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Serious gaming may change the face of education

Developer: Fun games will be dwarfed by educational 'serious games.' He asks: 'Will we still call it gaming?'
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Written by ZDNet Editors on

The line between entertainment and education gest blurrier all the time. That was clearly the case during the two-day Serious Games Summit in Arlington, Va., which featured video games on subjects such as gerrymandering, medical education and military operations, reports USA Today.

"You read about science in a book and it is boring, but if you do something scientific in a game, it can be fun," says Ben Sawyer, co-director of the Serious Games Initiative (seriousgames.org), which held its first summit two years ago.

3-D games are being developed not just for home use but for academia and business, as well. For example, the Redistricting Game, being developed at USC's Annenberg Center for Communications, deals with the repercussions of tinkering with political boundaries. There is a "Virtual Astronaut" game that allows up to 32 players to cooperate on space missions, and the HumanSim game, which tests medical diagnostic skills

"Games can be incredibly motivating," says Henry Jenkins, director of comparative studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a speaker at the summit.

Although serious games make up a small portion of the $10 billion video game industry, some estimate that they may soon make up 10% of industry revenues.

At Breakaway Games, founder Doug Whatley is even more bullish. Breakaway is set to begin testing its Pulse!! The Virtual Clinical Learning Lab at Yale University School of Medicine and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Its MOSBE (Modeling or Simulation by Everyone) real-time strategy game is being used by military and defense contractors.

Whatley says entertainment games will be dwarfed by serious games. "Will it still be called gaming? I'm not sure. But it will still be the things that we do."

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