Science and Technology Innovation Program
Serious Games Day
The following four games were reviewed and discussed at the event:
America's Army: The Official U.S. Army Game
This game, developed by the U.S. Department of Defense, allows young Americans to explore Army career opportunities within an entertaining virtual setting that is tailored to their interests. America's Army is designed to leverage features of both attribute building games (such as SimCity or The SIMS) and first person perspective games (such as Delta Force and Counter Strike) so that young Americans can explore soldiering in a persistent and progressive environment that both entertains and informs. Whereas Army web efforts such as GoArmy.com are designed to lower young Americans' search costs in locating information about Army career opportunities, the America's Army game is designed to substantially lower young American's information acquisition costs by conveying such career information within an engaging virtual environment.
Space Station: SIM
Created by GRS Games, through a Space Act Agreement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Space Station: SIMputs the player in the middle of the action at NASA! Imagine The Sims® aboard The International Space Station (ISS) with Astronaut characters (Pilots, Mission Specialists and Scientists) each with their own unique abilities and personalities. Combine that with entertaining game play based on resource management like Civilization® and a true 3-D ISS construction set similar to Roller Coaster Tycoon®.
Rated E by the ESRB, Space Station: SIM will appeal to a wide range of ages and both sexes. Stealth Training encourages free discovery of the science and psychology of life in space and players can select various levels of difficulty to customize their game play experience. For more info see: http://www.grsgames.com
Incident Commander is a computer game that models critical public safety situations and highlights school safety. It was developed by BreakAway, Ltd. Of Maryland as part of a public-private partnership working with the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research and development agency of the U.S. Department of Justice, along with NIJ's National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center-Northwest (NLECTC-NW, operated by Chenega Technology Service Corp.).
The game will model situations that include acts of terrorism, school hostage crises, and natural disasters. This game is intended to assist incident commanders and other public safety personnel to train and plan for how they might respond to a critical incident. This product will allow public safety agencies to download or add maps of their jurisdiction to enhance the realism of the training. The software will be sophisticated enough to allow public safety agencies to run in real-time actual crisis management.
NIJ will distribute the game free of charge to more than 30,000 public Safety agencies (City, County and State), making this valuable level of sophisticated training available and affordable. The long-term goal is to create an Incident Commander community website to provide additional services, updates and scenarios.
An interactive budget simulation for the Fiscal Year 2004 budget crisis in Massachusetts, MassBalance was originally conceived by State Senator Richard T. Moore (D - Uxbridge) and designed and implemented by the Worcester Polytechnic Institute Game Development Club.
The game simulates a budget shortfall of approximately $3.2 billion, and is designed to teach players of the complexities of balancing the state budget. To date, the game has received well over 1.5 million hits, over 20 related news stories, 5 radio interviews, and 3 television spots. You can try your hand at balancing the budget at: www.playmassbalance.com
"Each of these games represents a fascinating story evolving at the intersection of public policy and technology," said David Rejeski, the Director of the Wilson Center's Foresight and Governance Project. "Computer games may be one of the most effective ways we have to reach a new generation of young people and interest them in the challenges of public service."
State Senator Richard T. Moore commented that, "These types of games give people a better understanding of the complexities of public policy and provide a new tool to increase civic engagement. The educational uses for a public policy or budgeting game, both for students and for the general public, are significant."
MassBalance developer Michael Gesner, President and CEO of Dragonfly Game Design, joined Senator Moore. He added that, "We designed MassBalance to challenge people's conceptions about what a video game is. Games do not have to be violent to be fun, and educational games do not have to be boring."
America's Army began as an idea for a recruitment tool and has grown into one of the most successful games in the world. America's Army has over 2.3 million registered players who have completed over 30 millions hours of game play since America's Army launched on July 4th, 2002. Colonel Casey Wardynski, who conceived America's Army and leads the Army's Game Project, finds that, "government and industry have barely scratched the surface with regard to the potential presented by games as a vehicle for learning and exploration. Due to their capacity to impart extremely rich and engaging experiences they allow us to separate our experiences from the limits of the physical world."
Bill Mueller, GRS Games President commented that, "We hope to instill in game-playing young adults, a new sense of pride and ownership in NASA."
BreakAway CEO, Doug Whatley noted that, "Smaller cities and counties around the country have been limited in the tools that can help them prepare for emergencies. NIJ and BreakAway Games are working to provide the over 30,000 public safety agencies at city, county, and state levels with a game that will improve communication and coordination of their agencies and first responders."
The keynote speaker at the workshop, Bruce Shelly, designer with Ensemble Studios/Microsoft Game Studios, has worked on some of the most successful games on the market, including Railroad Tycoon, Civilization, and Age of Empires. He shared his vision of where computer gaming is heading over the next five years.