Monday, March 14, 2005

GDC 2005: Serious Games Summit - 500 Serious Games!

500 (Serious) Games Later: Best Takeaways
Marc Prensky

With years of experience in the serious games space, Marc Prensky gave a great overview of where serious games are today and how they got there, extracting ten lessons to keep in mind as we move forward. While all of the lessons were important, I found a few to be particularly interesting. The idea of complexity came up more than once. Prensky was arguing that games are good at complexity and should embrace it. The power of games as learning tools comes from their ability to model complex systems. Designers shouldn't over-complicate their games (and especially not their interfaces), but complexity shouldn't be eschewed in favor of dumbing down difficult concepts either.

In discussing new ideas to pursue, Marc mentioned the idea of immediacy, citing games such as 9/11 Survivor, Madrid, September 12, and Kuma War. Though there has been mixed reactions to these games, Prensky sees the immediacy of these games as something we'll see more and more of in the coming days. As people begin to get used to games as a medium for expression, they will be come more natural as a way to react to events as they unfold in the world.

Other new ideas and nuggets cited by Prensky include parody & satire, shock as motivation, character development, and unexpected topics. He even mentioned a project that has NASA working with Nintendo to add real-world viruses to the roster of pocket monsters in Pokemon. In another example, an FBI training game tracks the player's play style and then adjusts future situations to force the player into playing against their preferred style.

One final thought from Prensky's talk that I agreed with was the idea that designers of serious games should consider the entire system in which the game exists. Is the controller appropriate for the experience? What sort of chair will the player be sitting in (especially important if the designer can control this)? What greater environment will the player be situated in? Marc had many other great points, so if anyone finds a copy of his slides... post a link.


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