Last week the KNAW (Royal Dutch Academy of Science) organized a symposium on serious games. Something we’re dealing with a lot right now, so we checked it out. Here’s some thoughts on what was talked about:
David Shaffer was the first speaker. He made an interesting point: In order to learn by playing, the player needs a certain feedback loop where he reflects on his actions. Sounds logical, doesn’t come naturally.
It was interesting to see other people’s views on the subject. When designing “Regulator Rally” (a game on assumptions) we thought of ways to get the feedback loop, the reflection on action, in there. The thing is, the example David showed was about teaching people urban planning. For this, they used a multi-player SimCity-like game where all the information was brought in a more fun way than usual. That’s where we, with what we’re doing, tend to take a different approach. Not use ‘a fun way of urban planning’ to teach someone ‘urban planning’, but ‘a fun way of playing’ that, as an effect within the playing person’s head, brings insights in urban knowledge.
After the speakers there was also a discussion panel of some very interesting people that all shared their thoughts on the use of serious games for social change. One of the panel members was Pieter Winsemius. He talked about solving traffic problems by turning traffic jams into a game: Switch lanes? Pay five euros! He also mentioned roundabouts as what he thought could be seen as ‘serious games’ in real life. It was fun to see how someone who’s not into game-design could see the use of gaming in such a clear yet applied manner. Good perspective there!
All in all, this was a perfect way to spend an afternoon. We learned some things and gained some brainfood.