Game Development Reference
15.3 Serious Games Challenges
Faced with such disparate markets and formats as the ones described above, game
writers may find writing for serious games a challenge. However, some commonali-
ties exist across all serious games. Typically, the client will not be a game developer
or publisher, and the players will not be hardcore gamers. Furthermore, because of
the nature of serious games, a writer may need to interact with subject matter experts
who may never have played video games before.
Different Clients, Different Expectations
For years, corporate trainers, e-learning specialists, and instructional designers have
penned scenarios and synopses without regard to entertainment. It may be hard to
convince clients that a game writer is actually needed. They're reluctant. Will a game
writer turn their inoffensive software into a Grand Theft Auto clone?
On the opposite extreme, there are those clients who are already gung-ho about
video games. They believe that video games will give their projects added pizzazz.
They nurse a game writer within. They have lots of ideas of where the story will go,
how the game will be, and how it should be written. They, in fact, would not mind
writing the whole game themselves if only they knew how to start.
In both of the above cases, the clients are not knowledgeable about the game
development process. They may not understand why their serious game does not play
like the latest console blockbuster. While it may require more handholding, a game
writer benefits in the long run by educating clients about the writer's role in game
development. Communication ensures that both sides understand the requirements.
In the first scenario, the game writer could address the reluctant client's concerns
by demonstrating an understanding of instructional design or a willingness to work
with an instructional designer. In the second scenario, the game writer needs to
establish boundaries while still taking into consideration the client's ideas.
The best circumstance for a writer is to be hired by a serious game developer,
who then develops the game funded by the non-profit, corporation, or government
agency. However, in some cases, a writer is hired directly by those organizations to
improve a product. Some organizations have been using serious games for years and
thus may be savvy about the process.
Different Audiences, Different Expectations
All games have a target audience. For instance, a game could have a target audience
of men ages 15-35, or women ages 25-45. A Nintendo DS game could be targeted
to attract tween girls. Serious games encompass these audiences and more, such
as the category of products known as “lapware” that targets infants and toddlers
small enough to be snuggled in their parents' laps. Furthermore, serious games could
be targeted toward specific groups: domestic violence survivors, leukemia patients,
resistance groups, political volunteers, and so forth.