By Dolly Rairigh Glass

Team-Orlando-SGS&C2014-wJust over one year ago, the 2014 Serious Games Showcase & Challenge was coming to a close and another successful year was being celebrated. Across the board, 2014 was a year for continued improvement: game quality; sponsorships; Students’ Choice; and the shift of the special emphasis award.

“One of the great indicators for our team was to see the growth in the quality of the games submitted by student and government developers, and how the quality of those games now equaled the games produced by industry,” said Kent Gritton, SGS&C co-founder.

In the sponsorship area, 2014 was a record year. AutoDesk, a longtime supporter of the SGS&C, further strengthened their commitment to SGS&C, signing on as the first single award sponsor in SGS&C history. As part of their sponsorship package, AutoDesk provided the student category winner with a $150,000 prize package.

“As an all-volunteer organization, we are very fortunate to have had the support of many sponsors throughout our ten years,” said Jenn McNamara from BreakAway, 2013 IPT chair and current sponsorship chair. “And although our sponsors are varied on the type of support they provide, they all have an important role in our success.Some provide monetary funding, like AutoDesk, who is the overall award sponsor for 2015.

“But others, like HP and Box.com provide in-kind needs like computers, mobile devices and even file storage. Finally, we would be remiss not to mention how many organizations allow for the involvement of their employees to participate on the IPT. This includes those organizations that support their employees as IPT lead, like this year’s lead, Lisa Holt from Intelligent Automation.”

With a nation focused on the important areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), continued growth in Students’ Choice continues to be a high priority. Last year, 12 of 18 finalists qualified to be considered for the Students’ Choice Award.

“The quality of the games were generating so much excitement for the students and the teachers involved that the schools requested if SGS&C would consider making some of the games available for the full school year,” Gritton said. “Having that level of support is very encouraging and it helps us gain credibility with other school districts that have an interest in participating.”

In 2011, Serious Games Showcase & Challenge added the Special Emphasis Award to challenge entries to use their game to address a serious challenge or problem using a prescribed technology or technique, and that area was Adaptive Force Training until 2014. Last year, the emphasis changed to Social Media Networking and games that use social media crowdsourcing as a multi-player opportunity for peer learning and distributed problem-solving.

“Last year we changed to this focus because of the large use of social media and the opportunity it has to create learner engagement, reflection and action,” said Gritton. “The idea is to use social media to scale gameplay to include large groups of people, all contributing to individual and collective learning experiences. We know this is an area that is a little less familiar for our developers to work in, but we feel it has exciting potential and we’re looking forward to seeing how it expands in the future.”

2014 SGS&C At-A-Glance

IPT Chair – Stu Armstrong (QinetiQ)
Deputy Chair – Leslie DuBow (PEO STRI/VHA SimLEARN)

Best Serious Business Game: Info Sentinel – Travel Security by MAVI Interactive
Best Serious Student Game: Cyber Heist by University of Utah
Best Serious Government Game: Strike Group Defender by Office of Naval Research
Best Mobile Game: Eagle Eye by U.S. PdM Ground Maneuver
Special Emphasis Award/Use of Social Media Winner: Nanocrafter by University of Washington Center for Game Science
Students’ Choice Winner: The Underground Railroad by Muzzy Lane Software and National Geographic Foundation
People’s Choice Winner: Eagle Eye by U.S. PdM Ground Manuever