Serious game

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For the team, see Serious Gaming.

A serious game or applied game is a game designed for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment.[1] The "serious" adjective is generally prepended to refer to video games used by industries like defense, education,[2] scientific exploration, health care, emergency management, city planning, engineering, and politics.[3] The idea shares aspects with simulation generally, including flight simulation and medical simulation, but explicitly emphasizes the added pedagogical value of fun and competition.


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.[4] (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.[5])

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.[6]


  • 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.
  • DARWARS Ambush! Convoy Simulator: Developed as part of DARPA's DARWARS project, designed to create low-cost experiential training systems
  • 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.
  • Houthoff Buruma The Game: Serious game for recruitment purposes, developed by Dutch law firm Houthoff Buruma.
  • IBM CityOne (Internet): Designed by IBM as part of the IBM Smarter Planet initiative. The game is designed to educate the player of the complex systems and how they connect in a modern city.
  • IntelliGym (Mac/Windows/Linux): A series of computer-based cognitive simulators that trains athletes and designed to enhance brain skills associated with sports-related performance.
  • Meister Cody (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android): An interactive educational game for children with dyscalculia.
  • Moonbase Alpha (Microsoft Windows): Developed as a multiplayer simulation of astronaut training for a catastrophic event on a hypothetical lunar outpost.
  • Microsoft Flight Simulator (Microsoft Windows): Developed as a comprehensive simulation of civil aviation. Notably one of the few flight simulation games that does not concentrate on simulation of aerial warfare.
  • NanoMission (Microsoft Windows): A series created for the non-profit group Cientifica in order to teach about nanomedicine, nanotechnology and associated concepts through a series of action games.
  • 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 in which players align colored squares that represent the promoter region of genes. The results are used to study genetic diseases.[7]
  • Pox: Save the People (Board Game): A Tiltfactor Lab game designed to help stop the spread of misinformation regarding the effects of vaccination.
  • Re-Mission (Microsoft Windows): 3D shooter to help improve the lives of young persons living with cancer.
  • Ship Simulator (Microsoft Windows): A simulator which simulates maneuvering various ships in different environments, although without the effects of wind and current.
  • SimPort (Mac/Windows): A simulation game in which players learn about the intricacies involved in large infrastructural projects, such as a major sea port.
  • SimulTrain (Mac/Windows/Online): A project management simulation of the planning and execution phases of a medium-sized project for a team of four people.
  • Steel Beasts Professional (Microsoft Windows): Tank simulator, developed by eSim Games, and used by several armies around the world.
  • VBS1 & VBS2: Training tool for the British Military and the USMC and other military forces around the world. Developed by BIA, and based on the game engine used in Operation Flashpoint and Armed Assault.
  • 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Djaouti, Damien; Alvarez, Julian; Jessel, Jean-Pierre. "Classifying Serious Games: the G/P/S model" (PDF). Retrieved 26 June 2015. 
  2. ^ Scott, Michael; Ghinea, Gheorghita (6 March 2013). Integrating Fantasy Role-Play into the Programming Lab: Exploring the 'Projective Identity' Hypothesis (pdf). Proceedings of the 44th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education. ACM. pp. 119–122. doi:10.1145/2445196.2445237. Retrieved January 1, 2016. 
  3. ^ "Serious Games". Retrieved 26 June 2015. 
  4. ^ Rice, J. W. (2007). "Assessing higher order thinking in video games" (PDF). Journal of Technology and Teacher Education. 15 (1): 87. 
  5. ^ "Education Update"; Back To Basics; Dr. Carole G. Hankin and Randi T. Sachs; 2002
  6. ^ 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. ISBN 9780080954097. 
  7. ^ Lisa Grossman (2010-11-30). "Computer Game Makes You a Genetic Scientist". Retrieved 2012-10-24. 

Further reading[edit]