The Community for Technology Leaders

Serious Games

Tiffany Barnes, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
L. Miguel Encarnação, Humana Inc.
Christopher D. Shaw, Simon Fraser University

Pages: pp. 18-19

This special issue highlights some of the best of emerging research in using video games for serious purposes. Although "serious games" is a new term, such games have been around for many years in the form of training simulators for vehicle control, such as flight simulators, and other types of simulation technologies. Through game constructs, we can simulate realistic situations to provide valuable experience that can support discovery and exploration while saving money and lives.

Advances in video game technologies have enabled and enriched serious games research, from interaction with and modification of data-driven, complex 3D models, performed in real time on graphics processing units, to robust artificial intelligence and simulation components. Conversely, through creatively leveraging commodity video game technologies in new ways, serious games R&D has helped the video game. Serious games applications expand the horizons of games to include scientific simulation and visualization, industrial and military training, medical and health training and education, and geographic information systems, as well as public awareness and policy change.

This special issue showcases developments that can have an impact on future research, development, and application of computer graphics and related techniques. Our selections reflect the exciting diversity of the submitted papers, and we hope that researchers will continue to submit related papers to IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications for future issues.

Featured Articles

In "Making Them Remember—Emotional Virtual Characters with Memory," Zerrin Kasap, Maher Ben Moussa, Parag Chaudhuri, and Nadia Magnenat-Thalmann introduce techniques for having virtual characters "remember" interactions with player-learners, enabling serious games to tap into emotions to connect with and motivate players. They also introduce techniques for augmented reality, an exciting new area for serious games that lets us use real-world artifacts in a simulated situation. We envision that research in this area will help us develop virtual characters that have greater perceived intelligence and thus are more adept for training and other serious game applications.

Because of the vast complexity of the virtual worlds created for serious games, we need tools that enable us to better record, visualize, and understand player interactions. In "Discovering Surface Information Values in Interactive 3D Game Player Data," Priyesh Dixit and Michael Youngblood present a new method and tool to determine the probability that a surface has appeared in the player's view frustum (the extended field of the player's view) during gameplay. This can be particularly important in serious games, where designers might wish to place information in the game to maximize the probability that players will see it. This technique has applications not only for advertising in games but also for maintaining player immersion and realism in the game environment.

New interfaces for virtual reality and interaction have made their way into games for exercise (exergames), which are being tapped as tools for researching physical health. In "Using a Virtual Body to Aid in Exergaming System Development," Jeff Sinclair, Philip Hingston, Martin Masek, and Ken Nosaka present a way to simulate physical exertion that will help reduce the time to test and develop exergames. Their innovation is a simulated model of physiological performance metrics such as heart rate. Using this model, the playtester can make gameplay decisions without having to strenuously perform the required physical activities.

We're excited about serious games' potential for providing scalable, repeatable training for new fields, especially for cultural and social training. Marjorie Zielke, Monica Evans, Timothy Van Christopher, Jumanne Donahue, and Erin Jennings propose building a "living world" to express the richness of place, culture, and society. Their article, "Serious Games for Immersive Cultural Training—A Living World Construct Using the 3D Asymmetric Domain Analysis and Training (ADAT) Model," describes a game for learning Afghan culture that incorporates the culture's physical and societal aspects. This game can help players learn to interact respectfully in Afghan culture, which can prove critical for business and political commerce.

The articles in this special issue demonstrate serious games' rich potential, spanning from health and culture applications to novel interaction techniques and support for 3D player data visualization. We hope you enjoy reading them.

About the Authors

Tiffany Barnes is an assistant professor of computer science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her research interests include advanced learning technologies, serious games, educational data mining, and broadening participation in computing. She directs the Game2Learn project, which researches ways to use games and artificial intelligence to improve student learning and creativity in computing. Barnes received her PhD in computer science from North Carolina State University. Contact her at
L. Miguel Encarnação is the Director for Emerging Technology Applications at Humana's Innovation Center. His main research interests are human-media interfaces, personal information visualization and visual analytics, digital storytelling, serious games, and social media. Encarnação received his PhD in computer science from the University of Tübingen. He's a senior member of the ACM and a member of the IEEE Computer Society, Eurographics, and the German Society for Computer Science. Contact him at
Christopher D. Shawis an associate professor in the School of Interactive Arts & Technology at Simon Fraser University Surrey. His main research interests are two-handed interfaces for free-form surface design, visualization of high-dimensional scattered data from flow cytometry, and visualization and analysis of microbial biological sequences. Shaw received his PhD in computer science from the University of Alberta. He was recently an associate editor of IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics. Contact him at
61 ms
(Ver 3.x)