Sunday, February 24, 2008

Terminological issues in a related field

As I have noted before here and here, political-military gaming of the type I try to talk about in this blog suffers from serious terminological issues. Meaningful keywords for searches can be hard to come by, and the different vocabularies used by various groups mean that it can be tough to find the right way to describe a particular exercise or discuss a specific aspect of gaming. This post on the Learning Circuits Blog has a nice discussion of the similar problem faced by the "serious games" field.

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.

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.”
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.

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