Serious Games Identity Crisis in Social Awareness Domains

Digital games as medium for conveying a message is facing similar challenges to those already addressed by cinema or theatre, but with a new extremely relevant element, it is the fastest growing medium with a global widespread presence. This presents innumerous opportunities and challenges for serious games with a social message.

For the past two years, we at SIG 3.6, have been exploring the current achievements and possibilities of serious games in the domains of Personal and Social Learning an Ethics.

During this period we listed more than 40 games. We are cataloguing the games following our own taxonomy that includes 4 different categories that spread into 33 distinct sub-categories. It has been fun and rewarding to get in touch with so many concrete contributions from a very large number of stakeholders that aim at completing people’s skills and making the world a better place.

The categories of soft skills along with the social awareness games are beyond any doubt the ones that have been more explored by the community. Almost everyday a new web based application is launched addressing either a social relevant issues or promising to increase the user ability to solve problems or take analytical decisions.

In the particular category of social awareness, we experience that social awareness stakeholders such as non-governmental organizations, human rights associations or civic movements are extremely aware of the dissemination power of the digital media. At the same time, political parties and movements with clear political agendas are also aware of this potential. They are not just using the web for disseminating content, but also for engaging support. This is where serious games may face an identity crisis.

Is the use of serious games for clear propaganda compliant with the learning goals of a serious game, or are these examples of games with a serious thematic?

In SIG 3.6 we have been taking a debatable approach of valuing games where the player is free to take his decisions and live its consequences, over examples where the player is placed in a position where he is forced to experience the consequences that better support an attached message.

An underlying question at this point is to know if the player is given enough information to build a supported opinion over the theme or if he is just being manipulated into the perspective of the game developers. Of course this is debatable. Of course we can not clearly say whether the info provided is enough or not.

This is why we keep an open question: is a propaganda game a serious game?

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