Many of our childhood memories revolve around late nights playing Mario Brothers. Everybody remembers their mother yelling to stop playing so much, or else their fingers would fall off. Many of us outgrew video games, only to be sucked back in by Angry Birds and Farmville. Now there’s a new generation who experience life with an iPad glued to their hand from the womb. And then there are people like my fiance who belong to guilds in World of Warcraft.

For the purposes of this write up, I want to focus on Serious Games as electronic software as opposed to table top or board games such as Monopoly (or Dungeons and Dragons for the geeks out there!).

What are Serious Games?

It’s been featured ominously in the sci fi book Ender’s Game. But there is a good side to serious gaming! Many industries embrace it such as the military, healthcare simulation, and business demonstrated by The Serious Games Initiative. There is even a Serious Games Institute in the UK offering degrees in Serious Games. Conferences occur with regularity such as the upcoming Games Developers Conference in San Francisco March 25-29.


According to Wikipedia, Serious Gaming is known as a game designed for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment. Purposes of serious games include:

  • e-Learning
  • Simulation
  • Team Building
  • Collaboration
  • Social Networking

Technology is only making it easier to provide access to serious games as people are literally becoming augmented with computers through the advancements in smart phones and tablets. Since we are all carrying around smartphones, we could all be learning anything, anytime, anyplace, at our own schedule – this is the embodiment of asynchronous learning!

What is the future of serious gaming? 

1.  Assessment

I met the creator of Resuscitation! at the IMSH conference in January. Dr. Foster has created this game, among other apps to help ED physicians learn the basics of resuscitation. You go through a series of cases, order labs, imaging, and ultimately dispo the patient. Afterward you are graded based upon a checklist of actions. After two seconds of research online, you will quickly realize that educators love checklists because it allows them to standardize requirements and rate learners. Imagine the possibilities of using such a game to assess for resident skill sets and competencies.

2.  Training

We are all mandated to do required training such as HIPAA and disaster drills. But usually the online training is so dull!  I met the President of Clinispace Dr. Parvati Dev also at IMSH. Games such as those created by Clinispace that focus upon triage skills fill the gap of providing required training in a more palatable manner. Another example is Disaster Hero made by FEMA targeting children and their parents to help with disaster preparedness.

3.  Education

Serious games are not just for assessment. The new generation of learners has different expectations; we want the pages of our textbooks to move and dance. We want video, photos, and interactivity with the material. We also want it to be portable and accessible at a reasonable cost.  Games and software will be created to address the changing educational needs of the new generation.


My future goals

I want to learn how to make an iPhone app so I can make my own fun educational game. To do this, I need to learn computer languages and programming. I need to network and meet developers, programmers, story board creators, and video game enthusiasts. To do this, I have joined the Serious Game Association and will go to the expo at the Games Developers Conference. And always, I am scouring the blogs on social media and Serious Games.

Please share your thoughts! Especially if you can teach me how to make an app!

Disclaimer: I have no vested interest in any of the games, products, or companies listed in this blog write up. The opinions expressed are only mine and do not represent any organization or institution.

Nikita Joshi, MD

Nikita Joshi, MD

ALiEM Chief People Officer and Associate Editor
Clinical Instructor
Department of Emergency Medicine
Stanford University
Nikita Joshi, MD


Emergency Medicine Doctor Associate Editor of ALiEM Gun Sense Advocate #FOAMed #Docs4GunSense #MomsDemandAction Tweets represent my own views and opinions