Games and gaming, on the whole, have come a long way from what they once used to be. A number of technological advancements over the last fifteen years or so has changed the very landscape of gaming, and, from the very humble basic 3d games that people could play on their computers, the gaming industry is now worth billions of dollars with very powerful players in the mix. Consoles, purpose built computers, handhelds, and now, even smart phones, have taken to games, and the advancements made in the field, when it comes to graphics and what the player can do in the game, are startling. Yet, one thing that has primarily been the same has been the image that games have had over time in the view of the majority of the public. For most people, games are built for entertainment, and that is it. While there is no doubting the fact that most games are, in fact, created to entertain the player ( and there is nothing wrong with this approach), there is also another, very useful side to games that are often overlooked. So while there have been games people play and forget, there have also been games that were designed to be taken seriously, serving a particular purpose or providing some kind of message.
Serious games are a form of video games that are designed to serve a totally different purpose than pure entertainment. These particular games are designed to serve a number of goals. For instance, a serious game can teach players how to fly an airplane by providing a simulator. Similarly, the game can teach be created to test the latest military equipment or even describe the damaging effects of climate change. Simply put, serious games deliver a message, while standard games are for pure entertainment purposes. These type of games is designed to serve the audience belonging to all age groups, with games created for children, adults, and professionals. One of the most popular, and most practical,serious games that have been helping pilots train for real airplane flying has been Microsoft's Flight Simulator.
Flight Simulator by Microsoft has been around for a long while, and as such, has been one of the most popular home based flight simulators of all time. The game, when it first came out, differed quite a lot from Microsoft's other offerings, but that did not prevent it from being a huge success. Development on the game first began in 1977 with a company called subLOGIC at the helm of its development. The company released many versions of the game on different platforms such as the Apple II and Atari. Development on the game continued as Microsoft kept on releasing newer versions with added enhancements. The most recent version of the game is called Microsoft Flightand features many new features to keep up with the times. The most notable feature of the game was Direct 10 support, which allowed for much better graphics over the previous entries in the franchise. Microsoft Flight featured a new weather system that rendered clouds realistically. There was new scenery and terrain added along with a number of new aircrafts. Most importantly, however, the game featured a number of difficulty levels that suited players with different skill levels. The gameplay of Microsoft Flight added a number of notable enhancements over the previous entry, with the improved graphics standing out the most. The presentation of the game too was worth noting as it provided easy access to players of all skill levels. The aircraft featured realistic movements, a hallmark of the franchise. On the downside though, players had to pay for downloadable content, and the environments themselves were a little boring, as well. Overall though, Microsoft Flight was a very capable flight simulator, offering the very best virtual preparation for pilots. In my opinion, Microsoft Flight was a good game, as it ticked all the boxes that players of the genre expected it to be. The movement of the aircraft and the attention to detail were top notches, and although the environments were not up to the mark, the part that mattered the most, i.e. the aircraft, were shown in great detail.
Although Microsoft's Flight Simulator games were very popular, the franchise was discontinued after the last entry, Microsoft Flight. The discontinuation of such a popular and practical game is proof that creating games for purposes other than entertainment does take its toll. The financial aspect of developing a game that only caters to a few people is simply too hard to ignore, and this is the reason why the serious game category is found wanting. Compared to entertainment games, there are only a handful of serious games, and none of these games provide the sort of quality that entertainment games provide. Moreover, the image that people have of games matters a lot too. As stated in the start, games are viewed as mere entertainment providers, so people really do not expect to pick up a game and learn from it. The process is simply too time consuming. Although Microsoft's Flight, and serious games on the whole do have a lot of potential, especially with the advanced graphics and processing speeds of gaming machines, the investment is lacking. Therefore, the future of serious games is uncertain to say the least. While there will be entries that provide a push to the genre, the number of games pales in comparison with pure entertainment games. Hence, it would be best for developers of serious games to combine the two genres, and make a game that both provides a message, and also entertains.
Microsoft Flight Review - IGN. (n.d.). IGN. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from http://www.ign.com/articles/2012/03/14/microsoft-flight-review
Tack, D. (2013, September 12). Serious Games And The Future Of Education. Forbes. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/danieltack/2013/09/12/serious-games-and-the-future-of-education/