By Dolly Rairigh Glass
It’s been a very quick nine years since the Serious Games Showcase & Challenge debuted. In those years it has not only grown into the premier venue for recognition of excellence in the field of Serious Games development, but a popular part of the annual Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference.
This year’s 19 finalist games cover a variety of subjects, ranging from cyber security to geography to military medical training to hurricane preparedness, but what the evaluators believe they all have in common is the ability to get and hold the attention of their player, and have them achieve a goal or objective through the play of the game.
“Serious Games attempt to blend the best of motivational, immersive and enjoyable content from traditional entertainment games with some of the best learning theory of today to deliver highly effective and engaging education to all ages,” explains Stu Armstrong, CTO, QinetiQ Training and Simulation Inc., the SGS&C Team Lead.
“One thing that truly impresses me is the range of games that we see in the competition – games targeting a wide range of school ages all the way to trained medical professionals. The great thing about games is that everyone can relate to them – they draw on our desire to play and tell stories and this turns out to be a fantastic way of engaging students in the learning content.”
One of the most impressive attributes of the SGS&C is the number of businesses and organizations who return year after year to enter their games for the opportunity to be named as a finalist and attend I/ITSEC to showcase their game to attendees from all over the world.
David Martz, vice president for Muzzy Lane Software, said this is their fourth year to enter SGS&C. “I met Kent Gritton and Curtis Conkey at the Games for Health Conference, and was impressed with their vision and the Showcase’s growing presence,” Martz said. “They both liked the types of games we were developing at Muzzy Lane Software for healthcare, education and training, and encouraged us to enter in 2010. The rest is history.”
Muzzy Lane Software entered their first game in 2010 and has been a finalist every year since then. They won the Business Category that first year for their game Practice Marketing; won first place for the Special Emphasis Adaptive Force category for Practice Government; and in 2013 they won first place in the inaugural year of the Students’ Choice award for their math game, Algeburst. This year, they have two finalists in the competition: The Underground Railroad: Journey to Freedom, developed for National Geographic Education and Hungry Birds for Digital Glass.
“It’s terrific working with the SGS&C staff and organizers,” Martz said. “They are professional and responsive, and committed to advancing the field of Serious Games. And the structure of the SGS&C program is amazing. It’s the only awards recognition program that we regularly participate in where the logistics and the participation are really painless.”
“What sets this program apart is the SGS&C Pavilion,” Martz said. “As finalists, we are able to arrive at I/ITSEC to find our game set up and running on a PC or tablet, in a high quality booth with professional signage. We really value and appreciate this set up and the opportunity to participate at I/ITSEC in a convenient format.”
Scott Brewster is co-founder & managing partner of Triad Interactive Media, Inc.,
and they return this year as a finalist for their game Far Plane – Beyond Boundaries. Triad Interactive first heard about SGS&C through grant program officers at the Department of Education and National Science Foundation. They entered last year for the first time and were chosen as a finalist for their math-based training program, PlatinuMath.
“Our organization feels privileged to be a part of the competition,” Brewster said. “The Serious Games Showcase & Challenge is well known in the EdTech industry, and receiving one of these awards is prestigious. Also, being a part of I/ITSEC has tremendous potential for helping companies network with other industry stakeholders and make beneficial business connections.”
“I think the nominees and winners are certainly on the forefront of new and exciting game-based technologies that might have the potential to impact the I/ITSEC community,” Brewster said. “Being a part of the Challenge gives us and the rest of the finalists a chance to share new technologies and spread the word about their great potential.”
Martz also agrees about the finalists. “Each year, I am more impressed with the growing quality and breadth of the finalists I see in the I/ITSEC Pavilion,” he said. “I think the very fact that the Challenge is experiencing higher and higher quality entrants is testament to the program’s impact. Their professionalism and support are definitely raising the bar for the Serious Games industry.”
Bora Aytun, Co-Founder and CEO of MAVI Interactive, participated in SGS&C in 2009, after seeing a SGS&C finalist badge featured on a vendor’s website. “I immediately wanted to enter our first product into the running,” he said. “It was our very first competition!”
That year, MAVI Interactive’s first Serious Game was a finalist, and since then, their games have been selected as finalists in each of the years they have participated: 2011, 2012 and this year (2014) for their game, Info Sentinel – Travel Security.
“Serious Games Showcase & Challenge is simply the most engaged Serious Games event I’m aware of,” Aytun said. “What I mean by ‘engaged’ is that its organizers don’t just evaluate submissions, they integrate a diverse group of people and organizations in their missions to support Serious Games.”
“In addition, the finalists attend I/ITSEC for four days to showcase their game as part of the SGS&C booth, and it is a great chance to network with hundreds of interested visits,” Aytun added. “I’m especially excited about the Students’ Choice Awards!”
Aytun believes the work that Serious Games developers are doing is impacting the world of training. “Serious games developers are the fearless pioneers that provide a glimpse of a future where all training is done based on natural learning principles,” Aytun said. “Their work will be the driving force in shifting the current education paradigm into the 21st century.”
And for game developers who are contemplating entering the SGS&C? “I see no barriers to entry,” Aytun said. “If you have a game-based training solution you simply must send it in. SGS&C is the best event in the USA!”