM and reducing people's trained biases.
Beer distribution game (offline as well as online): A simulation game created by a group of professors of MIT in the early 1960s aimed at illustrating important supply chain management principles, such as the bullwhip effect.
buffalo (card game): A Tiltfactor Lab game that reduces prejudice and encourages greater inclusiveness in players’ representations of social identity groups.
Close Combat: Marines: The first version of the Close Combat universe made specifically for military training purposes. Forces consist of USMC and OpFor troops.
CyberCIEGE (Microsoft Windows): Computer network security sim game developed by the Naval Postgraduate School. Players protect assets while enabling "users" to achieve their goals.
Darfur is Dying (Internet): An online game by mtvU that simulates life in a Darfur refugee camp.
Democracy: A political strategy game, that simulates the process of government through simulated policies, laws voters and other variables. Used by a number of US / European schools and other institutions.
EteRNA (Internet): A game in which players attempt to design RNA sequences that fold into a given configuration. Designs are evaluated to improve computer models predicting RNA folding, included selected designs actually synthesized to evaluate RNA folding dynamics against computer predictions.
FloodSim (Internet): A flood prevention simulation/strategy game designed to inform the people of the United Kingdom about the dangers of flooding as well as to help gather public opinion on the problem that flooding presents to the UK. The player takes control of the UK's flood policies for three years and attempts to protect the people and the economy of the United Kingdom from damage due to floods.
Foldit (Windows, Linux, Mac): Protein folding, puzzle game where results can be used in real science.
Food Force (Mac/Windows) Humanitarian video game. The UN's World Food Programme designed this virtual world of food airdrops over crisis zones and trucks struggling up difficult roads under rebel threat with emergency food supplies.
Freedom: The Underground Railroad: A co-operative strategy board game that has players working together as Abolitionists to help bring an end to slavery in the United States.
Friday Night at the ER: A board game used by groups to learn to collaborate more effectively as a team. Players are challenged to manage a hospital during a simulated 24-hour period.
Genomics Digital Lab (Mac/Windows): A series of interactive science games where users learn about the importance of plants and their contribution to energy and the environment.
Global Conflict: Palestine (Mac/Windows): A 3D-adventure/RPG-game. You are given the role of a reporter in Jerusalem, and have to write articles for your paper.
Habitica (Internet): A habit building program that treats your life like a role-playing game.
Harpoon (Mac/Windows): Entertainment version was "dual use" from 1989 forward. Professional version Harpoon 3 Professional created in 2002 with help from Australian Defense Department, updated in 2006.
History of Biology game (Mac/Windows): A browser-based scavenger hunt-style educational game designed to teach high school students and general interest groups about the history of biology covering topics such as early microscopes, classification, taxonomy, heredity, genetics, and evolution.
NetEnquiry (University Paderborn): Driven by a collaborative research project, led by the University Paderborn under participation of Apple Deutschland GmbH, Deutsche Bank AG and several other core partners. It follows a role-based approach and is based on an analysis of real processes and challenges within corporations (here, as a case study, financial institutes). Moreover, it realizes a competence-oriented learning approach by integrating multiple perspectives, learner collaboration, external shocks, complex and authentic situations and others. The whole NetEnquiry-Tool runs on mobile devices and web browsers.
Novicraft HRD game (Microsoft Windows): A serious game for supporting business customers in social excellence, in learning to construct shared understanding together with different people in changing contexts.
Peacemaker (Mac/PC): A commercial game simulation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict designed to promote "dialog and understanding among Israelis, Palestinians and interested people around the world".
Phylo (Internet): A game that invites players to give in to their addictive gaming impulses while contributing to the greater good by trying to decode the code for genetic diseases.
World Without Oil: A game taking placing in an alternate reality that was created to call attention to, spark dialogue about, plan for and engineer solutions to a possible near-future global oil shortage.
X-Plane (Linux/Mac/Windows): A comprehensive civil aviation simulator. An FAA approved version exists which enables low cost flight training.
^"Education Update"; Back To Basics; Dr. Carole G. Hankin and Randi T. Sachs; 2002
^Gray, J. H.; Bulat, J.; Jaynes, C.; Cunningham, A. (2009). "LeapFrog learning". Mobile Technology for Children: Designing for Interaction and Learning. By A. Druin. Morgan Kaufmann. p. 171. ISBN9780080954097.
Abt, C. (1970). Serious Games. New York: The Viking Press.
Aldrich, Clark (2009). The Complete Guide to Simulations and Serious Games. Pfeiffer. p. 576. ISBN0-470-46273-6.
Anderson, E. F.; McLoughlin, L.; Liarokapis, F.; Peters, C.; Petridis, P.; de Freitas, S. (2009), Serious Games in Cultural Heritage, VAST-STAR, Short and Project Proceedings, 10th VAST International Symposium on Virtual Reality, Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (Eurographics VAST '09), Faculty of ICT, University of Malta, pp. 29–48