Is Fun Really Necessary for Serious Games?

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Many people in Education seem to believe that fun and education are at odds with each other.

The "Serious Games Continuum"

The “Serious Games Continuum”

Some years ago I did a survey with public school teachers to see if they were using games in school, and if not, why not. Some of the obvious and significant barriers were highlighted: lack of admin support, lack of resources, lack of time to learn, etc.

The comment that still sticks with me today is this one:

As a parent I object to having my child “play” on the computer when he has completed some piece of work. I want my kids working at school. I can use computer games at home for there entertainment. I also think that “edutainment” as a name is attempting to give computer games some degree of educational value. My students come to school to learn not to be entertained. Would you want your university profs. entertaining you?

I do understand the pressure on teachers to not “waste” time, but the sentiment voiced by this teacher still lingers in the heads of many educators. As soon as we start to have too much fun, educators become suspicious that there is not enough learning happening.

This is something that interferes with our ability to make inroads in formal education with games. While “fun” is typically THE most important measure of viability in commercial games, it is possible that we need to use a different word when it comes to measuring serious games (and just in case you are so inclined, I think “engagement” is too nebulous to be useful).

What would you use instead of the word “fun”?

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Is Fun Really Necessary for Serious Games? — 1 Comment

  1. Great article! Wish fun didn’t have such negative connotations. Engaging, interactive, project-based learning…how are those alternatives for the word fun?

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