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  • Finding The Fun In Serious Games

    - Daniel Wilhite

  • Serious Depth

    A serious game has a purpose to fulfill. To fulfill that purpose usually requires an amount of realism and depth to get the point across. Somewhere, there is a middle ground where needed depth, realism and game all cross perfectly. This is a difficult thing to achieve. The complexity of that marriage of elements aside, the depth of a serious game is an important component. To achieve the desired result that the game is being designed for, an amount of depth is absolutely required to express the experience.

    This depth is something that some players will latch onto. If the crowd that actively mods ARMA or follows games such as Elite Dangerous is any indication, it is that depth can create lasting enjoyment within gameplay loops. On the other side of the same coin, needless depth is something that can kill an experience completely and end up with the player not obtaining any valuable information. Maintaining a balance of acceptable and needed depth mixed with a competent gameplay loop is the key to fun and ultimately engaging serious experience.

    Serious Variety

    Capping off the various pieces that could alter the fun level of a serious game, is something that applies to the industry as a whole. Something that has stagnated various genres is a lack of selection and innovation. This doesn't apply too heavily to serious games because of their purpose-developed nature. However, there is still a market for it and some within the same field could be seen as superior to others.

    While creating an experience meant to inform, innovation is still key to activating the brain of the player and leaving them engaged with the experience you are presenting. The serious games market is something that needs a little bit of competition within the same sectors of it to produce applications that have staying power beyond simply being the only one available for the purpose in question.

    Serious Fun

    Serious games still rely on the fundamentals of game development to exist and still apply to the critique that is applied to all other applications of similar nature. Serious games can be fun, and there are plenty that have been. There are lists and documentations of these elements and previous successes. This has been around longer that some might be aware of and there is a level of expectation that comes from  venturing into certain fields of occupation or topic concerning serious games.

    Above are simply my surface level explanations of what I think should be focused on for creating serious games that retain engagement. Explanations from a game design student who will be digging deeper into this topic as time goes on from the creation of this writing. I played America's Army. I had fun. I'd love to have that experience again within a game not designed for it.


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