37 varieties of SERIOUS GAMES | Precursor to a discussion with Rafael Fajardo

37 varieties of SERIOUS GAMES |

Precursor to a discussion with Rafael Fajardo – 02-06-2008

1) What is serious about serious games?


2) From event to game? (explain your views on Serious Games as platforms supportive of – citizen journalism – mass media and message manipulation)

How will serious games affect the time-to-market of truth, distortion, crisis, warnings, advisories, significant socioeconomic shifts? Might serious games provide for a computer, Internet and games-literate population a form of early-warning radar?

If so, do you see such an adaptation of the traditional role of media as being potentially beneficial, were the use of serious games to progress towards becoming a dominant mode of information, communications and cultural dialog/discourse? What would be some of the elements of a user experience which combines the instantaneous feedback of the news blog
with the richness, multivalency* of a 2D/3D game world?

(* “having or susceptible to many applications interpretations or meanings”)


3) On the subject of difficult discussions; how do you see the Serious Games medium being expanded further, to provide to possibly 12-K learners a platform for initiating discussion of issues that are conventionally difficult to discuss or get a handle on?

i.e. abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, war crimes (in support of truth and reconciliation) environmental / ecosystem collapse, human exploitation.


4) Do you see ‘Serious’ as providing a stand-in or analogy for a larger or more complex system? At what point does an interactive digital game pass a threshold of ‘seriousness’ so that it is no longer providing an interactive model of a fictitious set of circumstances, agents and environments, and is instead providing an interactive model that refers to an actual set of circumstances, agents and environments?

Are the critical criteria of what constitute a ‘serious’ game a matter of the degree to which it accurately depicts some real-world circumstance? In this regard, how is a serious game qualitatively different from a game which say, depicts through research of historical documentation, a real-world event?

Are serious games rather more present-tense in their temporal grounding, in that they are created with the intent of directing attention to something that may be happening somewhere in the world right now? Do you perceive an unmet need for more games of this variety?


5) Peripherals: How do you envision the future extension of serious games along the motor-sensory axis of the experience?


6) Incompleteness: in your view, how important are the visual and auditory aspects of simulation, and accuracy of rendition in creating a game play experience that faithfully captures the essence of the circumstances to which the serious game artifact provides testimony?

When is it better to leave some of the surfactant details of the rendition to the imagination? In your view, might the current emphasis placed on graphical verisimilitude* (“the appearance of being real or true”) be forcing the cultural evolution of games towards an evolutionary dead-end?


7) Reduce complex systems–issues into more digestible bits;

What are the strengths of the serious games medium to illustrate and make accessible systems that are typically too complex to be accurately illustrated using conventional means?

How might the serious games medium augment the depiction of complex systems already depicted in text form (descriptive) pictorial (technical and scientific illustration) and processual (depiction of changes in system behaviour occurring through time)?

Could we make a compelling play experience depicting brain surgery, the operation of a nuclear power plant, manufacturing and quality control processes used in the assembly of very large contraptions, etc. ?


8) Are we as serious as the icons we play with?

What do you see as the near-term future of representation, considering the ways in which serious games are distorting and contesting conventional modes of investigation, reflection, play and communication?

Does the use of icons in serious games as a critical component in effecting the fluent communication of their social commentary, portend the intensification in society as a whole of iconography?

Will the icons we see in serious games begin to migrate beyond the game platform, to provide alternative modes of representation for such things as emotions, intentions, reputation, legacy, beauty, grace, and desire?


9) Would you say your approach to serious games is a sort of social commentary or hacktivist journalism? How do you see gaming relating to journalism as the publishing tools to create them become more available?

“I don't want them to believe I want them to think”
- Marshall McLuhan


10) One thing that stuck out for me is the perspectival relativity or experiential cubism that Crosser™ & La Migra™ offers. Is it your view that games offer a more intimate relationship with the dynamics of an issue than other media? Why games?


11) "We of otherness have that special je-ne-sais-quoi and ownership over our condition. Of course, if you are of(f) colour yourself, then go ahead, play with yourself. Lord knows we do." RF

What is your view on SG as spaces of story telling and story-building, (learning through experience, building minimal risk experience and memory),


12) Do you see the engagement and immersion in these simulated (but highly reflective) contexts alleviating the condition of reductionist thinking about social issues through the highlighting of more nuanced elements of others experience?


13) What would you say is the primary purpose of your works, attention and awareness, discussion, action?


14) In a way there is a comedic element due to your graphic treatment and medium choice, in a sense enabling people to play with another's condition. What informed the choices you made and what has been lost and gained in your approach?


15) How do serious games mark a major divergence from the game medium’s dominant content, themes, teleology, interactive modalities?

Based on your experience with serious games, in what important ways have our reasons for playing games changed as the medium has matured?


16) How might this divergence portend the future development of the medium?

Aside from the domains of education and corporate training, what other domains do you envision as becoming areas in which intensification in the development of serious games can or should occur?


17) If one of the natural features or outcomes of human play behaviour is to ensure that the human animal contribute through embodied action to his or her own social, neurophysiological and emotional development, why hasn’t the gaming medium been more vigorously exploited in seeking to build upon
these developmental aspects of human growth? (Richard Thomas)


18) How do you see games as being used in the production of physical, economic and intellectual capital?

Have you considered the future possibility of a game system or artifact that would act in some material or immaterial way, as an indispensable agent in the provision of real-world benefit to persons not involved directly in the game play, i.e. providing sustenance to a malnourished population, constructing a shelter, protesting despotism, enabling environmental remediation? (Isabelle Rousset)


19) By rendering human-survival and quality of life issues (engagement through detachment) through serious games, is it the intent of a designer such as yourself to impact upon the informatic* issues involved in effecting tangible change?

(*who knows what, and most importantly, who it is that decides just who will be permitted to know what there is to be known. Political power is enacted through the exercise of control over access to information.)


20) If one aim of serious games is to create narrative around an under-acknowledged issue of critical societal importance, are there lessons from the modes of experience construction used in the design and prototyping of serious games that could be exported into other professions?

What might a journalism student glean from observation of the communicative power of a serious game?


21) Capitalism, games, social merit and contingency. Do you see viability in attributing to game-world, goal-directed actions, real-world consequences?

What might a developer of a serious game learn from the basic premise of the (unidentified) PC game which allows a player to shoot and kill a penned deer (a living animal) using a PC, internet connection and mouse? Is this the level of seriousness and degree of (dis)embodied action that future designers should seek to incorporate into their game designs?

i.e. As a birthday gift, MCL makes a 100 dollar contribution to a charity in Isabelle’s name, which will be matched, dollar for dollar by a corporate donor, but only on the condition that Isabelle successfully completes a given task in the game world.

The aim of such a scheme is to infuse the game-world instantiated, goal-directed actions of a player such as Isabelle with a level of seriousness so as to provoke in Isabelle an awareness that the wellbeing of the recipient to whom the donation would be delivered is affected by the ability of Isabelle to successfully complete the game objective, thus ensuring that the corporate donor matches the initial contribution of MCL.

One hundred dollars is after all, only just enough to pay for about half of a one-hundred dollar laptop.


22) Serious Game worlds as contextual snapshot… how do you see the medium evolving to support the rise of ‘ubiquitous transparency?’

i.e. an ‘embedded’ game developer directing the attention of economically-empowered populations to disaster, genocide, in a manner which parallels the rising integrity and pervasiveness of blogs, social networks, user-curated news services.

Could a game developer create through a micropayment scheme incorporated into the design of his or her serious game, a massively-distributed, global demand for the deployment of an ad hoc mercenary force to counter human-rights abuses in some far away land?


23) Passive mulitplayer games: If experience points are now assigned for the cumulative success of a player in searching out their environment, recruiting knowledge and assistance of players from within their own networks, memorization of the locations of sought-after resources, as well as contributing their accumulated resources to a task requiring coordinated communication and action, then is it possible for these methods of knowledge broadcast and expertise-building to contribute to the betterment of a community beyond the game?

How do you envision these underlying goal-directed game world behaviours moving beyond the medium?

Are there organizations that might find the serious games medium as a tool for recruitment? (Richard Thomas)


24) How do we mimic soap-opera subtexts by translating their cultural codes into an interactive medium? (i.e. that an uncontestable right to opt for the use of contraceptives should be accorded to and secured for women)

Are serious games an appropriate medium for the communication of issues that affect our health and quality of life deeply and often irrevocably?


25) Learning to play fair: using the serious games medium as an ethics, morality, asymmetric rights systems model. How and where do you envision this medium being used as a modeling and experimentation environment to teach about social and economic inequity?


26) Role modeling; how might the serious games medium supplant or support the conventional ‘debate’ model used in pedagogy, by enabling a student to accommodate the rights of others, as well as to assess the viability of decisions that affect if not detract from the rights accorded to others… this model would be most applicable in the pedagogic practice which stimulates student’s thinking about such issues as abortion, gun control, honouring of First Nations land-claims, among others.


27) Randomness + Chance (Isabelle Rousset)


28) Games Literacy: how must pedagogy adapt its methods and foci in acknowledgment of the increasing “attentional space” occupied by digital game artifacts / systems?


29) Simulation Literacy

• Low Resolution: How do your aesthetics, iconographic tendencies affect the manner in which you communicate the issues the games deal with?

Are aesthetics ever a limiting factor (in that its more difficult to faithfully depict the ‘look’ or style of a genre or era, by the repurposing of obsolete aesthetics, interactive modalities?


30) Biofeedback, ADHD: How do you see serious games being developed into therapeutic tools?


31) Sociophilosophical Attributes of Serious Games:

How do you see the medium contributing to people’s life perspectives in a developmental capacity? Might serious games assist in the divestment of unessential fears, the questioning of once-important conceits, the establishment of psychical equilibrium… How do you see the medium maturing so as to
provide a frame to our dreams and aspirations, in order build upon our natural predispositions to nostalgia?

How might serious games provide a platform through which we might confront our demons?

If I were say, a sociopath, what sort of work would go into the design of serious game that would help me deal with some of my issues?


32) Display: how do serious games interact within the space of conveyance between the display and the beholder? Might the serious games medium obsolesce display technologies, and place greater emphasis on embodied experience? If so, how might serious games contribute to efforts of such groups as the Nature Conservancy (United States) to direct the player’s attention to the decline in biodiversity as evinced in certain areas of the Northwestern United States?


33) If the game medium is growing stagnant (as indicated by the introduction of user-generated game development tools such as XNA Express) in what unanticipated ways might corporate game entities learn from the narrative content and aesthetic modalities bodied forth by practitioners in serious games?


34) DARPA: based on applied research in NBIC and cognitive interfaces (i.e. Near-Infrared spectroscopy which measures subcutaneous blood flow in the brain, to infer cognitive, motor-sensory, decision-making and emotional responses to external stimuli) how might there occur a hybridization of Serious Games and Interfaces facilitating their use through triggering events situated in perception, as opposed to operation upon a control interface by the user?


35) Games Literacy > serious literacy < Critical Literacy

In the space in between these disciplines, how might one impart a transformative effect through the introduction of one into another…

What is the serious games equivalent of an academic paper, or, what would scholarly research appear as, were it transfigured into a serious games medium? …

In what way might a serious game supplement the essay medium, by the same token, what might the essay medium (textual) introduce into the serious game medium with the intent of creating alternative methods of discourse, usability, and aesthetics?


36) The Future of Industrial Civilization + Innovating through the Game:

How does a company, academic research organization etc. get to where its going (or discover the path that it should have been following all along) through the application of a serious game to a modeling task?

Are such cognitive tools as brainstorming, prototyping, scenario writing, sketching for user experience inadequate to the task of reforming the way that our society produces energy, wealth, and long-term economic security?


37) Analogical Transformation:

Can serious games teach us to embrace vulnerability, and to accept the finitude of life, love, and prosperity?



Anonymous's picture

On Incompleteness...

Friends at the Beal Institute,
I have crafted a response to question 6, Incompleteness, on my blog. I provide the permalink below. Unfortunately I suffer from heavy comment spam at my blog, and not enough time to police said spam. My aplogies in advance for cutting off that means of response.


Anonymous's picture

Thank you for your kind attention!

Thank you to the members of the Beal Institute community for your kind attention to my ramblings. I will attempt to address some of your questions posed in this post in an organic order on my blog http://www.sudor.net/blog

Rafael Fajardo

mark_outhwaite's picture

I did learn


thank you once again for sitting in with us and taking the time to direct our attention to some of your past readings into a few of the philosophical and psychological issues we had asked about. We're in crunch mode right about now, working on publications but we will make every effort to stay the course and learn to whatever extent we can about the process of creating and developing games. Needless to say, these learnings will be approached with the intent of fielding heavy content, in whichever of the digital / material / semiotic forms we opt for. Your own approach is as brilliant as it is empathic, and I did learn critical lessons concerning the agency creative workers tend towards neglecting in their outputs. Thank you for your time, attention and instruction.

mark_outhwaite's picture

Post-Lecture Rafael Fajardo - What I didn't know I didn't know

. With a game it is possible to

'Teach through play, learn by building the artifact to be played with.'

Console Horizon; Proprietor Discipline: games instantiate through the patterns through which the nervous system acts upon an interface, that a 'world seen as series of targets offers up within its solutions space the option of solving it through one's depressing a trigger. What is important now is that a serious game offers the potentiality to confound what we’ve come to expect from the games medium.

If by science we fielded a power locked in matter during the first ten seconds of existence, by our machine-borne ‘realities’ might we divine the events precipitating the last ten seconds of its existence?

In the observed dynamic of incremental innovation (wrought by the prestigious masters of it’s practice in one American business school,) mastery of informatics and secret frequencies determines the extent to which one can position themselves as an asset to the companies to whom the growth and future viability of the game culture is attributed. Proprietorship of code and development platforms isn’t the only front upon which advances must be sought after, but the mindshare of men and women whose collective attention and capacities for empathy are diverted by the proprietorship of cultural production, and it is this overabundance that’s making some of us sick, with leaving a decrementing remainder of us who aren’t terribly distracted by its glowing, warm, warming, glowing stimuli.

But innovation isn’t a thing to which we’re headed. It’s where we are.
It is the trophism of a nervous system probing its adjacent possible, licking up and down a wall in the dark until its tongue discovers the specificities of texture, hardness and taste describing the form of an electrical socket.

Innovation should furnish alternative potentialities, tethering itself to the implacable effect of curiosity to probe the lachrymal rhythms tracing the contours of lifeworlds where animals (other selves like ourselves) spend their days dying.

If this is true, and that consumers have been unwitting participants in the growth of a medium of expression whose real social and emotional potentialities remain largely uncharted, to what extent have the earliest video game generations provided a human testbed for experimentation with a mind- and body-altering technology?

Following action outside: in light of the United States’ Nature Conservancy study, (corroborated by separate research of Richard Louv) should we think of simulation worlds as being artifacts that only prove their true social worth, were their structure (aesthetics) and organization (simulating behaviours and ‘trophisms’ analogous to those of biota) pushed further so as to elicit an altered response in the player to the wellbeing of the lifeworld in which they themselves operate?

How might a simulation world ever obligate a human being to care for the wellbeing of his or her environment? Will simulation worlds, however well-meaning in their social and emotional foci, only ever get in the way of efforts to ensure that human beings accord their immediate environment the respect and reverence it deserves?

How much does what was just said have to do with the fact that the video game medium is one whose content is carried through by audio visual display? Could our video games remain as similarly interactive and thereby compelling if their interactivity were enacted via projection?

“given a sufficient variegation in sources from which “anecdotal” evidence is compiled, one begins to accrue something that begins to look like data.”

-a respondent whose identify remains unaccounted for,
issuing a comment on a recent Globe and Mail article.

Christ. (AKA Liquid Chris H.) and Richard Louv may be onto something along the lines of the non-potentiation through which the current generation of console games have enacted their play, through an activity-space operated upon via input.

Is there a more means more efficacious, or more deserving of our time and attention, for absorbing the outputs of a human body other than by the placement of a planet beneath its feet?

Anonymous's picture

kewl list

nice work compadres... I look forward to the discussion...

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