As I began my search for serious games this week I first had to spend some time learning more about what serious games are. The name “serious games” led me to believe that serious games are games focused on something serious or thought provoking. Upon researching serious games I discovered that serious games are “computer or video games designed for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment,” (Ludus). Serious games are often used in education, scientific exploration, health care, city planning, engineering, politics, and emergency management (Ludus).
As I continued to research serious games I kept coming across simulations, which I did not think were actually considered serious games. According to Ludus, though, simulations can be linked to serious games. “Simulations are representations of real or hypothetical processes, mechanisms or systems. Simulations have been used in many different fields such as sales, health care and the military. Games are different than simulations due to “randomness of potential situations and embedded prizes,” (Ludus).
One serious game I came across during my research was ROBOLAB-on-line at
Students are given tasks, then they design programs and test programs. ROBOLAB requires a subscription however there is a demonstration video to try. When I tried it I was given a task to move a Lego vehicle 180 degrees and then 360 degrees. I actually had my 11 year old help me out. Certainly ROBOLAB can be used with students younger than 13, still I think older children would be interested in it as well.
Another serious game I came across during my research was PeaceMaker, this game can be accessed at: http://www.peacemakergame.com/press.php
In PeaceMaker you can explore your world, play the news, take control as the leader in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, give speeches, and solve problems. This game is rated PG-13 for violence in some of the news clips. This game is free and can be downloaded on Mac or PC’s.
A third serious game I came across is called Transcription Hero-Arcade Version for Mac and Windows. This is an educational game where the player gets to be a RNA Polymerase traveling down the rails of DNA, transcribing genes without causing mutations. This game can be accessed by signing up for Spongelab. Spongelab has many different serious games and simulations among other things. Spongelab can be accessed at: www.spongelab.com
Once you set up a free account and log into Spongelab you can access the games by choosing ‘Explore’. Then look at Games and Simulations. There are some that require downloading while others can be played online. Most of the games and simulations are for older students.
Thoughts on serious games
The idea of spending any amount of time “gaming” does not in any way appeal to me. However, I am not against the idea of using gaming to further our students understanding of different concepts. I know my children enjoy playing video games, though my husband and I rarely allow them much time to play them. Until recently I had not thought about using games such as Minecraft to help students solve problems. I am excited to learn more about serious games and how I can use them to help my students learn. According to Laura Kane, “Studies have shown that gaming improves cognitive abilities, spatial attention and information retention,” (July 2012). Further, Jensen said, “Games are a medium that this generation of learners really understands,” she said. “I think (that’s) the primary reason we’re developing games for education,” (as cited by Kane, 2012).
Kane, Laura. (July 26, 2012). Toronto’s ‘serious games’ help kids learn while they play.
Chapter 1: What a Serious Game is? Definitions and theoretical frame work for Serious Games. Ludus. South East Europe. Retrieved online January 17 from http://www.serious-gaming.info/@api/deki/files/57/=Chapter_1.pdf