Game Developers Emphasize Importance of Meaningful Game Design

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Industry conferences highlight intentional game design and games with purpose

Hundreds of game developers, researchers, educators, media companies and game enthusiasts met last month at the first annual Serious Play conference in Redmond, WA to discuss the increasing prevalence of “serious games." Serious games are designed for the purpose to educate, inspire or to solve specific problems — for corporate and military training, healthcare, education and consumer markets.

As gamification and serious games for education, training, and social change continue to gain traction, developers and industry experts emphasized the importance of intentional game design to reflect positive values and meaningful gameplay.

“Technical advancements in the gaming space alongside an increasingly fractured social structure are creating a heightened awareness of video games as an ethical sandbox,” said Chris Skaggs, CTO and founder of Soma Games and a speaker at the Serious Play conference. “Games provide a unique medium to represent societal values like cooperation, trust or even sacrifice and consequence. As developers, we have an unprecedented opportunity – and responsibility – to reflect values through intentional game design.”

Gamification, the application of game design techniques in non-game settings, is on the rise. According to M2 Research, a media and entertainment research firm, corporate spending on gamification projects will grow to as much as $2.8 billion by 2016 from $100 million this year. Industry analyst firm Gartner predicts that more than 70 percent of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application by 2014.

Games Investor Consulting’s director Rick Gibson writes in a recent blog post for Develop Magazine, “This vibrant new sub-sector of [gamification] would not exist without the disciplined genius of designers.” Gibson adds, “Games designers, who are fundamentally tutors as well as entertainers, could yet play an even more central role in our culture.”

Chris Skaggs continues, “Games can motivate players to become better corporate and social citizens, share and enhance existing skill sets and acquire new ones. Games allow us to experiment with different behavioral strategies in a risk-free environment. We’re already witnessing a marked desire for meaningful play by consumers, and as organizations turn to gamification for employee training, customer loyalty and even marketing, we as developers need to recalibrate design theory toward purpose and think about the values the games project.”

This week, hundreds of decision-makers in the games industry gather for the NY Games Conference to discuss the future of gaming and connected entertainment. Gamification is among the topics to discuss. Additionally, Michigan State University will host the Meaningful Play 2012 Conference at its campus on October 18-20, 2012. The conference brings scholars and industry professionals together to discuss game theory, research and game design innovations that can improve upon games to entertain, inform, educate and persuade in meaningful ways.

Related info and more information:
Info about the Serious Play conference at

Info about NY Games Conference at

Info about Meaningful Play Conference at

Info about Soma Games at


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Terri Nopp
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