Are Courts Ready for Some Serious Games?

On a recent flight, I sat next to Robert Hone, creative director of Red Hill Studios in Larkspur, California. He was on his way to the Serious Games Summit held October 30 and 31 in Washington, D.C. The summit, Hone explained, brings together game developers, buyers, and industry professionals to exchange ideas and advance the state of the art of serious games for government, professional training, education, healthcare, military, science, and social change. Hone, it turns out, designs serious games for a living. We talked about serious games for court managers.

Serious games (SGs), according to Wikipedia, are “computer and video games that are intended to not only entertain users, but have additional purposes such as education and training.” The term serious games came into wide use in 2002 when the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington D.C. launched the Serious Games Initiative to encourage the development of games that address policy and management issues. The development of on-line multi-player gaming such as Second Life has heightened interest in serious games.
While serious games can be considered a kind of entertainment, their main goal is not fun and playability. Most are designed to elicit socially relevant behavior, which distinguishes them from commercial entertainment games. Another attribute that distinguishes serious games from educational videos is that “you can win and lose a serious game,” Hone explained.

Advantages of Serious Games

A serious game may have the look and feel of a video game, but it is actually a simulation of real events or processes. While the largest users of serious games are the U.S. Government and medical professionals, other public and private sectors increasingly are recognizing the benefits of simulations in serious games. One advantage is cost. Video and computer game developers are skilled at quickly creating games that simulate real conditions. According to Wikipedia, the costs of specialized hardware and media for serious games are low. Traditional simulators usually cost millions to develop and to deploy. Serious games are designed to run on personal computers or vide game consoles and require nothing more than a DVD or even a single CD-ROM.

Another advantage of serious games lies in their ability to engage and entertain users, increasing motivation to play repeatedly. Because their livelihood depends on it, game developers are adept at making serious games fun. In their simulation of real events and processes, they are accustomed to injecting entertainment into their applications.

Social Impact Games

Among the 50+ serious games and developers listed by Wikipedia are the following:

  • Darfur is Dying (Internet) An online game by mtvU that simulates life in a Darfur refugee camp.
  • 3rd World Farmer An online simulation game where the player gets to experience the hardships of 3rd World Farming.
  • Eduteams (PC) An immersive team-based software package built to ensure effective development of core and enterprise skills for young people, developed by TPLD.
  • Infiniteams (PC) Multi player real time strategy game, which focuses on leadership development and team building, developed by TPLD.
  • LegSim: Legislative Simulation (Internet) Web-based virtual legislature used in college and high school government and civics courses.
  • Real Lives 2004 (Microsoft Windows): Life simulation that gives players the opportunity to learn how people really live in other countries.
Justice Delayed – The Game
“What would it take to develop a serious game for courts?” I asked Hone. We imagined “Justice Delayed,” a serious game that would simulate conditions of delays and related problems in case processing defined by performance data from the case processing measures of the CourTools. Related conditions and data from a court’s justice system partners – jail overcrowding and increased volume and costs of witness notification by the prosecutor – would provide additional events, processes and data to complicate a simulation.
Game players would make certain assumptions about conditions and be armed with tools and techniques in the form of good caseflow management principles and processes. They may take various roles – a judge, a court administrator, a director of a court program or service (e.g., interpretation), and external stakeholders such as jail administrator, defense attorney and prosecutor. Winning and losing would be defined by the outcomes of the CourTools and related measures.
Excluding distribution costs, which I said might be borne by national and state court organizations, Hone said that “Justice Delayed” could be done for $100,000 - $300,000. He sounded interested.
For the latest posts and archives of Made2Measure click here.
© Copyright CourtMetrics 2006. All rights reserved.

Popular posts from this blog

Q & A: Outcome vs. Measure vs. Target vs. Standard

A Logic Model of Performance Inputs, Outputs and Outcomes

Top 10 Reasons for Performance Measurement