Friday, March 24, 2006

Asia takes Serious Games seriously

My first day home after the wonderful Serious Games Summit and I find in email from the Seriousgames listserv.  You can probably find it here, but I will post it because its worth it.

“SQUARE ENIX announced they are going to start up a serious games company, named "SG Lab" with Gakken, one of the major Japanese educational publisher. President Wada of Square Enix clearly stated that they will seriously work on serious game business.  They set the first-year target revenue of the company at 10 billion yen (roughly $9 million).

The news spread out to the media widely, and non-gamer media like major newspapers delivered the news. This is probably the first time that the word Serious Games spread out to the non-gamer media. This should be the wake-up call that serious games Japan market really starts to grow.

This indicates well that the big difference of serious games business between the US and Japan is that the huge game companies are willing to be the major players in Japan, which is unlikely in the US companies. Companies like Nintendo, Namco, Sega, Konami, and Square Enix are already the players in the serious games market in some sort.”  -Toru Fujimoto, SeriousGames Japan

For those of you that don’t know, Square Enix is the company that created the Final Fantasy series blockbuster game.  It doesn’t surprise me that they “get it”.  They have revolutionized education in their own countries for centuries.  Math and science curriculums that are focused and have meaning.  They don’t just talk about education in Asia, they RESPECT it!  I’ve seen it.  In the early days of my career as a corporate training specialist I would travel to Asia to conduct training sessions.  Instructors were held with the highest regard and we were treated like CEOs.  In the states training and instruction is where you go to “get out of the shop”…the first organization cut during downsizing.

Back then we had created some pretty amazing 3D training simulations as part of our training program.  In Asia employees were coming in on there own time to continue “playing” the simulations.  So many did that it became an issue (not a bad issue to have).  When we ran the same program in the states there was little more interest than if we had just flashed a hundred powerpoint slides before them.  There is more too it than that…you really had to be there.  My global experiences around the world opened my eyes to how spoiled we are in the states and I am not surprised when at all when Toyota kicks our butts all over the map.

The most memorable experience for me this week at SGS-GDC was hearing a Senior Leader from Nintendo give a keynote.  You couldn’t help but love this guy.  He gave a stellar speech (Jobs style not Gates style) but he was overwhelmingly humble and a delight to listen too.  He was promoting several things but most importantly to me was the new Brain Games for the NINTENDO DS…a smash hit in Asia and becoming even bigger around the globe.  He spoke of what a risk it was to branch out into Serious Games but everyone just knew it would work and be successful.  All of their work was backed up with serious research and they were able to sell the idea and make it happen…Duh!

The only people left in the world who don’t see games as the ideal tool for learning are those that have never played one.  If you can’t see that kids are forming, managing, and leading 60 person Guilds and spending 45 hours planning, and learning the correct strategies for achieving one successful mission than you are playing the wrong games and way out of touch.

We all know that getting through U.S. school is just a game.  You learn how to play “school” and you win.  That’s what our parents told us:  Go to school, and get a good job.  Kids are sick of playing school, because school sucks.  Schools are settings for teaching, not for learning.  Games are set up for learning.  As soon as you STOP learning in a game, you quit and move on to the next game.

“School is just another game…I just suck at playing school”

         7th grader quoted by Constance Steinkuehler of the University of Wisconsin

It will not surprise me at all to see Asia incorporating game based learning into their school curricullum well ahead of the U.S.  Corporate training will also lead the way from over seas.  They will demand it.  They will not tolerate clicking next for 2 hours and taking a multiple choice test that can be guessed without even viewing the content.  I’m sorry but ISD is a thing of the past.  The game designers will win hands down. Seymour Papert was right…

  “Game designers have a lot better take on the nature of learning than instructional designers.” Seymour Papert, MIT



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