IBM's Serious Game program wants to give enterprises and city planners a way to digest that data in real-world simulations, or video games.

Phaedra Boinodiris, IBM's Serious Games program manager, was at the Game Developers Conference, urging developers to consider changing their design focus from consumers to corporations.

"The premise here is that we know you've worked hard to create intellectual property. Whether it's a game, an analytics engine, a gaming engine, whatever this IP is that you might have, we see this opportunity to leverage this as part of a broader ecosystem to make games as a service happen for some of this clientele."

Emanuel Maiberg from Motherboard writes on one game that used its unique engine to get the attention of IBM's Serious Game program and a second life as a military simulation solution for the Pentagon. The game is called Achron. It's a real-time strategy game with time-traveling elements. The concept sounded rock-solid: What if you could see into the future? How would your strategy for combat change? While critics found its gameplay twist intriguing and ambitious, its lack of polish held it back from earning higher praise and consumers' cash. Meanwhile, the Pentagon became intrigued by how it could utilize this kind of strategy game for its own purposes.

Now the game's Resequence Engine serves the military. The engine is informed by real-world data, which in turn helps create a response simulation to help strategists prepare for a multitude of scenarios. Boinodiris said that they, along with the game's developer, presented the idea to DARPA and the Pentagon. She recalled:

"Basically what they said to us after the presentation was over was, 'You know, we've been using first-person shooters for so long to train our soldiers; this concept of process improvement, mission optimization, but also more importantly, the vetting of strategy and tactics; this is really cool.'"

This idea of gamification has been approached before — it's widely viewed as a flawed marketing ploy “invented by consultants as a means to capture the wild, coveted beast that is video games and to domesticate it for use in the gray, hopeless wasteland of big business,” according to Ian Bogost, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Boinodiris agrees, and has repeated this sentiment in a video lecture.

IBM's own write-up on its site claims the Serious Games program is a way for people to interpret data through contextual simulations. Indeed, IBM has made headlines with its game, CityOne, which has been dubbed the “SimCity for the real world.” Its purpose is to provide crisis simulations for cities to help them run more efficiently. It would be interesting to speak to someone who has used CityOne or any of IBM's Serious Games and find out if there were improvements.

For now, what do you think about IBM's Serious Games program? Could games be the new way we absorb complex data?

Read more at Motherboard.

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