by Dr. Holger Sprengel, Andrew Pomazanskyi (Nurogames GmbH)

The video game industry is doing better than ever before. What we used to think of as “children’s play” not too long ago has now grown into an industry with revenues of $81.5 billion in 2014 (1) which was more than twice that of the international film industry for the year 2013. As such, the number of different types of games has been steadily increasing.

One such type of video games are so-called “serious” games. But what is the defining quality that sets serious games apart from traditional games? Also, where do we draw the line between gamification, another relatively recent development of the gaming industry, and its serious game counterparts?

According to learning technology strategist PH. D. Clark Quinn (2), gamification is the act of motivating people to do something through game-like elements. Here, it is important to distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. People are intrinsically motivated to do something if they find it engaging by itself. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation adds external motivators in order to get people to behave in a desired way. For Quinn, serious games motivate players intrinsically while gamification uses extrinsic motivation.

Furthermore, serious games are predominantly used in educational settings. But the question arises: If a game teaches its players something, is it a serious game? If, for a example, a player learns something about history by playing Cid Meyer’s Civilization, does that make Civilization a serious game?

For Damien Djaouti, Julian Alvarez and Jean-Pierre Jessel of the University of Toulouse, France, this is not the case. In their paper “Classifying Serious Games: the G/P/S model” (3) they argue that the defining quality of serious games is not the educational potential of its content. Instead, what makes games serious is the intention of its creators. To put it simply: If creators develop a game with the main goal of teaching the player something they are developing a serious game. But if a game’s main focus is to be fun then it is not a serious game, even if its secondary focus would be to educate players.

Within RAGE project, Nurogames tries to eliminate the boundaries where future game will be engaging and appealing to the target group, therefore the main goal of the game designers lies on look and feel aspects of the future game. Nevertheless the educational aspects remain crucial to the game design. Thus, we do not distinguish between primary and secondary focuses, rather consider both requirements as equal. We believe that RAGE will help game developers/designers to work more on the most important gaming principles and its aesthetics, whereas educators will be able to focus more on the educational goals, saving time and money for both parties thinking about technological implementation of a serious game.

(1) https://newzoo.com/insights/articles/top-100-countries-represent-99-6-81-5bn-global-games-market/
(2) http://www.litmos.com/blog/articles/making-the-distinction-between-serious-games-and-gamification-guest-post-by-clark-quinn
(3) Djaouti, Damien; Alvarez, Julian; Jessel, Jean-Pierre. “Classifying Serious Games: the G/P/S model” (PDF). Retrieved 26 June 2015.

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