Serious game design refers to utilizing game design for education, activism, and the like. Games designed to teach players about history, or to get them to exercise (under the guise of, say, a video game), for example. The telecommunications department at Michigan State University (where I’m working on a master’s degree in history) offers a graduate certificate in serious game design, which I’ve been interested in for a while now.
Because, much to my surprise, I was offered a teaching assistantship for this (my last) semester in the history department, I suddenly have the money (and more importantly, the tuition waiver) to be able to afford the three courses required for the certificate. Two are offered this fall, “Theories of Games and Interaction for Design,” and “Understanding Users,” and one in the spring, “Foundations of Serious Games.”
I’m excited about these classes, partly because coursework where I learn more about designing games just sounds awesome, but also because I’m confident that these courses will make me a better game designer. As should be clear from the Mission Statement and People sections of the website, I’m pretty dedicated to making my games inclusive, and I have some activist and education interests of my own. At this point, I’m not sure what kind of “serious” games I’ll be making, although I do know that my games will embrace my feminist and anti-racist ideals in their art, at least, and that my games will be designed to be as inclusive as possible to players of different abilities.
With my training in history, I would like to make some historical games in the future; games that either present history accurately, or use a fictionalized past to introduce players to broad (or narrow) historical concepts. Part of serious games is making “edutainment” actually entertaining, and not simply strong-arming people into learning with a “game” that isn’t fun or particularly game like. At this point, I’m content to use the courses to learn as much as I can about game design, and make my games the best that they can be, regardless of how strong an educational or activist theme they might have.