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IBM's Serious Games Day

IBM’s Serious Games Day Promotes a Discussion on the Future of Serious Games and the Challenges of Making Entertaining Serious Games

More than a hundred developers, academics and college students checked out training tools and instructional video games at IBM’s Serious Games Day on Wednesday. They also discussed the future of Serious Games.

The event was hosted by IBM in Durham's Research Triangle Park in part to preview IBM's Innov8 v. 2, a game used in business process management training that the company has been developing for about a year (please find also my prior posting Serious Games For Improving Business Process Management).

"This is the perfect storm," said Phaedra Boinodiris, IBM Serious Games Manager. "With President Obama's emphasis on a smarter planet ..., serious games can help train people in a smarter way. It's these tools that help you visualize and train for jobs in the future," she added.

The event also showcased a panel of experts from academia, corporate game development and health care, including: Richard Kristof, president and CEO of American Research Institute; Stephen Mahaley, director of Learning Technology at Duke Corporate Education; Amar Patel, manager of Medical Simulation Center at WakeMed; and James Lester, associate professor of Computer Science-Engineering at N.C. State University.

"Any process that can be articulated can be depicted," said Jim Wexler, owner of BrandGames in New York.

The panelists also said instructional video games can more effectively train large numbers of people because they eliminate the cost of travel to conferences and provide standard instruction. Training through games can also provide companies with data on the performance of their employees.

Serious Games Must Be Fun!

Audience members asked the panel how to strike a balance between fun and instruction in Serious Games. One of the metrics for a "fun" game, according to one audience member, should be that the player would take the game home and play it in their own free time.

Gerke Max Preussner, technical director of Virtual Heroes of Durham, said one of the difficulties in making entertaining Serious Games lies in cost and in expectations. A group of Wake Technical Community College students on hand said the entertainment factor of a Serious Game is a must. "One thing you have to worry about is if you focus too much on the education, it'll get in the way of playability -- being engaged and entertained," said Martin Gattis.

IBM is planning to release Innov8 v. 2 in May and host various Serious Games Days around the world. The location and date of the next event is yet to be determined.