Serious games scoring big in government

The growth of big data, analytics and the challenge of getting data consumers to use new tools is driving proliferation of serious games in government.

A few years ago, New York City officials turned the challenge of managing handicap accessibility into a game, giving points to people who submitted photographs of, for example, curbs that were too high for people in wheelchairs to navigate.

“What they started to notice was that people were doing a much better job in seeking these [situations] out when they started to play with it,” said Lindsay Grace, a communication professor at American University.

That was despite the fact that the reward – more ‘points’ – didn’t have any monetary value. The pay-off came from people’s desire to win and test limits.

“We could give them some [form of] direct transfer and say, ‘Congratulations. You earned 100 points, here’s a $10 gift card,’” said Grace, who co-presented a session on government gaming March 15 at the South by Southwest conference.

“The problem with that is it’s a form of work. It’s a form of labor. But if the experience itself is extraordinarily satisfying, then it pays for itself,” he said. “That’s why people do the work of a marathon or a fun run. They aren’t necessarily saying, ‘OK, what’s my payout?’ The experience itself is quite enjoyable.”

Government’s use of games is nothing new, but technological changes have, well, changed the game.

Today’s growth spurt in big data and analytics, combined with the challenge of getting the producers and consumers of data to engage directly with new tools, is driving the proliferation of large-scale games such as the one New York played.

In government, games and gaming methods have been gaining steam for training, change management and employee culture improvement as well as externally to boost citizen engagement.

“You’re creating an entrée for people that is quite attractive,” Grace said. “So it’s not, ‘Hey, we just wrote some really good policy and all you have to do is read these 630 pages.’ It’s ‘Well, we have a game that’s going to get you pretty far in understanding. Why don’t you try this first?’”

“Games have been used for eons,” added Tony Demarinis, director of gaming at Deloitte Consulting, who cited lacrosse’s roots as a battle-training tactic. “There are intangible attributes that require people to put disparate pieces of data together in a unique and creative manner to solve problems that you cannot get in any other form or fashion but in activities that look like games.”

Human computation games hold the most promise for government, he said, adding that three years ago there were 16 examples of these worldwide, and now more than 80 exist.

They use true game mechanics the way puzzles do, but the work players do is called an isomorph, a translation of a real-world problem. “Players are playing a game to solve a problem, but you don’t really care what the problem is. You’re just playing the game,” Grace said.

For instance, a space invader game in which players have to figure out what doesn’t look right is a great way to train information technology workers on network intrusion detection.

“If I told you this is work or I told you this is a game, you change the way you frame the problem psychologically,” Grace said. “You’re more driven to experiment, you’re more driven to get the optimum solution.”

IBM is a company that sees the value of game formats for government applications and challenges. The firm’s Smartplay program helps to integrate real processes and data into problem-solving games for the military and other government agencies. Using its cloud infrastructure and applications to incorporate adaptive analytics, business process management, learning management systems and social business applications, IBM is developing a number of serious games, designed to solve business puzzles.

It has two main games: CityOne has been compared to the popular SimCity game, where players develop a city, while Innov8 lets players practice running a business.

IBM is also acting as a “second use marketplace where game developers can repurpose what was initially created for entertainment and resell it as practical solutions to complicated problems informed by real-world data,” according to a Motherboard article. That’s what happened to Achron, a real-time strategy game that was not a success with the public but was picked up by the Pentagon for use in logistics training.

"The premise here is that we know you've worked hard to create intellectual property," said Phaedra Boinodiris, Serious Games program manager at IBM, during a game developers conference earlier this month.

"Whether it's a game, an analytics engine, a gaming engine, whatever this intellectual property is that you might have, we see an opportunity to leverage this as part of a broader ecosystem to make games as a service happen for some of this clientele."

Another company, BreakAway Games, created Code Yellow, a game that lets hospitals enter their own data to simulate, test and improve their readiness for disaster response.

Overall, games are overcoming their stigma as amusement for the couch potato to gain wider audiences, acceptance and uses, Grace said.

“If you look at the history of Angry Birds – a very popular casual game – it basically calculates to 380 years of computation,” he said. “The amount of time that people are solving problems on Angry Birds is a tremendous amount of cognitive labor. So the idea is why don’t we convert that? If we can get even a couple of those hours for people to solve other problems, imagine the kinds of problems we can solve.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.