Serious Games Can Learn From Grand Theft Auto - InformationWeek

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IoT
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Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
3/7/2007
01:11 PM
Michael Singer
Michael Singer
Commentary
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Serious Games Can Learn From Grand Theft Auto

Apparently there are redeeming social qualities in purely entertaining games such as Grand Theft Auto, Bully and the Sims, or so says Georgia Institute of Technology professor Ian Bogost... and the government should take note.

Apparently there are redeeming social qualities in purely entertaining games such as Grand Theft Auto, Bully and the Sims, or so says Georgia Institute of Technology professor Ian Bogost... and the government should take note.Bogost is on a mission to point out how serious games should actually be called "persuasive games" since the simulations that train government groups and other corporate types mostly support the established political and social institutions. The professor hopes that serious gamers can learn from their entertainment counterparts so they can consider the effects of changing such behavioral patterns in employees and social groups -- be that a classroom full of 5th Graders or a platoon of Marines.

"In Grand Theft San Andreas, for example, your character must stop every once in a while to eat or he won't have the energy to go shoot things," Bogost said at 2007 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, this week. "There are places to eat a salad, but for the most part, fast food is the meal of choice. What does that tell us about our health choices? What can we do to fix that?

In the equally controversial video game Bully, Bogost points out that the objective is to advance by establishing social connections within the constraints of an oppressive environment.

Serious gaming, you say? It's a burgeoning industry that aims to use various gaming methods to help people in politics, education, enterprise and pretty much everything outside the sphere of entertainment. Not a bad gig if you can get into it. According to the Serious Games Initiative, companies and organizations spend about $60 million to develop and play these social games each year. That number is expected to increase to $300 million in about five years.

After talking to some of the attendees in the crowd, it was easy to see why it's a good time to get into serious games. One grad student from the University of Florida who asked to remain anonymous said the government has been very eager to immerse itself in gaming because it helps their people run through various scenarios at a fraction of the cost of staging a real-life simulation.

"They figured everyone else is getting into games, why not us?" she said.

Bogost, who authors a serious gaming industry blog called Watercooler Games, said social changes don't happen overnight because of a disconnect between the player and the game. Bogost said he likes to use the Will Wright simulation game Spore as a great example of how even slight procedural changes can take a player from the primordial soup to conquering the universe.

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