A while ago, the Dutch historian and philosopher Johan Huizinga mentioned that ‘playing’ cannot be serious at all. He thought that playing games were explicit for fun because it was a cultural activity for leisure and social relationships. The whole idea of games being serious was thought to be absurd. But what’s the situation now, where serious games are being more and more integrated into society? Can serious games be fun and helpful?
First of all, serious games can train specific skills. They are designed to present a way of learning a new skill or to provide a daily training program to improve skills. Either way, serious games are not intended to be merely fun, but they have another more serious goal. In education, children play serious games to learn about a variety of things like the natural environment, history, topography and mathematics. It became part of the regular learning system and will eventually get a bigger part. But adults also play serious games to train and improve specific skills. Training with serious games can positively affect performances at work.
This, of course, does not mean that serious games can’t be fun at all. In fact, serious games need at least some sort of fun element to keep players motivated. Game scholars believe that entertainment is essential for serious games in order to keep the games interesting for the players. The brain games on BrainGymmer, for instance, are both fun and serious. This is because the gameplay is appealing, the levels are getting more challenging and the game mechanics are simple. This is what makes a game ‘fun’. On the other hand, the brain games on BrainGymmer interactively challenge the player to keep on brain training. After playing, BrainGymmer provides the player with his/her training results in systematic diagrams and tables, which give the player useful feedback (did I improve or not?). This is what makes a brain game ‘serious’.
Do not underestimate the power of serious games in today’s society. Not only are serious games more and more common in everyday life, but they also have the power to train people in an interactive way. You are actually doing something, instead of passively reading a book or watching a documentary. For example, brain training research from 2010 showed remarkable results. It turned out that preschool children who had to play brain training games in class every day for 20 minutes showed more self-esteem than children who did not play these games. Plus the children who played the games improved significantly in their computational tasks. This means serious games like brain training games do have a positive effect on learning and completing tasks. This way, people at work can also profit from brain training games. They can improve cognitive skills like concentration and decision making which are essential at work to get good results.
Serious games are also being used in the marketing strategies of companies, often understood as ‘advergames’. These games try to convince the player of a certain idea (buy my product) or philosophy (McDonald's is not environmentally friendly). This means serious games are not only useful for training specific skills. They can also send a (political) message to the player, often with the help of fun gameplay.
So, in the end, we can say that both fun and seriousness are two aspects that can effectively act together in serious games. These games are powerful because they are being used in many different branches, and in many different ways with different meanings behind it. Our BrainGymmer brain games, for example, are specifically designed to train your grey matter. This is specifically designed as brain training. Be serious, but have fun with BrainGymmer!
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