Serious games, games for change, and games for social good are a broad genre of entertainment that connect a serious purpose to knowledge and technologies from the video game industry. These games offer an opportunity to embed a model of an existing or imagined reality in the form a system and its interaction, with the purpose of examining how players influence the model's state over time and also how the model influences a player's cognitive and behavioural state. They offer a great opportunity for participatory modelling and can also be used for crowd-sourcing the collection of information about citizen mental models and stakeholder behaviour. Agent-based models can be used in serious games to produce a more believable and immersive virtual environment for players to interact within, typically leading to emergent gameplay, complex virtual ecosystems, and moral dilemmas that require the player to make decisions that affect multiple agents with potentially conflicting outcomes. That is, the players are actively participating in creating the future within the game and should be relating their strategic choices to the environments they create.
This project is an initial step towards exploring potential sustainable futures and the transitions towards them from current socio-economic practices. More specifically, this topic is to be explored through a combination of systems modelling and game design, incorporating models of transition into “serious games” to both engage the wider community with the issue in an entertaining manner, and to collectively discover and validate potential scenarios for transitioning to a sustainable future through player interaction, as well as improve our understanding of players’ motives and preferences.
Funded by UTS Faculty of Engineering and IT Blue Sky Scheme (2017).
Ideas for student projects
- Game design and development for behavioural change – There are many topics to which serious games and gamification techniques can be applied to change players’ behaviours or encourage them to think critically about their beliefs and actions. This can also be achieved through various forms of analogue and digital gameplay mediums. Thus, the challenge of these projects becomes finding a message to convey through gameplay, designing a game to for the desired medium that subtly but effectively communicates that message while remaining entertaining, and rigorous playtesting of the resulting game to ensure that the desired ideas are being communicated.
- Technologies for persuasive serious games – Specific technologies such as intelligent virtual agents, mixed reality devices, and immersive graphics can greatly increase a player’s engagement with a game and a sense of presence within the virtual world. A project in this domain would involve examining how one or more of these technologies affect the persuasive objectives of serious games and gamification.