Even though the term ‘serious game’ or ‘applied game’ stands for a fairly small percentage of the available computer games in our time, this doesn’t meant that this term cannot be divided further. There are quite a few different ‘types’ that the category serious games can be divided into. While it is in fact easy to divide serious games into more than 10 types or purposes they are used for; most of these types will fall once again under at least one of three overlaying purposes. These three purposes that most digital serious games are aimed for are: education, persuasion and health.
Education is usually the category that first comes to mind when people talk about serious games. Learning something while playing is many times easier than it is to learn the same thing in more ‘serious’ conditions. That there are games that help the player learn specific things while the player still has fun sounds very positive to the target audience and it has a lot of advantages. Games have been crawling into institutionalised settings for quite a while and their accessibility is therefore very important.
Types of serious games that fall under education include:
- Edutainment (games with the purpose of both education and entertainment)
- Game-based Learning (games with a defined learning outcome)
- Organisational-dynamic games and Simulation games (aiming for the player to gain experience in exercising certain skills)
Partially falling under this category would also be Unbiased News games. Those games can also be called educational for they pursue not an ‘opinion on what happened’ but tend to stick to facts for the player to learn. But then again, it is always hard to tell if any ‘news’ can be purely without a point of view and thus games like this are hard to call purely educational.
Persuasion isn’t often thought of by most people when they think about games as a medium, as opposed to the written word and more visual media. When talking about persuasion in media the TV for example is very visible. Still, for a player it can be the most persuasive thing not to hear/read all the reasons why they should think something or take a certain action. Instead, being guided towards finding the conclusion yourself is far appealing. Furthermore games can provide the experience that guides someone towards making a certain conclusion and as such can be an interesting medium for people who seek to convince others. Types of games meant to persuade include:
- Persuasive games
- Adver games (used for advertising)
- Art Games (games used to express artistic ideas or to present art)
- News Games (though again, the unbiased ones can be debated about whether they fit in this category)
Games that are made in order to help people heal. The existence of these games are one of the most important reasons why the accessibility of games for people with disabilities has become something that should really be seen as an urgent matter. People with disabilities can after all become ill or wounded as easily (or even easier) as the rest of the population.
These days, with our many movement sensors and VR harnesses, there are for example games that can help patients with physical therapy by making the often painful actions that the patient has to repeat into a game. A similar game format can also be used when exercising and following a training regime when the player is healthy. There are games meant to help with physical pain, mainly by distraction. And then there are games to help people with specific psychological issues that have already proven their effectiveness. Most of the health problems that these games were made to assist with can just as easily occur in someone with a pre-existing disability as in someone without.
Types of games meant for health include;
- Games for health (this category actually counts for the majority of what was mentioned, even games meant to help with psychological issues)
- Exergames (games meant to help the player exercise)
Of course, these categories are not absolute. They are simply the easiest way to divide the serious games we mainly play today. There are games out there of which the purpose fit none of the above. Like, for example, an occult game of which the maker actually believes they help with the exorcizing of spirits. There are also game types that have a foot in multiple categories or for which the category depends on the individual game. Edumarket games for example are games both meant to educate and to convince the player of something (most likely to buy something).
Of Productivity Games and Games With a Purpose, both game types through which the player is supposed to achieve something in the real world, what category these types would fall under would be mainly decided by what the player is supposed to achieve.
Serious games in the future
Although serious games seem like a small genre, it is directed towards many purposes in many ways and there are many different kinds of games that fall under the term. Also, there is room for growth. Who knows which types of ‘serious games’ have yet to appear.