Serious games are getting more and more popular. They are a source of education, motivation and I have had the chance to work on one already. My project was about getting people to change their minds of nuclear energy in favor of Sustainable energy. I am pretty sure that it will get much more importance and will have a bigger impact on the world, especially with the rise of VR.
But first, let's define serious games!
Have you ever wondered how playing games can help us to train people, deal with societal challenges or raise awareness of contemporary social issues? This is exactly what serious gaming is about:
A game designed for any purpose rather than entertainment. Serious games are considered useful to those who wish to use simulation for training and education e.g., flight simulations. They also make use of games engines, a good platform for development and play.
That is where the "serious" expression comes from: education, persuasion, motivation or whatever is other than entertainment.
It is quite hard to imagine them for some people, because games are usually seen as "fun". Thing is that, they can be both at the same time. However, in this case, being fun is not the most important thing for the game to have.
A study made in 2012 by the Serious Games Association showed some really interesting results for the future of this industry :
Now that we have covered a bit about serious games (currently developing one), one idea came to my mind not a long time ago, and I will start working on it just after publishing Shapion on mobile. Here, I will give a quick overview of it and the reason why it can be amazing to develop it, without going too much into details.
What if life-lessons are not meant to be said, but to be experienced? An introduction to motivational games
Today, Youtube possesses more than 300 motivational videos with up to 35 million views , and this number is increasing daily. Watching motivational videos is becoming a well-known advice in order to help people overcome failures, loss of motivation and social difficulties. They are a strong tool in helping humans achieve their highest potential, accomplish more than expected, and visualize success.
Moreover, most of the well received speeches are the ones about past failures. For instance, Steve Job’s speech at Stanford University (2005) is considered as one of the best speeches ever made. Another example is J.K. Rowling’s speech at Harvard Commencement (2008).
What if we enhanced this motivation by making people live these videos as experiences instead of just being a simple Youtube viewer? What if games can foster learning life lessons?
In this section, I will be presenting motivational games as a new type of serious games. The informations highlighted in the first part of this paper will guide serious games to a great design, a great user experience allowing players to be truly satisfied.
But first, let’s talk about what current entertainment games teach us about life. Needless to say, some videos games currently possess life-lessons, explicit or not, that the play can extract to use it daily. Here are some of the example:
Embrace failure and never give up
"Game Over" never means game over. It means press start and try again. A gamer’s video game history is plagued with failure. So many missed leaps, bad timing, and shots to the head. This doesn't mean he gives up, though. Failing in a game just sets him up for success in the future.
In life, like in video games, if you take a path with no enemy, it means you took the wrong one
When confronted to different paths, usually in games including adventure, a player knows midway though the taken path whether he took the correct one by looking at the number of enemies coming in his way. By making an analogy with life, one can understand how it relates to the path we take in terms of career or even relationships.
One last example that is deeper, emotionally appealing to humans is Journey. In this multiple awards-winning PlayStation game , the player controls a creature in a beautifully crafted desert with one goal: go to the top of the mountain. The studio stated their interpretation of the meaning life with this game. It is in the title, and it is there until the end of the game. The meaning of life is to never truly know the meaning. All that matters is the Journey you make to discover it.
From the beginning of the game you have no idea where you are or what your reason for even being there is. You are basically a newborn, and you are about to enter a beautifully mysterious world, much like the lives we live.
Then your creature travels on, learning more about itself, and its culture, and the history behind it. Much like a child. Then at sunset you discover true beauty. You surf over waves of sand that might as well be water. The analogy could be made with your first steps into the world as a young adult. You seek adventure and find things you have never seen before. Then darkness falls, and your delve into the underbelly of Journey's world. It is a dark and scary place down there. Just like the challenges of adult hood. Then you surface and enter the cold unrelenting wind. It blows you backward, but you continue on. This is much like the hindrances of old age. Then you reach the brink of death. There is no beauty, just hopelessness, but you are given a second chance to complete your quest. It's almost like surviving a heart attack.
Then peacefully, on your own terms, you walk slowly into the light accepting your fate. As a player, you never knew for sure what your true purpose in life was, but you're at peace with that. Because you have seen such amazing beauties that you do not need a sentence to describe your true meaning.
The meaning behind Journey is that there is beauty in life, in triumph, in fear, and in death. You just have to slow down and realize it.
My point through these examples is that the meaning of life and life-lessons are not meant to be said only, but they have to be experienced.
In the first two examples, those lessons were taught un-directly. What if we design these motivational games to teach them directly?
The example of Journey can be used as a reference. In their website, the studio that developed Journey called thatgamecompany explicitly stated the following: we design and develop artistically crafted, broadly accessible video games that push the boundaries of interactive entertainment. We respect our players and want to contribute meaningful, enriching experiences that touch and inspire them. 
Journey is a 45-min game that won multiple awards including best PS3 game and came in front of the AAA games such as FIFA, Call of Duty, Assassin's creed and so on.
If a 45-min game explaining the meaning of life made this impact, what if we adapt Paulo Coelho's "Manual of Warrior of Light" or "Like a Flowing River" into 2D games with a length of 5-10min ?
For those who have read these books, we all know that reading them when feeling bad (pressure, depression, failure..) creates such an amazing feeling that makes us feel alive again, and those are only words.
Experiencing it would make it much much better.
I am confident that this type of games has a huge potential with VR, and it is time to start building them from now.
Ahmed Ahres, 19.