Serious games are defined as “a game designed for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment. The “serious” adjective is generally prepended to refer to products used by industries like defense, education, scientific exploration, health care, emergency management, city planning, engineering, religion, and politics” (Wikipedia). These games address important world issues in hopes of creating awareness of such issues through a medium that is not as conventional as the nightly news or online articles. These games allow for the players to learn about these issues in a way that will hopefully affect them more than just reading a newspaper article about the issue. A game I recently played called The Great Flu, addresses the seriousness of the influenza virus. The game was extremely difficult. You had to make choices such as distributing face masks, passing out vaccines, closing down airports and markets, granting more research, and isolating individuals. You must make these decision all on a budget, while the death toll keeps rising. I played on the easiest level and could not control the disease.
So what was the game maker trying to tell us? I believe that the game makers wanted children and people who are likely to play online games to know the impact and difficulty of stopping an epidemic, which can easily turn into a pandemic. I believe that this games allow for a much deeper connection to the issue than just reading about the seriousness of the influenza. As Delwiche points out, in Bogost states in Foster 2004, “You’ve got a player learning to understand principles by performing them himself rather than hearing someone talk about them idly in casual conversation” (Foster 2004). The game created a connection between the player and the people dying. As more and more people died, I grew more anxious—A feeling I didn’t know could come from a public health game. I became an extension of the game and ultimately the computer became an extension of me. As Marshall McLuhan states, “The medium is the message”. This became inherently clear for me after playing this game. The medium of video games illicits a much deeper connection to the message. The feelings that this video game conjured up were completely different than if I would have read an article or heard this “idly in casual conversation”.
The game makers are trying to tell you some of the problems and decisions public health officials must make. As the player, when I sent out “early warning signals” to all of the countries, I received good reviews. I think that they are trying to inform us of the possibility of an outbreak and ultimately the seriousness that comes along with such outbreak. The medium of video games is a surprisingly strong one. Not being a gamer myself, I realized that you do ultimately feel a connection to the people that are dying left and right and ultimately a feeling of anxiousness grew. This anxiousness is exactly what the game makers are looking for.