UPDATE: This topic was the subject of the keynote address to the recent Serious Games Summit:
As a specific concept, serious games have been drifting around the design sphere since at least the turn of the millennium. Yet for all the hype, and all of the yearly GDC conferences on the subject, the theory has had some trouble gaining traction as more than an academic or industrial curiosity.See also here, which has a link to the slides Sawyer and Smith presented (here). None of this directly addresses political-military gaming, free-form gaming, or any non-computer-based gaming at all, but the questions and problems raised are relevant.
According to Ben Sawyer of Digitalmill and Peter Smith of the University of Central Florida, some of the problem in the serious games movement is a general haziness as to exactly what serious games are, and are for.
Sawyer and Smith observe that the traditional view of serious games is vague exactly because of its specificity. “Often when we see people talk about serious games, we see them talking about them in a sort of narrow way,” Peter Smith mused.
Yet, at the same time, “Everyone has their own name for what serious games should be called. When they’re using these terms, they’re still talking about serious games… It’s not that these words are wrong. It’s just, they’re trying to categorize things. And there’s nothing categorical about any of these names.”