Viewing entries tagged
Serious Games

       The importance of characters in games    Social learning theory focuses on the importance of observation and modelling as a key part in the learning process alongside classical and operant conditioning.  Social learning was illustrated by one of my favourite experiments by Banduras Bobo Doll experiment in 1961. Modelling is taking on board the behaviours which we observe from people around us. In society, we are surrounded by role models, who illustrate both positive and negative behaviours. For children this modelling is an essential part of their development, helping to mould them into the person they are to become. It is also important for adults as well. We see it all the time in the world of fashion, make-up and celebrity, but also in the world of business. Many people model the behaviour of Richard Branson for example, hoping to emulate his success to one degree or another.  Social learning experienced a big boom several years ago on the back of the success of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter – social learning became a buzz word, but it has had a stuttering start due to a ‘build it and they will come’ mentality. So many social platforms just never reached the tipping point required to make them worthwhile from a user’s perspective.  However social learning means more than just an online community where people talk about work and learning and can ‘like’ or ‘vote up’ comments. ‘Social’ as an interaction mechanism actually feeds into the reward loop for our behaviours and our brains love it. Our brains are social by nature, society has enabled humans to dominate the planet and by adding a social element to learning, we can magnify the effects of behaviour change.  Matt Lieberman, a prominent psychologist, found that we assess new information on how important it is to others who are important to us (such as our family or our team) and not just ourselves. This process enhances the opportunity for making new neurological connections in our brains – more connections mean a stronger memory. The area of the brain that is activated in social contexts (the medial prefrontal cortex) is not normally associated with forming new memories in relation to technical skills but if you combine a social element you create the opportunity to create stronger connections between concepts and ideas than without the social element.  We can’t always learn in a social setting with real people, but with games we don’t need to. We know that players form strong connection with game characters, especially when those characters are part of the core storyline. We really care about what happens to them. We empathise, we buy into their goals, and we find information to help them and to enrich their lives. They become part of our lives. In many of the serious games I have worked on the characters have been a central component and it has always been important for me that these characters feel real – not a 2D impression of a boss, colleague or customer, but a genuine and emotionally believable persona, modelled on real world experience.  If you can create a believable character, and they come to mean something to you, when you are in a learning experience the same reward loops and circuits in the brain will be triggered, and new information will be assessed in terms of these characters – our social tribe – and we will think through the impact of this information on these virtual colleagues.  This has the potential to create stronger richer connections and make learning more effective. So next time you are working on a serious game or learning programme, think about the social element, and think about how believable and realistic your characters are. It really will make a difference!

2 Comments

THE IMPORTANCE OF CHARACTERS IN GAMES

Social learning theory focuses on the importance of observation and modelling as a key part in the learning process alongside classical and operant conditioning.

Social learning was illustrated by one of my favourite experiments by Banduras Bobo Doll experiment in 1961. Modelling is taking on board the behaviours which we observe from people around us. In society, we are surrounded by role models, who illustrate both positive and negative behaviours. For children this modelling is an essential part of their development, helping to mould them into the person they are to become. It is also important for adults as well. 

2 Comments

       Serious Games awards    Here is a list of awards for serious games, its a work in progress so please contact us if you know of any more we can add - or any more detail about submission deadlines for next year's awards...   Games for Change Awards   New York, Applications Closed 2nd March  The Games for Change Awards celebrate the year's best social impact games. There are three categories; Best Gameplay, Most Significant Impact and Most Innovative. Winners are announced at the Games for Change Festival's Awards Ceremony.   Serious Play Conference Awards   Pittsburgh, Deadline for Applications 1st April, Cost $150-350   The Serious Play Conference, now in our 5th year, is a leadership conference for professionals who embrace the idea that games can revolutionize learning. Speakers, who come from all parts of the globe, share their experience creating or using games in the corporation, classroom, healthcare institution, government and military and offer tips on how to move game-based education programs ahead.    German Computer Game Awards (Serious Game Category)   Netherlands, Applications closed 31st January   In the category of Best Serious Game the best Computer Simulation (Serious Game) will be awarded from Germany. Serious Games use technologies from the computer and video game industry, for example, simulation technologies to treat serious issues in a fun way. So you use the motivational and / or entertaining game mechanics for the transfer of skills and knowledge and can be used in education and training. This category can be awarded in other sectors of the economy as an alternative successful examples of playful representation (Gamification) as well as technology transfer from the computer and video game industry. If there is such a distinction, the category is renamed in the respective year in Best Playful representation (Gamification) and Best Technology Transfer. This award is endowed with € 30,000.00.    Serious Play Awards   California, Application Deadline 14th March   The Immersive Learning Research Network (iLRN) is an international organization of developers, educators, and research professionals collaborating to develop the scientific, technical, and applied potential of immersive learning.    The eLearning Awards (Learning Technologies Award Category)   London, Application Deadline 30th September   Celebrating quality, excellence and best practice The Learning and Performance Institute hosts the annual Learning Awards to recognise outstanding examples of high standards, best practice, innovation and excellence in Learning and Development.    The Fun and Serious Game Festival Awards (Serious Game Category)   Spain, Application Deadline TBC but likely to be September 2016   The Fun & Serious Game Festival was established in 2011 to recognise the best fun and serious games of the year and, through them, the work of artists, developers, directors, producers, and all the professionals in the video game industry.    Bilbao (Spain) will be the city of video games thanks to the 5th Fun & Serious Game Festival, which is becoming a leading event in the sector in Europe.    Awards are given to the best video games in entertainment and other industries. The latter are the so-called ‘Serious Games’ using video game technologies in developments for education, health, aerospace, culture and many other sectors.    The awards are meant to debunk stereotypes about video games and give a well-deserved boost to the video game industry.    GALA Conference Awards   Italy, TBC but likely to be October 2016   The GALA Conf SG Awards wants to favor the flourishing of the SGS market by encouraging students, newcomers, amateurs developers and small studio to present their work in a friendly contest. Organized by the Serious Games Society, the awards are based on the judgment of experts of the SGS network.     The experts will evaluate the user experience and the learning effectiveness of the submitted games. Games on any application field are welcome.    Gamification World Awards   Spain, TBC but likely to be October 2016   The Gamification World Awards (GWA) will honor the most outstanding gamification projects of the year and their creators. Awarded by an international Jury, the main goal is to encourage the various agencies/promoters/companies to share their projects in the Gamification World Map. In addition, they are meant to become an annual meeting point for the gamification industry, where the best projects of the year can be recognized.    The Serious Games Showcase and Challenge   Florida, TBC but likely to be September '16   The Serious Games Showcase & Challenge is the premiere venue for recognition of excellence in the field of Serious Games development. The Challenge prides itself on helping foster creativity and innovation in Serious Games since 2006 as part of NTSA's I/ITSEC Conference held in Orlando, FL.    The Brandon Hall Group Excellence in Learning Awards (Learning and Development Category; Best Use of Games and Simulations for Learning)   Florida, Application Deadline 23rd September '16   Now entering its 21st year, the Brandon Hall Group HCM Excellence Awards Program is the most prestigious awards program in the industry.  Often times called the “Academy Awards” by Learning, Talent and Business Executives, the program was one of the first of its kind in the learning industry, which was pioneered in 1994.    The Dutch Game Awards (Serious Game Category)   Netherlands, TBC   The Dutch Game Awards are the professional awards for the Dutch and Flemish gaming industry. On 30 September they are awarded for the eighth time during the Awards Dinner.    The Tech and Learning Awards   TBC likely to be April '16   Tech & Learning's Awards of Excellence program has been recognizing outstanding ed tech products for over 30 years. With a solid reputation in the industry as a long-standing, high-quality program, the AOE recognizes both creative new offerings and significantly updated products that help educators in the business of teaching, training and managing with technology. All entries are given a rigorous test-driving by qualified educators in several rounds of judging. Products are also carefully screened by the T&L editorial team.   Evaluation criteria include the following: quality and effectiveness, ease of use, creative use of technology, and suitability for use in an educational environment.    eLearning Awards - Best Game for Learning Category   London, Application opens March '16 and closes June '16   The E-Learning Awards showcase some of the most recognisable, memorable, and life-changing e-learning worldwide.  They are internationally recognised and open to organisations of all sizes - if you offer outstanding e-learning, then you should be entering the E-Learning Awards!     Independently judged to the highest and most rigorous of standards, there is no greater recognition of your hard work and commitment to e-learning than winning an E-Learning Award.  Reaching the shortlist is really something to shout about. Winning is proof to your, clients, colleagues and rivals that you're at the top of your game – a shining example to the learning and technology world.    Elearning! Learning Champions Award    TBC, likely to be December '16   The first annual Learning! Champion Awards recognizes individuals for exceptional contributions to the industry. Nominees can be innovators, thought-leaders, trail-blazers, mentors, cutting-edge technologists, rookie of the year, creative consultants, or high performing learning leaders that positively impact the learning industry.  Nominate a client, leader or mentor for consideration.    IMGA International Mobile Gaming Awards    EU Applications closed January'16, but applications are open for the IMGA China, Application Deadline September '16   In 2004 games were made for phones with a resolution 176 x 220 pixels and they had to be below 1 MB in size. Now games are running on devices with 2,048 x 1,536 pixels and many games are heavier than 1 GB. The first IMGA had 85 entrants and it took only half a day to judge them. Now, more than 1000 entries are expected and 20 judges will begin pre-judging three weeks before the actual 2-day judging session in France.    Serious Games and Applications for Health - Papers/Demo/Workshops Submission   Florida, TBC but likely to be November'16   It is with great pleasure that we invite you to participate in the 4th International Conference on Serious Games and Applications for Health, IEEE SeGAH 2016, to be held in Orlando, at the Center for Emerging Media, University of Central Florida, from May 11-13, 2016.    Game Developers Choice Awards   San Francisco and France, TBC   The Game Developers Choice Awards are the premier accolades for peer recognition in the digital games industry. Each year, the Choice Awards recognize and celebrate the creativity, artistry and technical genius of the finest developers and games created in the last year.     VS- Games, Paper Submissions      Applications close 25th March'16    VSGames 2016 aims to continue the series’ overall goals of developing and nurturing theoretical and academic rigour in the discussion of serious games and virtual worlds.    JCSG   - Serious Games Papers Submission   Australia, Application Deadline May'16   We invite researchers, developers, practitioners, designers, writers and artists of serious games to submit their work and join us at JCSG 2016. Accepted papers are expected to present high quality material that illustrates the broad range of work in serious games and gamification, with particular interest in best practice and field / case studies, but also underlying theories, models, designs, and artwork. We seek submissions on serious games, supported on, or across, any technology and delivery platforms, including traditional or novel, augmented and virtual reality, mobile and location-based, and transmedia, etc.    IITSEC   Application Deadline November '16   To recognize the impact of individuals and teams upon not only the I/ITSEC Conference but the greater Training, Modeling and Simulation Community, a variety of awards and recognitions have been established. Each has its own method of nomination and award process, please select the specific award for details and history.     Serious Games Conf, CeBIT    TBC   Under the heading Virtual & Other Realities the 9th Serious Games Conference (SGC) focuses on Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and other digital application environments. Since 2015 the SGC also looks at Applied Interactive Technoligies (APITs) and therefore integrates the potentials for the industry 4.0. Consequently the conference approaches sociocultural as well as economic potentials in the field of Serious Games and Gamification.    

Comment

SERIOUS GAMES AWARDS

Here is a list of awards for serious games, its a work in progress so please contact us if you know of any more we can add - or any more detail about submission deadlines for next year's awards...

Comment

       Wait...games are good for you?   It seems there are new risks to our health being discovered every week. Everything is a risk, from stuttering car exhausts to the calming flicker of a candle! Our bodies are under constant attack and it us up to each of us to protect ourselves from these risks as best we can.  I can hear some of you guys sighing right now. Don’t worry, this isn’t a sermon. We are going to look at how games (yes games obviously!) can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and even aid recovery for certain ailments. Afterwards we'll take a quick look at new technologies the medical community are using to improve healthcare.  Let’s dive in.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     We all know “prevention is better than the cure”. Leading a healthy lifestyle and looking after yourself gives you the best chance at fighting any future health issues and avoiding a world of others. One aspect of a healthy lifestyle is, of course, our fitness.  According to the  Mayo Clinic  healthy adults should “ get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity… ” If you are like me and class exercising as a chore but do have a soft spot for relentless hoards of the undead, then there is a serious game for you! Introducing  Zombie Run ! This Kickstarter success story has been around for 5 years improving the health and fitness of their players regardless of their initial fitness level. Set your exercise activity, stick in some earphones and dive into a captivating Zombie epic. The compelling storyline motivates you to push yourself harder. The reward of the next chapter makes sure you are eagerly awaiting your next training session, not dreading it! It is a great way to improve your fitness.              

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


              Hand in hand with fitness is diet.  We need food to survive and everyone knows sugary, fatty or greasy foods aren’t good for you. So what is? I’ll be honest. I really wanted (and tried very hard) to find a serious game that focused on this area and was available to play. A few titles cropped up in my search ‘JiveHealth’ looks like a great game for kids. ‘Yummy tricks’ was another game that cropped up but, like JiveHealth, wasn’t available to play. If you have suggestions of serious games which promote healthy eating please drop us a line into the comment section.  Moving swiftly on we have  SuperBetter . A game designed to increase your resilience, basically game your way to a (cue Daft Punk) better, stronger, motivated and positive you. Just ten minutes a day playing SuperBetter can add years onto your life. It reduces the symptoms of anxiety and depression, cultivating your self-esteem and confidence. SuperBetter is just one of the games out there helping people take care of their emotional and physical wellbeing.      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Delving in to the more niche uses of serious games, we have  Re-Mission .  Re-Mission was mentioned previously in one of our posts but it is a serious game worth mentioning twice! Re-Mission was developed to help children diagnosed with cancer. Through gameplay it teaches kids about their cancer and the importance medicine plays in recovery. It works at changing attitudes towards chemotherapy so it becomes a positive experience. Studies showed that playing Re-Mission, patients understood more about their disease and were more compliant with their treatment.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     This is just one example where serious games are helping people on their way to recovery. There are other serious games that focus on different diseases, physical trauma and on-going health issues. Serious  Games for Health  have collated a short list of resources.  There are serious games on there that are used in rehabilitation for patients with physical difficulties,  promoting mobility in the elderly, even Tetris is listed as a treatment for lazy eye syndrome. It always amazes me the health benefits people can get from playing games!  Before starting my research I foresaw serious game mainly being utilised as a training tool for health professionals. I’m not saying I thought surgeons were practicing procedures using Surgeon Simulator! ( Comedic gore alert !) But I had the preconception that serious games would be used exclusively for professional training but I’m happy to report I was wrong. Of course there are some serious games that are used to enhance professional medical training but the majority are for your average Joe who wants to lead a healthier lifestyle, speed up their recovery or better understand any ailments they might have. It is really encouraging to see games being used this way.  I had the same preconceptions about Virtual Reality and its uses in healthcare. In my mind, doctors would be diagnosing AI patients, maybe even practicing rare procedures in Virtual Reality simulations. But there is so much more out there and it is growing in popularity. By 2018 it is estimated to be a $2.4bn industry!     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Take CPR for example. There are already games that focus on training its players to perform CPR in real life should the need arise. Games like  AED Training  and  Hands Only  heavily focus on the actual CPR methodology. I’ll be honest they are basic and a little underwhelming on the graphics and storyline but they get the job done at the end of the day. They provide an avenue for people to learn CPR and for First Aiders to keep their knowledge up-to-date. But for people who want to learn CPR where the entertainment value is important too,  Relive  is the game for you. There is a captivating storyline, comic book style graphics and a whole lot of Sci-fi thrown in for good measure. The game is free to download via Steam so everyone can learn the basics of CPR and hopefully that will prompt them to seriously consider First Aid training. There is also a virtual reality aspect to Relive. Using an Oculus Rift and a mini-VREM (Virtual Reality Enhanced Mannequin) players perform CPR on the mannequin but as if they are in the game environment.  It is such an intriguing area; I’m really looking forward to more games that use virtual reality headsets and other peripherals to bring medical and first aid training to the masses.              

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


              For some more ideas about what’s to come I fully recommend giving this article a  read . For other successes in the VR/Health sector, read how serious games are being incorporated into Stroke patients rehabilitation  here .   If any of you have food/fitness/healthcare serious games you love, please leave a comment and let us know all about them. 

Comment

WAIT...GAMES ARE GOOD FOR YOU?

It seems there are new risks to our health being discovered every week. Everything is a risk, from stuttering car exhausts to the calming flicker of a candle! Our bodies are under constant attack and it us up to each of us to protect ourselves from these risks as best we can.

I can hear some of you guys sighing right now. Don’t worry. . .

Comment

       Battle for the best leadership development    Does the thought of an away day building a raft with your colleagues leave you feeling excited or nauseous?  Does a new concept in leadership training; (a 3D multiplayer online puzzle-based game, set on a tropical island -  see video here ), float your boat or sink your sandbags?!  We compare traditional ‘outward bound’ style leadership activities with leadership development serious game “ Unlock: Leadership ”.       

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


        HITS   A change of environment, fresh air  The group bonding effect of being out of one’s comfort zone  The buzz (for those who enjoy that kind of thing!)   MISSES   Large group out of the office for a whole day or more and the opportunity cost associated with that  The dread…falling out of the raft and getting soaked - standing around in the cold  The expense  Pre-existing group dynamics still perpetuate  Lack of effectiveness – it was fun, but what did we learn?! Translating back to the day job  Need to have all participants in same physical location – travel costs  Not inclusive - and possibly divisive as less physically able people cannot participate in the same way in some activities  Efforts involved in setting up the activity including exploring the alternatives, booking in advance, arranging travel and accommodation etc      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              Inwardly feeling the Outward Bound fear  
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


             

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


        HITS   A new and unique game experience  Group bonding out of comfort zone (psychologically but not mentally)  An exciting prospect for those who are open minded about using games (increasing majority of today’s workforce)  Only one group of four needs to be away from their work at a time, although there can be multiples of four  Depending on whether the game is facilitated it can take as little as 2 hours or can be stretched to a day with supporting exercises and reflection  The fear is reduced – physical discomfort and embarrassment are no longer an issue. There may be some trepidation about the unknown, but this is positive  Expense is significantly reduced. Unlock: Leadership is priced below training days and with the absence of travel costs, and opportunity costs of time away from the office, the net cost is far more manageable – meaning it can be rolled out to a wider group of workers  The anonymity in the game, combined with the mechanic of using instant messaging to communicate levels the playing field. All voices can be heard – not just the loudest. The game has also been designed to switch roles, allowing each player their moment to step up as leader  Integrated feedback, as well as a summative report on performance, mean that the learners take away information that they can apply to their positions after the game even if it is played without any facilitation. The addition of facilitators can further enhance the learning benefit  There is no need to ship anyone anywhere. Unlock: Leadership is accessed online and can be played anywhere around the world  Consistency - not affected by surroundings, weather, participants moods   MISSES   Its more screen-time, and lacks the invigorating fresh air of an outward bound experience (*unless you take your laptop outdoors!)  Some learners might resist a computer game as a serious training medium – until they play it. The game’s been designed so that even the most extreme technophobe can pick it up intuitively      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


          And the winner is....  We think you should decide for yourself!  Contact Totem Learning  today for a free demo.    

Comment

BATTLE FOR THE BEST LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

Does the thought of an away day building a raft with your colleagues leave you feeling excited or nauseous?

Does a new concept in leadership training; (a 3D multiplayer online puzzle-based game, set on a tropical island), float your boat or sink your sandbags?!

We compare leadership development serious game “Unlock: Leadership” with traditional ‘outward bound’ style leadership activities.

Comment

       Team Totem 2016    New Year is always a time for looking forward to the year ahead – our team have been discussing what’s on their radar for 2016 and here are some highlights:                 

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


        PJ (Creative Producer)    2016 will have a heavy focus on VR and AR technologies in the gaming space. However it will be a slow growth process as unit price points, technology processing power and rendering speeds will hamper these technologies in becoming truly ubiquitous in 2016.   That’s not to say that these technologies won’t be hugely profitable for some hardware manufacturers and game developers, as early adopters will always invest in new technologies and new game IP. What will be interesting to see is, the creative use of these technologies and who and which variants of these technologies come out on top.                   

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


        Helen Routledge (Head of Design and Production)    In 2016 the trend towards understanding the real value in ‘proper’ gaming techniques and mechanics over just slapping badges and scores onto content will continue. The ‘easy’ trend of gamifying content has saturated the market place and we are seeing commissioners of content as well as learners shy away from these cheap tricks to boost short term engagement.   More and more we are hearing that gamified elearning just isn’t ‘doing it’ for learners; many elearning providers have replaced the classic next button with a dice graphic – it still performs the same function, it’s just, now it’s a fancy next button.     In terms of which areas of learning will do well in 2016 for me, I believe soft skills will continue to thrive and personally I’d love to see the area of recruitment move forward – as the possibilities of using games to evaluate possible new recruits are huge!  Also I forecast huge book sales!     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


               

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


        Stuart Jackson (Artist)    The “big thing” I’m most excited about in the year ahead is the advancements in procedural generation in games. Many of this year’s up and coming games include procedural generation, especially “ No Mans Sky ”. Having technology that pushes the boundaries of design is something I think will inspire the future of serious games!      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


                         

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


        Amy Wing (Media Production and Marketing Executive)    I’m looking forward to seeing more 360 degree videos in 2016. There have already been some interesting applications already. In 2015 we've seen examples used on news channels and film trailers. This week, Pixar are releasing their first 360 animation, which is really exciting. But the most interesting aspect is the doors this opens for documentaries. The immersive nature of 360 filming gives film makers an avenue to reach their audience in ways never before possible.  The most prominent example from 2015 is  Polar Sea 360 . This hybrid of 360 filming and traditional filming techniques explores the effects of the changing Artic environment. The focus is how this change effects the Inuit population. To date it is the best use of 360 filming I have seen. The attention to sound, the care taken to cuts, ensuring a fluid immersive experience for viewers I suspect, is just a taste of what’s to come in 2016.                                             

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


               

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


        Vicky Rose (Head of Communications)    This year it would be great to see more collaborative (crowd sourced) problem solving.  One of Nesta’s predictions for 2016 is that Universities will move on from their individualistic heritage and become challenge driven, harnessing the collective brainpower of students worldwide to solve sustainable development goals.  We’ve seen it in the gaming world: Back in 2011, players of  Foldit , an online puzzle game about protein folding solved a molecular puzzle in 3 weeks where researchers had worked on the problem for 13 years.  Cancer Research released Play to Cure™:  Genes in Space  – the world’s first free mobile game that uses the collective force of players to analyse real genetic data and help beat cancer sooner.      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     A comprehensive list of citizen science games can be found  here . Technology helps with networking individuals and games are a great way to drive engagement and increase accessibility in some of the more complex problems.                     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


        Richard Smith (MD)    I agree with PJ on VR in 2016. Oculus Rift and Windows HoloLens among many other devices are released and the API to integrate will be built in to Unity and other game engines. Gamification is about to crash in to the Gartner chasm in the Hypecycle. People are going to realise that is it not the answer to everything and has limited used in many applications such as L & D.       

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      Serious Games to rise further as a serious experiential medium, fuelled by the technology advances, the faster and greater uptake of VR and other tech and the realisation mentioned above about gamification and it’s limited suitability in l & d Experiential/immersive learning whether “virtual” or real with things like “escape games”, role play, actors etc. Making learning as real as possible is going to be a trend too.                          Tom Cutler (Developer)     CES 2016  is currently on over the next few days, which is the consumer electronics show, so some interesting new tech will probably surface over the next few days. I know that the consumer version of the oculus rift is available for  preorder  now so I also expect to see a huge surge in VR activity.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


                         

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


        Mark Pocock (Artist)    While I also agree with PJ that VR is going to the centre of attention in 2016, I would also like to point out, the strive for ever more realistic graphics is also turning a rather sharp corner. It doesn’t take a genius to compare game graphics from 10 years ago and now, to see that things have moved on significantly as it did in the decade before that and before that etc.. But in the few years or so the introduction of Physical Based Rendering (PBR), has seen visual believability step up to a whole new level.  In the background we have some fantastic shader coding that has allowed for believable specularity, reflections and global illumination across various platforms and hardware specifications.      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      In the foreground are the Artists who utilise this technology to create beautiful visuals that brings the games industry nearer to film level CGI. So my feeling is that with tools such as Substance Painter/Designer and Quixel; we will start to see more flexible artistic workflows which in some cases ignore the likes of Photoshop with more focus on the development of material/substance libraries for painting straight onto models, to create lush looking PBR textures for use in top end engines, of whom are forever improving and expanding on their usage of it to push boundaries.   In summary I believe 2016 to be the year of PBR. Companies are already trying to push graphics to the next level using this new technology.  With games such as The Order: 1886 and Assassin’s Creed: Unity already showing this off in 2015, by 2016 I would expect its usage to be more mainstream.      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


         

Comment

TEAM TOTEM 2016

New Year is always a time for looking forward to the year ahead – our team have been discussing what’s on their radar for 2016 and here are some highlights:

Comment

       Unlock: Employability: The Game       

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     There’s been a lot of talk recently about the need to address the employability skills gap; for example the  UK government has brought in changes to education inspections  from September 2015, giving a higher profile for employability skills promotion, and an independent  report by McDonalds  clarifies the challenges and draws recommendations. At Totem we’ve got our own recommendations too! But first; here’s the background:   97% of UK employers  believe  soft skills are vital  for business success, with certain soft skills (communication and team work) being considered more important than academic achievements– yet  more than half of UK workers admit to not listing soft skills  anywhere  on their CV.  McDonalds report declares that in the  next five years over half a million workers  will struggle to progress due to soft skill short comings. This is estimated to amount to a  loss of almost £923 million, a year, by 2020 and almost £1.08 billion by 2025.   This isn’t the only cost a skills gap is going to generate. Due to the shortage of workers with appropriate skills, there will be unfilled positions in companies. This shortage of workers will generate a  loss of production, costing a further £7.44 billion, per annum, by 2020 rising to £14 billion by 2025 . A huge hit to UK businesses! This outcome may not be able to be averted completely however the cost can be reduced if greater esteem is given to soft skills now.  So what are soft skills and how can we develop them?  According to the report, soft skills can be broken up into six key clusters:   Communication skills, for example: effective listening, appropriate and good use of questions, clear and concise direction  Decision Making/Problem Solving, eg. The ability to identify and analyse an issue, take effective and appropriate action, recognise effect of decision  Self-Management skills, eg. Self-motivated and proactive personality traits, loyalty, adaptability and the ability to work well under pressure  Teamwork skills, eg. Positive and encouraging attitude, accountability, willingness to share ideas and listen to others’ views, punctual  Professionalism skills, eg. Appropriate language use, trustworthy, accepting of criticism, realistic understanding of job role    Leadership skills, eg. Strategic thinking, conflict management, respect for others knowledge, recognise others strengths and weaknesses, ability to build relationships   These are the skills that need to be developed for businesses and workers to progress over the next decade. If focus is given to these skills now and our attitudes towards them change, the gap can be bridged to some extent. The huge losses in production and progress will be reduced.  One suggestion, by the report, is to make soft skills training available to employees, equipping workers with appropriate skills for the future. McDonalds showed their devotion to training, and innovative thinking, in 2006; serious games were introduced into employee training and it proved very effective. Since 2006 the serious game industry has grown and improved. They are being used in all sectors for training, growing awareness, even in the school classroom.  Shouldn’t there be a game that can offer soft skills training? Here at Totem Learning we are happy to declare that we have a modern solution to this growing problem.  Introducing, Unlock: Employability!     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


         Unlock: Employability  is a serious game for the education sector (aka game-based learning). It enables soft skill development for students through immersive, challenging game play and team work. Set on a mysterious tropical island, learners must work together to solve puzzles and be selected for their dream job.  The game must be played in teams of four – each player at their own PC. Communication is exclusively in game via an instant messaging window. This serves three purposes. The first is to train student’s communication skills, a vital soft skill for the workplace. Players will quickly learn that to succeed, they must give clear and concise direction to their team mates. The second is because it levels the playing field, those that ‘shout the loudest’ will not have the advantage. The third purpose is so all communication can be captured and assessed. Teachers can use this information to guide students on any area they struggle with and also commend them for areas they excel at.  Screens at the end of each level also provide the player with feedback on their strengths and weaknesses. The feedback screens highlight how these traits are applicable in the workplace and further ways to develop them.  Unlock: Employability is just one example of how serious games can combat real issues in the classroom, workplace, even healthcare. For further information on serious games that you can license for use in your classroom, or commission bespoke, contact the totem team today!        </iframe>" data-provider-name="YouTube"

Comment

UNLOCK: EMPLOYABILITY: THE GAME

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the need to address the employability skills gap –for example the UK government has brought in changes to education inspections from September 2015, giving a higher profile for employability skills promotion and an independent report by McDonalds clarifies the challenges and draws recommendations. At Totem we’ve got our own recommendations too! But first; here’s the background:

Comment

         Remembrance Day                         97 years ago, on the 11th of November, the most horrific war the world had ever witnessed ended.  World War I had a final death toll of 17 million people and a further 20 million wounded. It was labelled the ‘Great War’, ‘the war to end all wars’. The 11th of November was made a day of remembrance and reverence, a day to pay our respects to those who actively fought for our freedom and allowed for us to live in the comfort we enjoy today.  Nowadays this tradition is upheld on the closest Sunday to the 11th of November, Remembrance Sunday. Since 1914 an estimated  191,356,238    people have lost their lives fighting in wars around the world. Once a year we take the time to remember them, appreciate them. We show our support together, as a nation, by wearing the symbolic  red poppies .   There are many ways we can grow our appreciation for those who have gave their lives for their country. Games may not immediately jump to mind. Initially, games could be considered a disrespectful or inappropriate way to show appreciation. However, there are many games that can give a taste of the true atrocity war is; this is important to appreciate so war is never thought of trivially, as a solution or first resort.  We have carefully selected a short list of games can be used to teach about war and its' realities rather than using war as an entertainment device.         

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     The first on our list is one of the highest rated war games there is to ‘play’.   Verdun    pays great attention to detail; using authentic weaponry from World War I, even the music is typical of the era. For anyone who wants to really learn how horrific the trenches were, this is a great resource.    Making History: The Great War   launched with the National World War I Museum. This game aims to teach players the complexities of war. It is a strategy game where the player can fight to change the course of history. The game has key events that follow World War I’s path. It is best used as a tool for understanding what countries were involved in World War I and the roles each of them had.    War Thunder   doesn’t proclaim to be a teaching tool, however, it focuses its attention on the vehicles and crafts used throughout World War II. Like Verdun, they pay very close attention to detail. A good resource to learn more about the aircraft, ships, tanks and the people that operated them.  Stepping into present times and modern warfare we have   Americas Army, Proving Ground  . This game has been developed by the U.S. army as a recruitment tool. It is supposed to test whether the player is suitable to become an U.S. Army soldier, through analysing how the player works as part of a team, makes decisions, etc.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     The last on the list of games I would really like to highlight is   This War of Mine  . This game looks at war from a different point of view. The player is responsible for the lives of a small group of civilians trying to survive in a war zone. The game progression changes dependant on the player’s choices and the moral implications of those choices. In March 11bit studios released a DLC for This War of Mine, 100% of proceeds go to the charity ‘ War Child ’. Games like these, games that teach, games which draw attention to real and serious issues should be noted and appreciated. They help us learn about ourselves, test our values and educate us.  These types of games grow our appreciation for the sacrifices made. This is just a short collection of games that harness war as a teaching device rather than as an entertainment gimmick. If there are others that are worth noting, please drop us a comment.       

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
          
             
                  
             
          
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
          
             
                  
             
          
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
          
             
                  
             
          
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
          
             
                  
             
          
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


       Worth noting, the  Humble Bundle  package is supporting the  American Red Cross ,  Direct Relief  and  IGDA Foundation   this month.       

Comment

REMEMBRANCE DAY

97 years ago, on the 11th of November, the most horrific war the world had ever witnessed ended.

World War I had a final death toll of 17 million people and a further 20 million wounded. It was labelled the ‘Great War’, ‘the war to end all wars’. The 11th of November was made a day of remembrance and reverence. . .

Comment

       Do Serious games really work?    So do they?  Yes they do and we have metrics to demonstrate ‘ Return On Engagement ’!  Earlier this year Totem Learning designed and developed a game to educate business owners on greener IT practices. The game develops players’ understanding of IT issues within their company and supports them to implement better, greener practices.  A few months on, we can report that ‘Green IT’ has been a great success! The report has shown that learners finished the game with a full understanding of green IT practices. Not only was the level of learning very high, the game was so effective that it provoked a proactive attitude and action in many of the learners!            

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


           Here is just a cross section of facts and figures from the report:    92% of learners sought out more information on greener practices upon finishing the game    96% either have or are considering taking a course on energy saving business practices    23% are actively seeking assistance from local sources for implementation of these newly learnt practices, while 70% plan to in the near future    89% said they have, or would, recommend the ‘Green IT’ game to colleagues                  As for the design and enjoyment of the game:     71%  of learners found the scenarios and tasks within the game were directly applicable to their own companies.     59%  agreed the value of insights from the game were good or excellent.    And  79%  found it easy to use.   This is a brief look at the learning benefits achievable through using serious games but it is a brilliant outcome for this project and we are looking forward to sharing more great reports like this in the future! 

Comment

DO SERIOUS GAMES REALLY WORK?

Yes they do and we have metrics to demonstrate ‘Return On Engagement’!

Earlier this year Totem Learning designed and developed a game to educate business owners on greener IT practices. The game develops players’ understanding of IT issues within their company and supports them to implement better, greener practices.

Comment

       Totem's top 10 serious games    Who doesn’t love a list?!  The team here at Totem Learning have been discussing our all-time favourite Games for Learning, or Serious Games (not to be confused with Gamification). It’s a really interesting subject we want to share with you all!  It was very difficult narrowing down our favourite games to just ten. How can you compare a game like ‘Americas Army’, an army simulation game boasting prestigious awards such as “Guinness World Record for ‘Most Downloaded War Game’ 2009” and the eagerly awaited, ‘Code Spells’ which teaches Coding in an immersive magical landscape? They deal with two very different subjects and have different goals. But after lots of ‘umm’s and ‘aah’s we have collated a list together (with no real order) to share with you accompanied with the promise to explore all the genre has to offer in greater depth in the coming weeks.     Re-Mission     A third person shooter developed by HopeLab with direct input from medical staff and young cancer sufferers. It teaches children in remission about their treatments and the importance of their follow up care in a unique and informative way. It’s been a huge success! Achieving its goal with such success a sequel has even been released boasting even further successes such as winning ‘the Parents’ Choice Gold Award’.       

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


            Free Rice     An incredibly worthwhile game that everybody should play as often as they can. This game educates players on various subjects while simultaneously helping those most vulnerable.  It has accomplished so much since its release, late 2007; over 98,117,454,870 grains of rice have been donated to those in need through this simple multiple choice game.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


       Food Force    A contender for the most downloaded game in the Serious Game genre and a sequel co-developed with Konami; this game teaches the importance of food nutrition.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


       
           Nightmare: Malaria     Educating players on malaria while simultaneously working towards the end of the, completely preventable, disease; this game is challenging, both in gameplay and emotionally, with an impressively beautiful art style.       

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


          September 12th      A simple, yet profound game! Straight to the point; Shoot or Don’t. Very few games have achieved the level of impact this game has and none to our knowledge in such a short time frame. If you make the choice to ‘play’ the game you quickly realise how impulsive action only brings you further away from your goal.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


        DragonBox     Secretly teaching children Algebra! DragonBox proudly boasts teaching 83% of children the basics of algebra in under an hour of game play. What results! This game had to make the list. If you check out the reviews on the Play Store adults are raving about the game. There’s been some obvious competition between parents and children to play the app too!     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


        The Leadership Game     Shameless Promotion! Our leadership game has been used by all sorts of people in managerial professions, including Football Management teams and CEO’s. It is currently undergoing a complete upgrade with some really interesting and innovative mechanics accompanied by beautiful graphics being included in the new release.       

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


          Typing of the Dead       
        
        
        Fighting off Zombies while learning to type; an inspired combination! Lovers of the zombie genre will find endless hours of entertainment playing this touch-typing game.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


        Grace’s Diary     Gorgeous graphics, simple gameplay, abusive relationships- this game deals with this sensitive issue effectively, providing players with the necessary skills to recognise abusive relationships (whether their own or a friends') and information on how best approach the situation.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


        The Business Game     More Shameless Promotion! But we believe in our products and we know their merit so no apologies from us! This simulation game teaches great business and enterprising skills regardless of age or experience. The aim is to turn a profit and run a successful business, adjusting constantly to the market for three virtual years. Players will have to be adaptable and forward thinking to beat the game, it’s a real challenge! You can always message us for a free trial and try it for yourself; but be warned the Yellow Robin Reliant!     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     There are so many exceptional games in this innovative and ever-progressing genre; this list is just a taster! Serious Games are used to educate on so many issues it would be folly to think this list is conclusive. It is just a scratch on the surface! In the coming weeks, we will be going into the different applications Serious Games have been used for and feature the top ten of those categories.   In the meantime let us know your favourites! We would love to hear your views too, tweet us @teamtotem or use #TL10

TOTEM'S TOP 10 SERIOUS GAMES

Who doesn’t love a list!

The team here at Totem Learning have been discussing our all-time favourite Games for Learning, or Serious Games. It’s a really interesting subject we want to share with you all! 

       Is 'it' green?: Drawing and researching      
  
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
  
  
  
  
      Draw, Draw and Draw!     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


    

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


       
  
  
    You have to keep drawing! Even if it’s not going well and you find you just can't draw. Maybe you're having one of ‘those’ days. That's ok. Take a break. Leave your desk and get some fresh air. Have a bite to eat or a nice cool beer. Relax.  Then get back to your desk. Change from a pencil to a ball point pen if you have to, draw! As seen below! I believe you have to draw and draw and then some, if you are going to uncover the gem you're after.   I like using a ball point pen as it makes you focus on creation rather than refinement. I’m looking for the rough beats which I’ll get plenty of time to tweak and refine later.         

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


        Early sketches for the Data Executive    
  
  
    Here I thought I would save time. I jumped straight into illustrator without really thinking, this is what I came up with. Very mediocre, slightly lifeless icon style. The character still had comedic value but it was missing a vital ingredient. My advice is simple: Avoid doing this- work on paper and then scan it in when you are happy.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


        Back to research  I looked back at my research. I focused on some Italian characters that seemed to suit. I finally found a great celebrity to loosely base my character around and I went from there.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              Green IT. Character Design Process, Nicky Rhodes  
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


       
  
      Now we enter the refinement phase. As you can see above my sketching is a bit ropey and raw due to them still being in the working out stage. Once you are happy with your sketch idea; get feedback! Get as many people as possible to look at it and comment. I let work colleagues look through my final 6 character sketches. They would make passing statements, good and bad. Pick up on comments like: ‘I don't trust that guy’, ‘Is she a ninja?’, ‘he looks like a knight’, chances are these opinions will reflect the masses thoughts too.        

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


        If you can: adapt or, at least, consider what would happen if you turned the janitor into a knight? It can give character added dimensions. Not everyone has to like your character, just as long as they recognise what it’s supposed to represent then your job is done. Don't take offence if people say "it’s rubbish" or "that could be done better". But do question them, ask for specifics so you can refine it and adapt. Equally, be mindful and question "is their criticism founded and worth pursuing". Also wise to remember; you won’t please everyone you ask. People will see different things and want different tweaks. Don’t try to please them all. Take the ideas that resonate most with what you are trying to achieve, otherwise you’ll end up with something designed by a committee: vanilla and lifeless. 

Comment

IS 'IT' GREEN?: DRAWING AND RESEARCHING

Draw, Draw and Draw!

You have to keep drawing! Even if it’s not going well and you find you just can't draw. Maybe you're having one of ‘those’ days. . .

Comment

       Is 'it' green?: Incorporating character stereotypes            Stereotypes in the Design Process    
  
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
  
  
  
  
         

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      Always reference from real life. I restricted myself to certain nationality groups. My aim was to capture a typical Slovenian/Italian etc   face type; taking into consideration features such as eye shape, skin tone, hair colour, etc. Often determining these traits are big generalisations and not factual. But it is a good exercise to have recognisable traits in your characters. It helps people easily associate your character with the nationality, age group, occupation etc your character belongs too.   A great example of this in practice is Wallace and Gromit. Many of the characters are ‘stereotypical’ British people. They have bad teeth, a fanatical love of tea, an insatiable appetite for biscuits and a dubious taste in clothing!      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      Stereotyping traits can refer to personality, such as a love for tea and biscuits, or physical traits like bad teeth. When considering the latter it is always best to get a wide sample for inspiration, then pick out the most commonly occurring similarities. Take care to be   aware socially when creating characters. My teeth are lovely and straight, by the way, but I can’t resist a cup of tea!     
  
         

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     This is an example of my influene. I took inspiration from specific people in the limelight so the audience can easily connect with them. It’s always good to base characters on celebrities or actors, loosely. It is a great starting point. You may also find your characters become influenced by family members or work colleagues.        

Comment

IS 'IT' GREEN?: INCORPORATING CHARACTER STEREOTYPES

Always reference from real life: I restricted myself to certain nationality groups. I was aiming to capture a typical Slovenian/Italian etc face type; taking into consideration features such as eye shape, skin tone, hair colour, etc. Often determining these traits are big generalisations and not factual but it is good to have recognisable traits in your characters so people more easily associate with the nationality, age group, occupation etc your character belongs too. 

Comment

       Mind games: Totem's top 10 serious games for mental health and well-being    In  2000 , the Mental Health Foundation started ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’.  The first issue focused on was ‘Stigma’. Since then there’s been Exercise, Sleep, Anxiety and many more. This year the focus is on  Mindfulness ; a mind – body approach to wellbeing.  Did you know one in four of us will suffer from a mental illness every year, yet despite its prevalence in society there's still a stigma attached to it. The games featured aim to help understand mental illness better. There are also games featured for individual wellbeing and how to look after it.        

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


          Depression Quest     This isn't a representation of all people who suffer from depression. Devised to grow awareness of depression and empathy for sufferers.  Depression Quest  has a received a mixed reception. The game is played as a story; the player reads text then chooses a given action. Future choices become blocked off depending on previous choices made.      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Photographs feature at the top of the text. As the depression worsens static creeps into the photos. This grabbed my attention. A recent study observed that sufferers from depression experience  fuzzy thinking . The static seems to reflect that. I’ve heard there are four endings, I'm confident I can predict at least one of them. One play through proved emotionally taxing enough for me though.  Worth noting: there’s a warning to those who suffer from depression or anxiety NOT to play the game. Serious stuff!       Elude    Similar in focus to ‘Depression Quest’ with gameplay closer to Doodle Jump.  Elude  aims to show users the highs and lows a sufferer of depression experiences. The protagonist is a teenage/young adult male, statistically the highest risk demographics for suicide. The goal is to climb the trees and soar into the sky. Falling can result in a hole too big to climb out of. A simple metaphor for a complicated illness.  There is a summary of your journey that's a befitting addition to the game. How many times did you experience ‘happiness’?     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


          Nevermind    Incorporating new technology  Nevermind  is the first on the list to use biofeedback. The gameplay reacts to the player's stress levels. In a stressful situation players must calm their emotions to continue moving forward. Like all great Serious Games, the lesson learned can applied to real life scenarios, resulting in reduced stress and promoting emotional wellbeing.       

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


       This adventure horror isn't for the faint hearted. A captivating gameplay mixing harsh realities and magical fairytales. Anyone who enjoyed Alice Madness Returns is sure to appreciate the graphics and story of Nevermind!        Super Be     TTER    This is a social online game. It's designed to build up core strengths – mental, physical, emotional and social wellbeing.  Players set their ‘Epic Win’, their ultimate goal which becomes the focus. Smaller activities are also set and once completed equate to ‘power ups’ to use against ‘bad guys’ – emotional stressing events. It’s an interesting game proven to boost a player’s wellbeing and personal growth. I’m a new user to  Super Better  but so far I have found it encouraging and engaging.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


          Lumosity    Developed by neuroscientists, a huge team is involved in monitoring the effectiveness of  Lumosity . The aim is to “improve core brain abilities—and empower users to live better, brighter lives”.  The mini-games are fun and challenging. I’m playing on a limited access version but I’ve already increased my attention levels. This can be played online or on your phone.        

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              Lumosity, Fish Game  
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


         MindLight    This immersive game uses therapeutic techniques to teach children to manage their emotions. The goal is to turn on all the lights in the mansion, overcoming fears and saving Granny. The player wears a neurofeedback device which monitors specific brain waves - relaxation and focused attention. Nominated on  Games For Change  for the Most Significant Impact award this is one to watch. I'm eagerly awaiting the release of this game.   Mindlight 's graphics are gorgeously cute too!       

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


            Skip a Beat     Using your iPhone or iPod touch, this game monitors and incorporates your heart rate. There are four modes to choose from - Zen, Balance, Spicy and Master! The goal is to teach how coffee, a stressful day at work, even posture effects heart rate. This gives the player an insight into their own mind, body and general wellbeing.  This  is an upcoming area in the games industry, expect to see a lot more health games and apps like this soon!       

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


            Happify       Not a game in itself but there are minigames!  Happify  trains your brain to be healthier. Depending on personality and goals the route differs. Players can focus on all different kinds of tasks. Small positives or re-connecting with an old friend, the aim is to grow self-esteem and wellbeing. There is a Beta App or you can ‘play’ online, the choice is yours.       

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


            Flowy     This game is specifically for people with anxiety but I think anyone can benefit from playing it if they are stressed and need to relax. Tailored to the players own breathing patterns, the player must concentrate their breathing into regular smaller breaths while collecting items to complete levels.  Flowy  is still in the experimental stages but the developers have done their research. This game is going to help a lot of people!       

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


            Mindsnacks    A language learning game! Learning a second language has been proven to increase brain size. The benefits of a second language are plentiful! Obviously there is the added bonus of not ordering a lemon when you actually meant a Citroen at the car hire in a Paris airport. But learning a second language has shown to increase memory abilities, cognitive skills and individuals are generally better mentally flexible.  Mindsnacks  are a great way to start learning a second language. Whatever language you choose there are minigames which teach you vocabulary in an exciting and competitive way – challenging your brain and keeping it active!     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Now is the perfect time to start learning that second language. Next week's blog will be focused on the best games out there for learning a new language, all in time for your holidays!  There are a couple of games that are worth mentioning but didn’t make the list due to either not being released yet or no longer playable.       Guided Meditation VR    Not so much a game, but it uses gaming technology and deserves a mention. This is a virtual reality application which is due for launch alongside the consumer Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. It enables the user to be transported to a beautiful relaxing environment. Because the virtual reality headset has 360 degree visuals it is completely immersive – the user can escape to meditate in their chosen environment, even in their lunch break at work! At the moment voting is open so you can vote on locations, meditation options and more, or make suggestions of your own.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Soar – currently in development by  E-Learning Studio  s , the player is a bird in a world of grey. The object is to bring back colour to the world. The game will work with a heart monitoring device and aims to relieve stress through immersive escapism and breathing exercises.  Neuroracer – I just stumbled onto this game. It’s basically a driving game where the player has to mulit-task, working on the players cognitive, memory and multi-tasking skills. Research was undertaken with a group of individuals of all ages and there were some really positive results. The full study can be read on  Gazzaley .  I have trawled the site for recent news but short of a rumour on a mobile version being released, I haven’t been able to find anything.  Mental Illness is a real issue. A bit cliché, but if you don’t have your health, what have you got? These games deal with a variety of areas of mental health. Whether it's for creating awareness and empathy for sufferers or stimulating the brain, helping work towards a better, happier version of yourself. Appreciate life and be Mindful!  Don't forget to let us know your thoughts using the #TL10 on twitter. 

Comment

MIND GAMES: TOTEM'S TOP 10 SERIOUS GAMES FOR MENTAL HEALTH AND WELL-BEING

In 2000, the Mental Health Foundation started ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’.  The first issue focused on was ‘Stigma’. Since then there’s been Exercise, Sleep, Anxiety and many more. This year the focus is on Mindfulness; a mind – body approach to wellbeing.

Did you know one in four of us will suffer from a mental illness every year.

Comment

       Totem's top 10 serious games for UK politics    Today’s the day for the 2015 General Election! Have you all been avidly following the news? Keeping informed on the world of Politics? Polling offices close at 22:00 but as long as you are in the queue before then you can still vote – a handy fact I learned from 'Election Game', featured below!  There was no question what the theme for this week’s list would be. Politics, Government, Voting and Party Issues are all covered! Keeping it ‘close to home’ this week to ensure maximum relevance.        

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     First off and possibly the most relevant for today:  Election Game  -  Developed by Sponge UK, this short game is packed full of the do’s and don’ts of the voting procedure – from polling station opening times to unacceptable behaviour when carrying out your vote. Signing the ballot paper with kisses or making up your own political figure to vote for just won’t be accepted in this game!          

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              Verto -  informing your vote.   
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


        Verto  – A very useful app for people who are unsure who to vote for. Take the quiz and order issues in priority of importance, the app will then suggest the party that best matches with the answers given. Previously there was a ‘call to action’ button built in so users could easily register to vote; on their website they boast over 500,000 people have registered after using Verto.           

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


        MP for a Week  – This was a pretty challenging game. It goes in depth to an average week of an MP. Play as the opposition or in Government, both roles prove a challenge. Keeping public opinion and the media on your side while balancing personal and party views, will you make it a week in parliament?        

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      Ballot Bots  - A ‘10’ level puzzle game packed with facts and smatterings of questions to answer on current politics. Developed by the BBC, it can be played online or on your phone, be wary of those campaign pitfalls though!        

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      Campaign Trail  – Another game brought to you by the same group who created ‘MP for a Week’, ‘catch’ people who will vote in favour of your cause, convince those on the side-lines and avoid those in opposition. This game teaches different practices used to raise awareness while testing your reflexes.  Think you can do better than any of the parties around today? Why not try your hand at running your own country then? See how easy it is, or isn’t! As there aren’t too many non-biased ‘serious’ serious games on the market to finish of this list, delivering the promised ten, the following five games all put you in charge as decision maker.        

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      Democracy 3  – Available on Steam, this was recommended to me by a fellow Totemite. It is a very addictive game with the freedom to rule the country how you see fit. Oppress the people or bend to the population’s every whim, it is up to you! In this game you will have no one to blame but yourself for the state of the country. BONUS: it is currently on offer on Steam!        

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              Nationstate, Logo, Politics  
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


      Nation State  – The game that lets the player decide every aspect of their civilisation – the name, money (or ‘the monies’ in the ‘Land of Bored and Unmotivated’), what kind of people live there, when were they discovered, ideologies and religion and so on. I’ve only just started a civilisation but I am looking forward to growing my own personal civilisation and seeing what the Nation State community has to offer!        

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      Zeus: Master of Olympus  – A favourite of mine as a child, I recently spent hours trailing the internet to find a copy of this game! Sierra need to bring it back! There are various missions set to Greek mythology, the player builds up their city, balancing wages, taxes, imports, exports and so on. There are other cities who can be allies or rivals; using politics and careful espionage it is possible to change their views but if that sounds like too much effort, war is an option. Many hours spent playing this along with others in the series developed by Impressions Games. This is a game for people who want to run the country but not a modern country, with real issues, instead this is for the player who enjoys reacting to Poseidon attacking your little fishing village or a Hydra randomly appearing in your mine.        

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      Civili  z  ation  – Has to be mentioned! A similar but more accurately historical game than ‘Zeus’, it is rich with historical figures. There are multiple ways to win ranging from a unique space program to total domination of the world. This game series produced a generation of dedicated fans; Civilization V was released by 2K in 2010 but the community is still going strong today.        

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      Branches of Power  – Developed by Filament Games, the player explores the control different branches of government possess and the limitations attached. There are a lot of aspects to juggle while playing this game, as in real politics, less time taxing than Nation State and Democracy.  Happy voting everyone, exercise your right to vote – or don’t, as is also your right.  Not strictly all serious games in this post but they are relevant for today and hopefully you found them useful and informative. Don't forget to let us know your thoughts using the #TL10 on twitter. 

Comment

TOTEM'S TOP 10 SERIOUS GAMES FOR UK POLITICS

Today’s the day! Have you all been avidly following the news? Keeping informed? Polling offices close at 22:00 but as long as you are in the queue before then you can still vote – 

Comment

       Totem's top 10 serious games for 'Earth Day'    It was Earth Day Wednesday - Who took the Google Quiz and what did you get? Be honest! I got a ‘Woolly Mammoth’, ‘So unique, you're technically extinct. But on the bright side, scientists hope to be able to clone you some day’.  As promised we are bringing you another list collating together ten serious games out there on the market. Last week we brought you the list  Totem’s Top Ten Games for Learning , this week can you guess the theme?  It’s Environmentally Aware Games!  To kick it off we are going to start with a serious game that has a ‘Call to Action’ built in making it (almost) unavoidable to not get involved in the issue of Fracking.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


         Frackman  - Drilling under homes and fracking for gas to make a profit- at times action eat into profits but the costs to the community are a much bigger deal. The game play is limited but if you want to take a second shot at it Team Giraffe have built in a ‘Call to Action’ which sends the player to an online petition calling for the ban of fracking under homes- a hot issue at the moment with Mark Ruffalo publicly calling on the Government to ban all kinds of Fracking. Good intentions and useful links for further reading, but  What the Frack  is the game to play if you are serious about learning more on the issue. It’s very wordy but very informative and you are free to choose the outcome, good or bad.            

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


                 Rhino Raid  – I really enjoyed this one! A rhino out for revenge on the poachers who have mercilessly taken his beloved. Really captivating graphics coupled with simple but addictive gameplay.  It has entertainment value without compromising on its aim; there’s plenty of information to absorb in just a short period of play. Flint Sky Interactive have even made it really simple to find out more and donate from the game  .           

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


            Climate Defence  – Not the most captivating or motivational game, it gives the player a brief look at the real struggle of slowing down climate change.  An unbeatable game (unless you cheat), on ‘Real’ mode there is no way to win, driving home the extent of the damage done to our planet. Facts pop up offering further information on climate change and its effective but lacks depth. It is informative but if links to external related sources were incorporated it would make for a better educational experience.                

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
               Oilgarchy   
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


              Oiligarchy     – On to oil! At first glance (I thought) this game was an easy play through and hadn’t much to offer. But boy was I wrong! It is a really controversial play; weighted choices like ‘prompting a homeland attack’ or ‘declaring war on Iraq’ are easily made, your focus is on profit not people! Environmental issues: from destroying the local wildlife and villages to issues such as the harmful gases speeding up climate change are touched on too. This is a very pointed game despite its simplistic, colourful art style and the initial impression it might give.             

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


                Human Footprint Interactive    – Better to think of this as an educational tool. Found on the National Geographic site, it offers up some interesting individual information such as the amount of chickens needed to sustain your lifetime egg intake. – Fun Fact, ‘Ireland’s annual harvest supplies a lifetime of potatoes for 91,000 Americans’.  Planet Food  is very similar, awarding players badges for completing different tasks; growing awareness of the food we eat; more interactive and offering a wider range of avenues to discover, a great way to grow individual awareness.          

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


           Earth Hour    - A really sweet game with a very simple objective; ‘turn off the lights’. It was created for WWF as part of the ‘Earth Hour’ initiative which takes place globally on the last Saturday of March every year. There is a ‘Call to Action’ located below the game which gives the player more information on the effects of climate change and there is also a ‘Donate’ button for WWF.            

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
               Fraxinus - Played on Facebook   
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


            Fraxinus –Play this on Facebook and seek revenge on your friends for all those ‘Candy Crush’ and ‘Farmville’ notifications. This game is just as fun and addictive but a heck of a lot more productive! Working out the sequences and ‘stealing’ them from other players all while helping scientists (actual real-life, white coat wearing scientists) develop a cure for the Chalara fungus; a disease that has the potential to wipe-out 90-95% of Britain and Irelands Ash trees, a colossal figure when you consider Ash is the third most common tree in Britain! – If this is a cause you are passionate about then I really recommend looking into  BIFOR    and the work they are doing. For those of you who enjoy walks in the countryside and want to do your part saving the trees too,  Tree Health Survey  is an App which allows users to report issues of disease in trees to the appropriate Government Officials.            

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


              Citizen Science  – The ‘Steward’, foretold to save the local lake from becoming too polluted to swim in, time travels to gain a better understanding of the actions which resulted in the polluted lake. It is aimed at a young audience but there’s an important lesson we can all take to heart; each one of us have a role to play in building a better, more environmentally friendly world. ‘Citizen Science’ the term itself is a worldwide movement where individuals do what they can to progress the research of scientists into various environmental solutions, like the ‘Tree Health Survey’ and ‘Fraxinus’.  Zooniverse  is a huge database of Citizen Science projects with a range that caters for every interest.           

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


             Plan It Green  -        A building sim; the aim is to give an old energy sucking town a newer greener facelift. As Mayor there are a range of factors to consider when building; this game incorporates alternate energy solutions like solar powered houses, wind farms, even hydro plants! It was enjoyable and an easy play. Sim City EDU (only for teachers and students), Electro City (a more challenging play), IBM CityOne (choose to either the environmental route or a corporate route, makes for an interesting selection of players) – are just a few more titles in the building sim category with an environmentally aware aspect.             

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


                        Flower  – It’s always good to take a little time and appreciate the world around us. If everyone did this, who knows, maybe all these other issues we’ve discussed wouldn’t be issues! This game is really beautiful. It is tranquil, calming and very spiritual. Playing as the wind, flower petals are collected resulting in a whirlwind of beauty where each blade of grass moves independently! This game is gorgeous but it is more than just a simple pleasure for your senses (it has a great sound track too), it encourages a need in the player to actually go out into the real world and appreciate all it has to offer. This game is raved about by avid gamers and non-gamers alike. A nice little positive to round off a content heavy list!          There are so many games out there that focus on real issues, educating people of all age groups and motivating people into action, this is just a drop in the ocean of what’s on offer ( there’s games for that too). It is well worth the exploration and there are some real gems that provide great ways to get involved!     Here at Totem Learning, we have been busy doing our bit too!  Is IT Green , is the Serious Game which will equip players with the knowledge and skills to make their business energy efficient and save money in the process.     Nicky Rhodes our resident 3D and 2D Artist has been working diligently on this project. She has recorded her process and methods for any aspiring artists to learn from and we are delighted to announce they will be released on our blog very soon. Not to be missed by artists at any stage of their career, there’s sure to be something to learn for all – talking of which did you see Chris Chadwick’s post on  the Golden Ratio ?     Remember you can get involved on the discussion of your favourite Serious Games and candidates for future Totem Top Tens by using the hashtag #TL10 on twitter!

Comment

TOTEM'S TOP 10 SERIOUS GAMES FOR 'EARTH DAY'

The second in Totem's Top Ten Serious Games Series. This blog is all about games that address environmental issues. 

Comment

       Serious Games and gamification in Business    Recently Elearning! Magazine published an  article  on Serious Games in the corporate sector. As there were so many good points, and it is our core business at Totem Learning, I’ve taken the opportunity to reblog it here.  In summary:  The first part of the blog sets the scene and explains some of the reasons why games are so effective in the corporate sector. Points include:   Deeper engagement in the learning experience =  higher retention of knowledge and skill transfer  Games encourage failure and exploration, which better reflects the reality of work where there is normally more than one right answer  They use multiple intelligences  Learners are more actively involved and focused than when passively listening to lectures for example   In the second section the author discusses attributes of serious games and compares them to casual, entertainment games. In both you’ll find:   Backstory and story line  Game mechanics (how the game environment reacts to player actions)  Rules  Immersive graphical environment (including 2-D or 3-D graphics, sound and animation)  Challenge or competition  Risks and consequences   In the third there is a little around the cost and timescales of creating serious games. The point is made that the time and cost of creating serious games is coming down making it increasingly viable – and we agree with GameOn’s Bryan Austin when he says: “There isn’t a more effective way to really install key behaviours.”  The fourth section looks at what the future holds and we second many of the points mentioned, having created a customisable new starters’ induction game, and currently developing our exciting new off-the-shelf multiplayer leadership game. Another point we would add is that there is a real opportunity in the corporate sector as well for simulations using augmented and virtual reality. Predictions from the blog are as follows:   “An increase in the acceptance and use of game formats in more and more corporate learning venues as research evidence comes to light about what particular game types work for teaching what particular content, skills or processes.” (Kapp)  “What could create a better first impression for new employees than learning about their new employer by playing games on their smartphone?” (Austin)  “More ‘off-the-shelf’ games aimed at corporate-focused topics like leadership, negotiation, problem-solving and other skills imperative for executives and managers of today’s modern workforces.” (Kapp)  “Platforms that combine sims with other forms of learning. Learning & development departments will partner more with I.T. as full-bodied sims become the norm." (Franklin)  “More gamification: the use of elements of games to enhance learning in the classroom and online but not necessarily always the development of a full-scale game." (Kapp)  “Social learning being incorporated into new formats such as online knowledge- sharing environments — types that leverage talent in creative ways contribute to exponential rates of corporate growth.” (Franklin)  Overall, more serious games in corporate learning as the word gets around.   I’ve pasted the original blog below or you can visit it  here :            How Well-Designed Games Can Stimulate And Enhance The Learning Experience  By Jerry Roche  Serious computer games, as they are designed with the intent of improving a specific aspect of learning, are a “serious” alternative to traditional learning.  Studies over the past decade — including those conducted on business and economics students by the U.S. Department of Defence — prove that more job-transfer benefits are gained through game-enhanced learning as opposed to other modes of learning alone. Since workplace perfor mance depends on the learners’ depth of engagement during their learning experiences, the more engaging the exercise, the higher the retention of knowledge and transfer of skills to the job.  The game rewards decision-making and reasonable risk-taking; can add coaching along the way; and provides diverse experience in thinking skills themselves.  “There is a rapidly growing body of research that learning designed from the ground up as a game creates an ability to cognitively process and apply learning at a much higher level than traditionally designed training,” notes Bryan Austin of GameOn Learning. “The game itself is based around scenarios where the learners must solve problems and challenges to complete the game. The application-level practice builds the confidence to apply the learning back on the job, and also results in significantly greater retention of the learning.  Moreover, games encourage failure and exploration, according to Dr. Karl Kapp, professor, author, consultant and internationally recognized serious games champion. “In most instructional settings, he notes, “any kind of failure is deemed wrong or ‘bad,’ and learners quickly discover that only one answer is appropriate. So they only focus on one thing: getting the right answer — not necessarily learning the content. In most modern work environments, there are many ways of solving problems, dealing with obstacles and creatively finding solutions — more than one right answer.”  Serious games use multiple intelligences for learning (logical, special, linguistics, intrapersonal, kinesthetic, music); they are immersive, engaging and motivating through new technology and interactions; and the game structure is one with which the younger generations of employees are well acquainted.  ”“No matter what age," Dr. Kapp says, “learners learn best from engagement, and [they] tend to be far more involved and active in a game than they are in traditional instructional situations. We know that engaged learners learn more and are more focused than learners who are passively listening to lectures.  Serious Game Attributes  According to Tyson Greer of Ambient Insight, there are four types of simulation-based learning: physical object/ environmental; process; procedural; and situational.  Researchers Stephen M. Alessi of the University of Iowa and Stanley R. Trollip of S.R. Trollip & Associates compressed these four into two instructional strategies: learning about something (physical and process) and learning to do something (procedural and situational).  Game genre, complexity and platforms are as varied as those found in casual games. But they all share a number of traits, including:   Backstory and story line  Game mechanics (how the game environment reacts to player actions)    Rules  Immersive graphical environment (including 2-D or 3-D graphics, sound and animation)  Challenge or competition    Risks and consequences   Mary Jo Dondlinger, an assistant professor of Educational Technology at Texas A&M University-Commerce, says that a well designed game motivates players to spend extra time mastering skills. “A number of distinct design elements, such as narrative context, rules, goals, rewards, multi-sensory cues and interactivity, seem necessary to stimulate desired learning outcomes, she says.  Sharon Boller, president of Bottom-Line Performance, believes that games should avoid merely giving learners with a “click-next” experience: “Instead of telling people what they need to know, force them to find it or figure it out if they want to succeed in the game. Make succeeding in the game mirror what it takes to succeed in their jobs.”  Yet care must be taken before exposing serious games to potential learners. “[They] are most effective when the instructor first briefs the learners on what they are expected to learn during the game, the learners play the game, and then the instructor debriefs the students,” notes Dr. Kapp.  What About Time And Money?  The average cost for a custom-built adult e-learning game can range from $15,000 to $50,000 or more, depending on complexity and levels of play. Some games can be bought off the shelf and repurposed for much less.  But “the cost of custom-developed serious games is coming down, so we’ll see them in use more, especially if the learning is strategic or the audience size is large, says GameOn’s Austin. “There isn’t a more effective way to really install key behaviors.  It has been suggested that employee performance improvement is directly related to return on investment (ROI). Whether the game or simulation is part of a blended-media course or a stand-alone course, in many cases it can complement or replace existing course materials cost-effectively, taking the overall program or curriculum to a higher level and positively affecting ROI and corporate profits. Regrettably, there is no specific research data that applies to this generally accepted concept.  Time is another consideration if a certain learning initiative is on a strict deadline, because (unless you can use an off-the-shelf solution) it can take months to create a serious game that will provide the desired results. That problem is not without a solution.  “We’re working with teams that develop game-enabled learning platforms, says Austin. “These allow our clients to develop more engaging, highly-interactive learning in 10 percent of the time required to develop traditional e-learning. [That approach is] great for sales training, call centers and onboarding.”  What The Future Holds  As serious games converge with virtual worlds, enterprise learning environments will become integrated into the actual work environment. This is likely to have considerable impact on game design, as learning designers will need to concern themselves as much (if not more) with organizing and structuring the learning experience as with parsing and presenting learning content.  Here is what some respected analysts forecast:     “An increase in the acceptance and use of game formats in more and more corporate learning venues as research evidence comes to light about what particular game types work for teaching what particular content, skills or processes.” (Kapp)  “What could create a better first impression for new employees than learning about their new employer by playing games on their smartphone?” (Austin)  “More ‘off-the-shelf’ games aimed at corporate-focused topics like leadership, negotiation, problem-solving and other skills imperative for executives and managers of today’s modern workforces.” (Kapp)  “Platforms that combine sims with other forms of learning. Learning & development departments will partner more with I.T. as full-bodied sims become the norm." (Franklin)    “More gamification: the use of elements of games to enhance learning in the classroom and online but not necessarily always the development of a full-scale game." (Kapp)  “Social learning being incorporated into new formats such as online knowledge- sharing environments — types that leverage talent in creative ways contribute to exponential rates of corporate growth.” (Franklin)  Overall, more serious games in corporate learning as the word gets around.      The gamification market will reach 5.5 billion dollars by 2018, a 67% CAGR according to Markets & Markets. Are you ready?

Comment

SERIOUS GAMES AND GAMIFICATION IN BUSINESS

Recently Elearning! Magazine published an article on Serious Games in the corporate sector. As there were so many good points, and it is a subject so close to our core business at Totem Learning, I’ve taken the opportunity to reblog it here.

In summary:

The first part of the blog sets the scene and explains some of the reasons why games are so effective in the corporate sector. Points include:

Comment

       Ten reasons why you should switch to serious games

Comment

TEN REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD SWITCH TO SERIOUS GAMES

Our at a glance top 10 of why you need to switch to serious games for your learning and development. This infographic taken from a previous blog post by Helen Routledge, shows you some of the research into why games based learning has such huge and far reaching benefits for organisational training.

Comment

       Halloween Special: Scary Serious Games!     It’s Halloween and we’ve been thinking about ghouls and ghosts and the whole horror gaming genre and how that has been leveraged in the Serious Games world.   Here are a few Serious Games that sprung to mind:  Nevermind     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              Image from www.nevermindgame.com with thanks   
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


     This game which is being developed by Flying Molusk uses BioFeedback technology to detect your heart rate, so that the game dynamically responds to your fear or anxiety:  “Nevermind is a biofeedback-enhanced adventure horror game that takes you into the dark and twisted world of the subconscious.  As you explore surreal labyrinths and solve the puzzles of the mind, a biofeedback sensor will monitor how scared or stressed you become moment-to-moment. If you let your fears get the best of you, the game will become harder. If you’re able to calm yourself in the face of terror, the game will be more forgiving.  Nevermind strives to create a haunting gameplay experience that also teaches you how to be more aware of your internal responses to stressful situations. If you can learn to control your anxiety within the disturbing realm of Nevermind, just imagine what you can do when it comes to those inevitable stressful moments in the real world…” www.nevermindgame.com  See the  website  for a video and more information  Typing of the Dead     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              Image from www.thisisozone.com  
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


     In a nutshell, rather than shooting zombies in this game, players must type out words or phrases to kill them. The words or phrases which appear in a box increase in complexity as the game progresses.  Despite being a learning game, this game received huge praise for its humour and originality from mainstream critics. Here’s a  video  of the original, although further versions have been released since.  Zombies, Run!     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     This falls into the camp of health games. It is a mobile game that works with GPS.  From their website  www.zombiesrungame.com   “Zombies, Run! works anywhere and at any speed. We immerse you in an action-packed game and story mixed with your own music, whether you're jogging in a park, running along a trail, walking to work, or even running on treadmills.  And if you want a serious workout, turn on thrilling zombie chases that force you to speed up to escape the hordes!”  Here’s the  trailer  for Zombies, Run! 3:      Its known that using emotion of all kinds (even fear) can enhance the learning experience, helping to make the learning more ‘sticky’ and create those memory hooks, not to mention making the game more exciting and engaging. At Totem Learning we’ve taken inspiration from the horror game genre – for example by using certain mechanics to create a sense of claustrophobia in our game about the danger of enclosed spaces on board cargo ships (with GUI inspired by The Walking Dead!), and using paranoia and fear in a concept that we worked up for a multiplayer game that tests strengths in a variety of 21st Century skills: the Phoenix Project (for the trailer video click  here )     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              The 'Gateway' hospital in Phoenix Project  
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


     A final point that I can’t omit on the subject of scary serious games is the Uncanny Valley. Animated avatars abound for role plays and interactions in the world of serious games – but have you ever seen games in which the characters (unintentionally) look terrifying? The uncanny valley hypothesis explains this:- as a simulated human (e.g. robot or 3D computer animation)  becomes more realistic the response is that of revulsion as we notice the differences. The below chart illustrates the point and a great video by Extra Credits on what this means for games can be found  here      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


    

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              Repliee Q2 an Actroid developed by Osaka University and unveiled in 2003  
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


     If you know of other scary serious games, we'd love to hear about them @teamtotem

Comment

HALLOWEEN SPECIAL: SCARY SERIOUS GAMES!

It’s Halloween and we’ve been thinking about ghouls and ghosts and the whole horror gaming genre and how that has been leveraged in the Serious Games world.

Here are a few Serious Games that sprung to mind:

Comment

       Immersive learning for people in aid      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Last week we led a workshop on Serious Games, for  People In Aid .  Established by agencies in the humanitarian and development sector in 1995, People In Aid are a not-for-profit membership organisation, governed by its members whose experiences and HR practices help to improve organisational effectiveness within the sector.  We were grateful to PIA for their forward thinking and innovative approach in laying on a workshop that was so different to the norm. We were looking forward to exploring whether there could be any possibilities of working with any of the attendees, as although historically we have specialised in games for the corporate sector, it is a personal goal for all of us at Team Totem to develop a game for the third sector.  The attendees comprised of members from Learning and Development and our main intention was to give them a broad introduction into why games work for learning, some arguments for games ‘coming of age’ and show them a few examples so that they could be informed and have another option to consider in their toolbox.  Our attendees remained extremely open minded throughout the presentation and workshop, despite there being very few self-confessed gamers amongst them and despite raising some good points around what they considered might be barriers to their adoption of serious games. Barriers included a prohibitive cost for the smaller charities and reservations about the suitability of games for the demographic of their staff.  On the other hand, it was clear that there were areas in which simulations and serious games could add real value, for example in the areas of disaster relief management and testing for resilience in field workers, as well as externally: to raise awareness of issues and assist with fundraising.  People In Aid are evidently doing a fantastic job, together with their members in striving for and maintaining a high standard of training, but I think that some of the virtual reality solutions that we discussed provoked thought and excitement about how training could move on to the next level.  It also emerged that a game that simultaneously addressed a common training need amongst the members could be a viable collaboration – thus diminishing the cost barrier. Extending the collaboration to the corporate sector could enhance a training product by adding a real world issue as context -if this were sensitively designed.  For those that were concerned about how a game might be received by staff who are not interested in, perhaps even opposed to computer games, this is a very valid point. Usually much care is taken at the design stage to build this in so that the fact that the game is delivered via a computer becomes unimportant and the game itself – or more importantly its relevance and benefit to the learner, is the focus.  When considering games for the third sector, it is impossible not to think of game designer Jane McGonigal whose philosophy around using multiplayer gaming and its ability to harness collective intelligence for a greater good is so inspiring – her  TED  talk is worth listening to.  Jane is also on the board of directors of Games for Change, Founded in 2004, it facilitates the creation and distribution of social impact games that serve as critical tools in humanitarian and educational efforts. There are many games on the  website  that can be played free of charge and deliver high impact learning.

Comment

IMMERSIVE LEARNING FOR PEOPLE IN AID

Last week we led a workshop on Serious Games, for People In Aid.  Established by agencies in the humanitarian and development sector in 1995, PIA are a not-for-profit membership organisation, governed by its members whose experiences and HR practices help to improve organisational effectiveness within the sector.

 

Comment

       How do we measure the effect of a serious game?       

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     This post is taken with kind permission from our Lead Instructional Designer, Helen Routledge's "Curiosity Clinic", for more blogs like this  click here . Enjoy!  There are many layers of measuring the impact of a certain training approach of intervention. Typically the accepted measure of proving the worth of a programme was to look at the ROI result. The ROI or Return on Investment gives a financial baseline as to the monetary outlay vs the gained results for a company or organisation. However ROI only gives us a piece of the puzzle when looking at effectiveness.  Personally I don’t focus on ROI. I appreciate it is important to my clients, but I prefer to focus on ROE or Return on Engagement. I prefer to look at the wider organisational and personal (user level) impacts to judge effectiveness. I believe that if you engage someone in a topic, you pique their curiosity and open their eyes to new areas then they will be motivated to learn more, explore more, communicate more and this will have a ripple effect on the organisation.  When looking at engagement there are several stages we look at. And of course this very much depends on the situation at the time, how much access can we have with end users, what data we can capture etc etc but below I’ve outlined the main methodologies we use.  Observation: During play observation we can learn so much about a user’s engagement level. Examining their body language for example we can see if they are leaning in, exploring the game world, and paying attention to the information that is presented to them. By listening to the users, especially if they are playing together in a team, or discussing their actions in a debrief we can truly get an understanding of how much users have taken in. This is great evidence of self-evident assessment, which if you ask me is pure gold when trying to assess if someone has learnt something or altered an attitude or behaviour.  Replay Statistics: If you’re looking for more hard and concrete data you can look at how often users revisit your game. This data is readily available on most LMS’s and of course when we host the games ourselves we can easily access the number of times players re-attempt a scenario or module. An example of this is that we know our Business Game is played on average 4.3 times per player.  Behaviour Change: The gold standard for knowing if you have made an impact is if the end user makes a change, consciously or unconsciously to their behaviour. This may be in the form of internal requests to seek out more information on a topic or a desire to tell others what they have discovered to implementing lessons they have learnt in the game.  Formal assessment: The traditional approach to measuring the effect of a training programme is of course a formal assessment. Be it a multiple question quiz or situational judgement assessment, formal standardised testing is still popular in many courses. In games we can still build this in but we always try to approach formal assessment in a softer way. Games lend themselves naturally to situational judgement assessment, and of course we all know we can do multiple choice questions and branching tree structures.  That data can be captured as a score in the LMS or as a detailed breakdown given to the user highlighting their strengths and areas they need to focus on.  These are just a few examples of the areas we look into when evaluating the success of our products. Every client and every situation is different and we always take into account their unique environment and situation to craft an evaluation piece that is suitable. Sometimes the data is built into the game interface as a numerical score and in other instances we impart the softer consequences of choosing a particular path. The mechanics we choose depends greatly on the audience demographics, environment culture and intended outcome.  But what is important and where I want to end is to reiterate the Return on Engagement. If you want to measure training impact then look at your training as a whole. Does it offer users opportunities to explore content freely and openly, does it encourage them and does the tone of content give meaning to them as individuals as well as the business.

Comment

HOW DO WE MEASURE THE EFFECT OF A SERIOUS GAME?

There are many layers of measuring the impact of a certain training approach of intervention. Typically the accepted measure of proving the worth of a programme was to look at the ROI result. The ROI or Return on Investment gives a financial baseline as to the monetary outlay vs the gained results for a company or organisation. However ROI only gives us a piece of the puzzle when looking at effectiveness.

Comment

       The benefits of serious games     1.        They are engaging  This is probably the most common argument you might hear if you are looking into Serious Games. Everyone in the industry screams this out of the top of their lungs, but that’s because it’s true. You may think Serious Games will only appeal to the young, to the gamers, but actually cleverly designed solutions should appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds regardless of whether they have played games before or not.  And here’s why! A well-crafted Serious Game will give the user something to care about; an objective that they want to achieve. An objective that is relevant to the business or situation that user currently finds themselves in. A Serious Games designer will tap into the motivations of the user and make them central to the story.  Games also present information as nested problems, they will give the user an objective but the user has to actively get involved with the scenario to work out how to achieve the objective.  Serious Games also utilise interesting characters and reward loops to keep you pushing forward. Users will start to buy in to the scenario and become emotionally invested in seeing it through.   2.        They are a ‘safe environment’  Do most learners have a place they can go and practice their skills in a realistic environment? Unfortunately unless you are a pilot or a nuclear technician the answer will most likely be no.  Most businesses won’t have a simulated business with real people and market data just there for their staff to practice on. Serious Games can be the missing link between knowledge and practical application on the job.  Therefore Serious Games can allow users to practice the skills or methodologies they have read about or go ‘off-piste’ with their own strategy and actually see the consequences of their actions without any impact to the business. In fact this practice in a virtual environment will benefit the business greatly by reducing the number of mistakes your staff will make in the real world.    3.        They work according to the laws of learning  Serious Games are designed to hook us in and appeal to our brain; their designs are mapped to how we intrinsically learn. As the main purpose of a Serious Game is to develop new knowledge, skills and to ultimately produce a behaviour change they have to align with how we learn.  We base our designs around the Laws of Learning which can be seen illustrated in the infographic below. This is quite a complicated subject so let’s examine one of the basic premises of learning. Looking back in time, we hear throughout every culture on earth, the process of telling stories to pass knowledge down to new generations. Stories create emotional connections which increase the likelihood of retention. In today’s society we use stories for leisure, books, movies and games, and they all appeal to us through clever use of narrative, characterisation and the epic challenge, but they are rarely present when it comes to learning.  Now the difference between reading an educational book or watching an educational movie and playing an educational game is that you, the player, the protagonist takes control, all the action revolves around you. You make the choices, the consequences happen to you and because the choices are wrapped up in a story in which you want to succeed you create an even stronger emotional connection to those actions. We even exhibit physiological responses when we fail in games, it feels so real sometimes that our brains can’t tell the difference on the most basic biological level.  Because you are placed at the centre of the action, you learn at your own pace. You don’t have to keep up with 25 others who have other jobs they have to get back to. You evaluate your actions in your own time. You can fail as many times as is necessary to grasp the solution.  This ability to learn at your own rate is down to the use of pacing in the design of these interventions. When designing an e-learning course for example there is a specific amount of content, a set number of screens, a set number of words per screen, some audio, animation  and if you’re lucky multiple choice questions to add some variety. However in a serious game the content is indistinguishable from the actions and choices you have to make, therefore you will only progress and succeed once you have mastered the knowledge. The content is paced in a careful way to ensure you understand, not just remember, but truly understand before continuing. Because you understand, new information stands out to you; you are able to pull on information stored in your long term memory and not just your working memory to solve problems.   4.        They are re-usable   A Serious Game should not be judged on how many learners complete the game but on how learners re-use the application. Serious Games by their very nature are designed to be played several times. They are generally non-linear and allow a learner to explore different paths and different consequences. This results in learners building a well-rounded view of a situation or problem.  From the games we host ourselves we know users play our games on average 4.3 times. This replay is reinforcing learning and through the use of scoring we can see that learners are getting better the more they play.  Serious Games can also be very flexible; you can use them in many ways. You can apply a context to the learning experience and ask your learners to focus on different learning objectives or to play in a certain way with a certain mind-set for example. Or you can apply the same application to different stages of the learning lifecycle, as a precursor to a course and as a refresher 6 months down the line for example.   5.        You can roll specialist knowledge out to a wider audience  Serious games are great for taking complex topics like six sigma for example, that have traditionally been part of an intensive classroom course (which could be expensive to roll out to a whole organisation) and turning it into a case study game so that the learning can be accessed by a wider audience. Yes they train to a lower level but at least they will begin to understand the same lessons that your senior management are learning ensuring your organisation from top to bottom are speaking the same language.   6.        They are cost effective  Cost effectiveness of Serious Games is reached because of some of the reasons I’ve already discussed. Firstly they can be re-used many times per learner and across the organisation in different contexts and they can take complex content and reach a wider audience ensuring your message is heard by everyone in the organisation.  OK so there may be an up front development cost but if a Serious Game is built correctly they can be modified and tweaked for years to ensure they are kept up to date.   7.        You can capture data!  Because you’re making lots (and I mean lots!) of decisions in a game, and those decisions are very telling about your thought process, you can capture the journey to a particular point as well as that final end result.  Imagine if you received all of that data from everyone in your leadership team, your middle managers or your entire organisation. You could map the strengths and weaknesses of your organisation and create and informed strategy for how to address them or go down to the level of the individual learner and begin to create a truly personalised learning plan based on their actual performance (which can be measured through situational judgement games for example).   8.        They are expected  Serious Games and Interactive learning applications are reaching a stage where new hires will expect them. Companies who use these approaches are often seen as progressive in terms of their learning and development and will attract the top talent. These methodologies will also help retain talent by ensuring your in house learning and development is enjoyable and your employees want to keep learning.  9.       They complement other forms of learning  As I mentioned in number 2, games can be the missing link in your learning and development tool kit – you need a knowledge piece, you still need on the job training , reinforces etc., and Serious Games compliment these other forms of learning brilliantly.  A new study by MIT has revealed that your attention levels are lower in a lecture than when you are asleep and the new generation of workers as well as those already in your organisation are looking for new ways to learn. A single method or non-interactive method of learning delivery just doesn’t cut it anymore. More than likely they’ve already started learning outside of work, using MOOC’s or YouTube.  Serious Games are just one aspect you should consider as part of your digital learning strategy.   10.    Because they work!  Recent research by Sitzmann and Ely titled “A Meta-Analytic Examination of the Effectiveness of Computer-Based Simulation Games” By the University of Colorado Denver Business School (Oct 2010), looked at the instructional effectiveness of Computer Based Simulation Games relative to a comparison group, on a comprehensive set of training outcomes, particularly focusing on the post-training outcomes. Data was collected from 6,476 participants ranging from students (undergraduate and graduate), employees through to military personnel. Sitzmann found that self-efficacy; declarative knowledge, procedural knowledge and retention results suggest that training outcomes are superior for trainees taught with simulation games relative to the comparison group.  Overall, declarative knowledge was 11% higher for trainees taught with simulation games than a comparison group; procedural knowledge was 14% higher; retention was 9% higher; retention was 9% higher; and self-efficacy was 20% higher. (Ely and Sitzmann findings, 2010)     If you want to talk more about my top 10 or to suggest others I’ve missed tweet me on @helenroutledge

Comment

THE BENEFITS OF SERIOUS GAMES

This is probably the most common argument you might hear if you are looking into Serious Games. Everyone in the industry screams this out of the top of their lungs, but that’s because it’s true. You may think Serious Games will only appeal to the young, to the gamers, but actually cleverly designed solutions should appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds regardless of whether they have played games before or not.

 

And here’s why! ...

Comment