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By Dolly Rairigh Glass

Two successful Serious Games Showcase & Challenge events in 2006 and 2007 led to more discovery and understanding about what was really going to make this event sustain itself. In preparation for the 2008 SGS&C, continued refinements were made to ensure the Challenge’s longevity.

In the beginning years, the IPT worked diligently to accomplish a level playing field within industry. They initially focused on the “mythical garage gamer” but that didn’t seem to be a big part of their current participants. The garage gamers were definitely out there, but the majority of the time, they were producing entertainment games – not Serious Games.

And as the IPT members were exposed to more of the Serious Games industry, they learned that most independent Serious Game developers were contracted to provide a specific game teaching a specific subject.

Another perspective they considered was that the entertainment game model of using their own resources to build a game, and later on, market it, was not wholly applicable to the Serious Games market.

Initially the business category was divided into large and small businesses, but as the years progressed, SGS&C did not have a lot of entries from large businesses, and with that knowledge, the IPT decided that the large business category was no longer necessary to keep the Challenge “fair.”

What they created, which still is the make up today, are development categories: Government, industry (no matter the size of the business), and students.

Another focus of the IPT in 2008 was creating a marketing subcommittee to help determine a plan to get the word out about the Challenge. They became evangelists for the SGS&C, attending any conference they could to be able to share the story of SGS&C and encourage participation.

“We attended the Game Developers Conference and would walk the floor the entire time, visiting every game design school, looking to meet their teachers and leave them our flyers about the value of the SGS&C,” said Kent Gritton, co-founder and current Executive Committee member for SGS&C. “We evangelized Serious Games Showcase & Challenge every opportunity that we could.”

Another step the committee took to build its outreach to students was to scour the nation’s universities looking for those who housed programs in Serious Games or game development design. They compiled points of contacts, then reached out to those folks to talk about SGS&C, and encourage their participation.

Simultaneously with their reach to the schools, they were searching for and following gaming blogs, as well as looking for websites that were potential partners in helping to share the Serious Games Showcase & Challenge opportunity. “It was really a grassroots effort,” Gritton said.

Gritton added that games blogger, Eliane Alhadeff was also a key person in helping SGS&C gain ground. “We met Eliane at a medical Serious Gaming conference, visited with her and quickly developed a rapport,” he said. “We invited her to be one of our evaluators, and when she saw the quality games that were coming through the Challenge, she was very interested in helping us to continue to get the word out and advocate for what we were doing.”

Alhadeff had a broad understanding of not only Serious Games, but also the international gaming market, and that proved to be a great help for the IPT as they continued to search for leads to promote SGS&C.

But the most impressive piece about the SGS&C IPT is the dedicated volunteers. Since the beginning, it has been driven and grown by a group of volunteers who started with a common passion and saw an important future with Serious Games and its use in training.

To prepare for that stronger future, during the 2008 year, the IPT also focused on improving the group organization and management. It was time to work on diversifying the group a bit while growing.

Those who were currently carrying the torch needed to recruit and empower others who could take on some of the responsibilities and take ownership of SGS&C. One day, maybe one year, maybe two, or maybe at the 10 year anniversary, those they had prepared would be willing to accept the torch when it was passed to them.

2008 Serious Games & Showcase Challenge At-A-Glance

Best Game: BurnCenter by 360Ed
People’s Choice: Canadian Forces Direct Action by the Canadian Armed Forces’ Army Learning Support Center
Best Government Game: Geo Commander by U.S. Navy SPAWAR Systems Command, Program Executive Office
Best Student Game: Age of Ecology by Alexander Wein and Carl Jackson
Best Small Business Game: BurnCenter by 360Ed