Kirjoittaja: Ria Gynther
Games are not just entertainment. Games and game development methods can be combined to city planning, education, scientific expropriation and more. Games can bring a new perspective and solutions to difficult problems and topics, and also, new impact. Games in this type of context are called Serious Games.
What is a Serious Game?
Globally there are around three billion players that we can potentially reach with gamified or game like solutions, so the industry can surely be seen as a good partner for solving the complex challenges of our time (Newzoo 2021). Sam Barratt, the Chief of Youth, Education and Advocacy at UNEP agrees with this statement. According to him, the game industry “has the potential to reach one in three people on the planet and will be a critical partner if we are to win the greatest multiplayer challenge of our time: climate change.” (GRID-Arendal 2021a.)
Defining Serious Games is complex. In a nutshell Serious Game is a (digital) game that is meant for more than entertainment. Game like this can be a simulation game, virtual reality game or virtual environment. It can be mixed reality game or media, mobile game, or a traditional video game. There are also board and card games with the purpose to teach or train. The common factor between all of these is that they offer opportunities to learn new skills or train existing skills through interactive or responsive encounters, story and or gameplay. (IGI Global 2021.)
Serious games are used in different purposes. Serious game examples can be found in education, health and military training sectors. Serious games can be used to teach about world peace, practical skills, mathematics, consequences and more. (University of Michigan Library 2021.) Serious games can also be used to make time-consuming tasks more interesting and in some cases turn them into crowdsourcing projects. With the help of serious game called Planet Hunters volunteers found over 100 new planetary systems. And with the help of a minigame inserted in the multi-player sci-fi game Eve Online, players have helped in Covid-19 research by categorizing cells in a playful way. The amount of cataloging done equals to 36 years of work. (BBC 2020; IGI Global 2021; University of Michigan Library 2021.)
What are Game Jams?
Video 1. Video explaining: what is Global Game Jam? (GlobalGameJam 2019)
Game jam is 48-hour hackathon focused on game development and it usually has a preset theme. All the games created during this intellectual challenge need to meet the criteria’s of the theme. During the game jam event group of people design, create and test a new game. Usually, game jam is a 48h challenge but it can be longer or shorter, whatever is needed. Game jams are also an important opportunity to foster the local community, it provides new opportunities to meet people and grow skills. (Global Game Jam 2021a.) Game Jam can also concentrate around specific technology, platform, or hardware.
There are multiple different organizations, on local and global level that organize game jams. One of the most known is the The Global Game Jam® (GGJ®), a non-profit organization and organizer of the world’s biggest game creation event. Global game jam happens in hundreds of place and physical locations across the globe at the same time. Year 2020 was a record year for the GGJ®, during the 48h event 9,600 games were made by over 48,000 jammers in 118 different countries and 934 different sites. Most of the games are free to play and can be downloaded from Global Game Jams repository. (Global Game Jam 2021b.)
Picture 1. Four examples of nature themed games made during the Global Game Jam 2021. (Image: Ria Gynther)
GGJ® is aimed mostly for individuals even though schools and companies can also participate by organizing a site of their own. There are also game jams and supporting organizations that are aimed for established game companies only. The most significant might be the Playing for the planet alliance. The alliance is facilitated by the UN Environment Programme with the support of GRID-Arendal and Playmob. There are over 30 studios around the world who have made commitments ranging from integrating green activations into games, reducing their emissions, and supporting the global environmental agenda through initiatives ranging from planting millions of trees or reducing plastic in their products. Playing for the planet organizes the annual Green game jam aimed to the partner companies. (GRID-Arendal 2021b.)
Serious Game Jam
Previously mentioned Green game jam is a good example of a serious game jam. These jams can also have some changing themes, like global warming or recycling, but the outcome is expected to be a game that meets the criteria of a serious game (game that is meant for more than entertainment). Also, in serious game jams there are usually experts mixed with game developers, that way the experts of both worlds can combine their know-how and create better (serious) games.
During the Green game jam game companies concentrate on finding ways to implement sustainability and green lifestyle into their new or existing games. Here are few examples:
- Monument Valley II by Ustwo is a complex puzzle game. In the game forest conservation has been implemented in multiple ways: you can learn about it in the game but also, players are invited to participate in real world petition called PLay4Forests and they can donate to a forest with Ecologi. Players are also courage to share content on social media and that way spread the message further. (Campbell 2021.)
- ANNO 1800 by Ubisoft Mainz studio is part of a simulation game series where you are growing settlements into metropolises, creating production chains, and managing resources. In ANNO 1800 you are placed in the era of industrialization. You might be tempted to exploit the environment but there will be counter reactions if you go too far. Over-fishing for example will destroy food supplies in the future and deforestation eventually leads to deserted islands. The player might not notice the impact of these right away, but eventually these decisions will lead to player’s downfall. (Knauz 2021.)
Picture 2. Basic information about the Playing for the Planet Alliance. (Image: Ria Gynther)
Impact of the Green game jam games is huge, potentially these games can grasp 1 billion players each month with environmental message and information. (GRID-Arendal 2021a).
Game jams are impactful also on smaller scale. In the end of October 2021 a small serious game gathering, Ecocity Game Gathering, was organized with collaboration between Ecocity Forum Lahti, IGDA Finland Lahti hub and Baltic Explorers. During a 6-hour event 20 people gathered to learn about the environmental challenges with the guidance of applied games expert and environmentalist. Most importantly they also learned about how they and their game can have a positive impact in the fight against climate change and other issues related to this vast topic. Full games were not made in this short time, but new game concepts and ideas were born for future use.
BBC. 2020. Eve Online video game helps scientists understand Covid-19. BBC News. [Viitattu 9.11.2021]. Saatavissa: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/technology-54750594
Campbell, J. 2021. Monument Valley II. Playing for the Planet. [Viitattu 9.11.2021]. Saatavissa: https://playing4theplanet.org/game/monument-valley-ii/
Global Game Jam. 2021a. About. [Viitattu 9.11.2021]. Saatavissa: https://globalgamejam.org/about
Global Game Jam. 2021b. Global Game Jam Press Kit. [Viitattu 9.11.2021]. Saatavissa: https://globalgamejam.org/presskit
GRID-Arendal. 2021a. Playing for the Planet Alliance releases 2020 Annual Impact Report. [Viitattu 9.11.2021]. Saatavissa: https://playing4theplanet.org/news/playing-for-the-planet-alliance-releases-2020-annual-impact-report/
GRID-Arendal. 2021b. Playing for the Planet. [Viitattu 9.11.2021]. Saatavissa: https://playing4theplanet.org/
IGI Global. 2021. What is Serious Games. [Viitattu 9.11.2021]. Saatavissa: https://www.igi-global.com/dictionary/serious-games/26549
Knauz, C. 2021. Anno 1800. Playing for the Planet. [Viitattu 9.11.2021]. Saatavissa: https://playing4theplanet.org/game/anno-1800/
Newzoo. 2021. Global Players Per Region.[Viitattu 9.11.2021]. Saatavissa: https://newzoo.com/key-numbers
University of Michigan Library. 2021. Video Game Studies. [Viitattu 9.11.2021]. Saatavissa: https://guides.lib.umich.edu/videogamestudies
Video 1. GlobalGameJam. 2019. What is Global Game Jam? YouTube. [Viitattu 9.11.2021]. Saatavissa: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPJGLTXfH6o
Ria Gynther works at the LAB University of Applied Sciences as a project manager with the game industry project Baltic Explorers. She is also the Vice Chair of IGDA Finland and avid Game Jammer.
Illustration: https://pixabay.com/images/id-6603120/ (CC0)
Reference to this article
Gynther, R. 2021. Serious Game Development and Game Jams. LAB Pro. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: https://www.labopen.fi/lab-pro/serious-game-development-and-game-jams/