Why Serious Gaming?

A thing that is very dear to me is gaming. I’ve been gaming my entire life and probably will continue to do so till the day I die. Not only do I game, I also write for a game-related news site (gamekings.nl). Safe to say, gaming and all related topics have a large part in my life. Although I haven’t always noticed it in myself, even non-serious games can have great influences on people. These influences can be negative, consider the emergence of game addiction for one. Or how about the possible traumatic effects that may emerge as games get increasingly realistic and emotional?

However, the influence can also be beneficial! Something as simple as playing First Person Shooters can remove the difference that is usually found  between men and women when it comes to visuospatial skills! Playing a game can really make you score higher on an IQ test! This realization got me thinking: if such beneficial effects can be achieved ‘by accident’, what could be achieved if we actually design our games for such purposes?

Serious gaming to me is to not just see games as a (read: the best) form of entertainment, but as a means to attain a certain goal. The good part of serious gaming is that it’s educational goals don’t rule out entertainment. A lot of research is required to figure out what components are necessary when we wan’t to achieve that certain goal. How do we engage the ‘player’? How do we reward the ‘player’? And how do we achieve the behavioural or cognitive change that is desired? Furthermore, an important question to ask is what the limits of gameification are; to what problems is SG solution, and to what problems is it not?

I personally believe that SG might especially contribute in the resolution of personal problems (the individual level). This can range from the training of certain skills, to overcoming fear, to just learning more about yourself! However, it may also have great applications at the societal level. It may, for example, be attempted to increase empathy or improve morality on a large scale through serious gaming!

I’m looking forward to working together with a diverse group of people, to see what creative solutions to known problems we can come up with.


Author: Samuel Boyd

Hi, I’m Sam Boyd, a Dutch guy with an English name. Right now I’m in the first year of the research master Cognitive Science, part of the Artificial Intelligence Master at the VU and UvA. My background only partly connects to this master; my bachelor was in Psychology. Over the course of my bachelor, I found that I was mostly interested in how experimental psychological results are connected to the brain. This is why I specialized in Clinical Neuropsychology. Although I chose a different route for my masters, Clinical Neuropsychology still holds a dear place in my heart. After my Master here at the VU, I’m considering to do the Serious Gaming Master at the UvA. Take a look around to see the progress on a Serious Gaming project, me and two other students are working on!

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