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News  15, Jul 2012

My thoughts on the serious games scene in Singapore

The third annual Serious Games Conference was held last in week in Singapore and it was a real pleasure to speak at the event. The event was well attended by a variety of speakers and industry representatives from across the globe and local Singapore developers.

Designers, developers and domain experts shared their experience, current developments and where they believe serious games are heading. Presentations were made by representatives from companies such as Crytek (South Korea), Digitalmill (US), Eduwealth (Singapore)Littleloud Studios (UK), MOH Holdings (Singapore)National Institute Education (Singapore)Playware Studios (Singapore), Ranj Serious Games (Netherlands), Rockmoon Pte Ltd (Singapore), Serious Games International (UK) and yours truly from Hummingbird Interactive.

Day One Panel (L-R): Michael Bas (Ranj Serious Games), Tim Luft (Serious Games International UK), Dr Koh Noi Keng (NIE), Natalie Marinho (Hummingbird Interactive), Jun Magata (Rockmoon). (Image courtesy of Asia Events)

Education, e-learning and training were popular topics as always, however there was a particular interest in serious games applications for health. Several speakers including Ben Sawyer (co-founder of Serious Games Initiative and DigitalMill who also recently spoke at Games for Health 2012 US) and a representative from MOH Holdings both noted that the health sector is experiencing a major paradigm shift.

Instead of focusing primarily on treatment and disease management, health care providers are looking towards prevention and a more holistic approach to health and wellness. Some surprising statistics mentioned included the fact that the percentage of Singapore residents with diabetes aged between 18 and 69 years old has increased from 8.2% in year 2004 to 11.3% in year 2010 (National Registry of Diseases Office, 2011).

Obviously there is huge potential for serious games to contribute to behavioural and attitude change with regard to awareness and prevention of chronic disease such as obesity and diabetes, as well as in the area of mental health.

A participatory exercise during Dr Koh's presentation on finance-related games, "Serious Games as a Powerful Pedagogical Tool for Learning". (Image courtesy of Asia Events)

A participatory exercise during Dr Koh's presentation on finance-related games, "Serious Games as a Powerful Pedagogical Tool for Learning". (Image courtesy of Asia Events)

Gamification was also hot topic mentioned in several presentations besides my own. It was encouraging to hear that other delegates believe there are potential applications beyond points, badges and leader boards that are most common at this point in time. After describing the current landscape of gamification and its relationship with serious games, I enjoyed some very healthy and enjoyable debate during the networking drinks!

However, I strongly believe the future of such games lies in encouraging real world action and participation. Specifically, integrating the game world with the physical world through alternate reality games and rapidly evolving technology in the mobile and augmented reality spheres.

It was energising to meet with so many passionate designers and developers working in the area of serious games and I look forward to more exciting projects being launched out of Singapore in the near future.

Natalie is co-founder of Hummingbird Interactive, a Singapore-based gamification and motivational design consultancy. She blogs at www.recognitionpattern.com

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