Playing for Keeps

Playing for Keeps
Serious Games

Chris Oltyan | 30 Jan 2007 11:03
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But Seriously, Who Would Make These Games?
Large defense contractors aside, some game companies have been involved in serious games for decades. BreakAway is a notable example of a game company with strong roots in government contracts. With multi-million dollar deals in the serious games side that dwarf their traditional game budgets, it's not hard to see why it's an important part of their company.

It is easy to find issue with some practices in the videogame industry, and a company with a focus in serious games can address many of these complaints with ease. Want your work to be meaningful to the world? Why not help train people to better save lives and treat diseases. Companies like Virtual Heroes are using this angle, combined with a focus on quality of life issues, to attract some top videogame industry talent to the Serious Side.

Today, some of the most popular games on the market can be considered "serious games." With a focus on training your mind, Brain Age has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that a game can have goals other than entertainment and still be a commercial success.

Once upon a time, game companies paid to use recognizable trademarks in their games. Now, advertisers' monetary contributions are an important part of many game budgets. There's nothing subtle about some of the more recent forays of advertising into games. Games are being used as a powerful medium for communicating brand images and political ideas to the world.

Corporations are even getting in on the action. We are a demographic that, if in front of the TV, is more likely to be playing a game than watching a show, and the aging corporate hierarchy has finally realized this. After a decade of trying to reach out to the best and brightest college grads and losing over and over again to younger, sexier companies, they have finally realized that ours is a generation weaned on games. Corporate recruitment is now becoming the focus of these behemoths as they struggle to find the talent they need to grow and beat the competition, and they are turning to games to do it.

While serious games may have begun life as mods to existing game engines, they have grown to become incredible areas of collaboration with academia and playgrounds for experimental game design. The tables have turned. As we struggle in our sequel-driven, licensed-based market, if we want to continue to be serious about fun, we should all take a hard look at what serious games are doing today.

After years of serving as a liaison between giant squids and their hated bio-luminescent jellyfish neighbors, Chris Oltyan emerged from the watery depths to work at 1st Playable Productions, where he is currently the Production Coordinator.

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