Developers interested in making games that are more than just fun diversions will be happy to know that the first-ever conference on making serious games is happening in South Africa in the month of August.
It’s called – drum roll – the Serious Games Conference and it will be held at the Quest Conference Estate in Vanderbijlpark between the 27th and 29th of August. It will be hosted by the Serious Games Institute of South Africa (SGI-SA), a unit within the Faculty of Economic Sciences and Information Technology on the Vaal Triangle Campus of the North-West University (NWU Vaal). (That’s quite a mouthful! – Ed)
Yes indeed, such a thing exists, and apparently the organisation works very closely with the Serious Games Institute of Coventry University in the UK; together, they work towards helping developers create apps that teach real-world skills through the gamification of the learning process, that is by making learning more like a game.
In a press release published on the university’s own website, Professor Herman van der Merwe, executive dean of the faculty and the conference chair said that SGI-SA is moving away from traditional methods of education and into a new era where technology is providing new ways of getting a message across.
“Advances in technology have made it possible for individuals, groups and even communities to have game processing power within their reach,” explained the professor, adding that the time is now to kick off a new way of teaching and educating using all means at the educator’s disposal. South Africa does, after all, have more cell phones than people, putting education through serious games within the grasp of many more people than traditional methods could ever reach.
The conference features well-known game design expert Ernest W Adams as its keynote speaker. Adams has spent 25 years in the gaming industry and has a PhD under his belt; he’s also published several text books on game design and worked with the likes of Electronic Arts, so clearly he knows a thing or two.
There will be several other talks spread out over the conference’s duration that aim to educate attendees about the benefits of making games that teach useful, real-world skills as well as tips on how to go about making them.
Serious Games are a serious business. Naturally our interest is primarily around the potential of games to explain or help people understand the news, but they’ve been used to help promote good hygiene and agricultural techniques to poor communities across Africa.
The conference isn’t free, but the organisers do offer several packages designed to cater to different needs:
If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, see below for details: