A Look Inside Serious Games

March 10, 2010 -

Our man Dan Rosenthal is at the Game Developers Conference and filed this report from a lecture he attended last night:

The Serious Games Summit at GDC closed out its first day with a sobering presentation from Allan McCullough and Parry Aftab entitled "Violence Prevention -- Playing A Video Game Can Make A Difference." Sponsored by the Child Safety Research and Innovation Center, the session explained that while games often get criticized as being too violent, the games industry can actually work to lessen the real-world effects of violence and abuse against children through serious games.

"The game industry has been demonized as promoting violence. It's a popular scapegoat. But games are not the problem, they are the solution to the violence against children problems identified here today." said McCullough.

The session focused on two games: Sydney Safe-Seeker and the Incredible Journey Home, which aims to teach children about abduction and predation from strangers; and Alex Wonder in the Case of the Bully in the Machine, which focuses on cyberbullying.  The games themselves feature rich Flash graphics that immediately bring to mind cartoons and seem like they'd fit right into a 6-11 year old audience.

However there is a deceptive amount of depth and research packed into the bubbly graphics.  Each scene features "years of evidence-based research on behavioral change" and the Sydney Safe-Seeker game provides scores and research to parents several common ploys from child predators that their children might be susceptible to, and additionally tracks their progress as they learn safe habits. The game also provides talking points for the parents and guides on how to discuss safety with children.

The story is bolstered by sobering statistics—for instance, when discussing the Alex Wonder game, Aftab and McCullough note that 85% of a group of 40,000 middle schoolers claimed to have been cyberbullied at least once. The attacks are likely to start as early as the 2nd or 3rd grade, and have resulted in over 30 suicides and at least one homicide committed by a 12 year old girl in Japan.

The most fascinating part of the story is McCullough's explanation of why we're only getting this game now. Back in 2001, McCullough was in negotiations with Ronald McDonald Houses for a large contract and massive nationwide distribution of the game in schools.  At a critical presentation to a group of hundreds of subject matter experts from the child-safety industry, McCullough was repeatedly interrupted, causing the experts to walk out. The date was 9/11, the interruptions were notifications of the terrorist attacks, and the experts were members of the FBI, Secret Service, and other law enforcement groups.  After the attacks, funding for the project moved elsewhere and the game had to be shelved.

Sydney Safe-Seeker and Alex Wonder aim to be the first in a line of serious games aimed at violence prevention. Unintentionally, it also has the effect of firing a shot across the bow of the anti-game violence crowd, sending the message "Look how wrong you are about what games can do." For that, we all owe McCullough and Aftab our thanks.


 
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Matthew Wilsonubisoft is made to look worse now. wiiu smash is 1080p 60fps lol10/23/2014 - 5:02pm
MonteYou would think that, if GG were really about journalistic ethics, their streams would be more conerned with Shadows of mordor(a REAL controversy involing a major publisher) than with the FALSE jounralistic controversy around Quinn10/23/2014 - 4:49pm
Andrew EisenHope so.10/23/2014 - 4:45pm
Matthew Wilson@ae they may not be able to fix the capture card issue, but hopefuly they can fix the frame rate issue10/23/2014 - 4:31pm
james_fudgeso IDK10/23/2014 - 4:27pm
james_fudgeGuys I sat through a GG stream for two hours. All they talked about was ZQ. We said we were on GJP in the chat and they didn't care.10/23/2014 - 4:27pm
Andrew EisenHopefully I can find some more time.10/23/2014 - 4:26pm
Andrew EisenI'm pretty much out of time to troubleshoot this too. I won't be home until very late and the stream's Saturday.10/23/2014 - 4:19pm
Andrew EisenI guess not, although I did ask and they confirmed that they're not yet supporting my capture hardware.10/23/2014 - 4:18pm
Matthew Wilsonit wouldnt hurt to ask though10/23/2014 - 4:17pm
Andrew EisenThe problem doesn't seem to be OBS specifically, I can't get anything to work.10/23/2014 - 4:16pm
Matthew Wilsonobs has a support irc if you want help10/23/2014 - 4:15pm
Andrew EisenWhat gets me is this worked fine last year. Same PC, same capture hardware, same broadcaster.10/23/2014 - 3:58pm
Andrew EisenWish I knew where the problem was so I could fix it.10/23/2014 - 3:55pm
Andrew EisenMaybe the fact that TWC throttles my upload speed to 1 Mbps is why I've been having so much difficulty live streaming. Then again, the podcast works fine.10/23/2014 - 3:52pm
PHX Corp@Neo_DrKefka @quiknkold agreed, I think everyone needs to just STFU and play Video Games. If the behavior(between #GG and #SGG2014) continues, it's going to eventually affect the Videogame industry negatively(Lost Sales, etc.)10/23/2014 - 3:50pm
Neo_DrKefkaIn a #GamerGate Stream https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nd-BahVyFYQ they are too busy talking about Brianna's Wu appearance rather than her actions. Oh god our movement has become less and less about solutions and how can we can resolve these problems.10/23/2014 - 3:28pm
quiknkoldThese people are Arms Dealers selling weapons to both sides of this war, and I feel the only way anything will change is if everybody just stops. CTFO and play games.10/23/2014 - 3:28pm
quiknkoldI'm not specifically Targeting the Gamergate people on this. But There is one or two sick Freaks out there who get their jollys on this, and they are fueled by the war they are making worse.10/23/2014 - 3:27pm
prh99How much longer can the charade continue, the extremists have driven out the majority of people that thought it was about ethics. All that's left are the hooligans.10/23/2014 - 3:25pm
 

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