Not Just Fun and Games

A “serious game” developed by Alion Science and Technology puts players inside virtual operating rooms to teach proper communication skills as it guides players through real-world surgery scenarios.

Learning to fight death has become a game—literally. The Office of Naval Research has been funding several gaming initiatives to help improve training and education through simulation and modeling, particularly in the field of medicine.

It is working, says Ray Perez of the office’s Cognitive Science of Learning Program. “[Serious] games motivate players to keep on playing but also give them appropriate practice and give them feedback,” he offers. “That’s the magic sauce.”

So-called “serious” games are being developed as training tools. Because they look and act like video games, they can be as entertaining as they are educational and can change the way people learn. That is why, experts say, they appeal to a wide segment of the population and are used in a number of industries to improve a range of skills, from damage control on a Navy ship to emergency management and communication techniques.