Even if you have just a slight interest in gaming development, the Serious Games Institute, hosted by the Vaal Triangle Campus of the North-West University (NWU Vaal), makes for serious consideration. The Faculty of Economic Sciences and Information Technology established South Africa’s first Serious Games Institute in November 2011. The institute, affiliated with the International Serious Games Institute at Coventry University in the UK, is involved in pioneering work in the field of Serious Games in South Africa, particularly with respect to mobile apps and games programming for commercial purposes.
The Dean of the Faculty of Economic Sciences and Information Technology of the Vaal Triangle Campus of the North-West University (NWU Vaa), Prof Herman van der Merwe and the Project Leader of SGI-SA, Werner Ravyse.
How it works?
Serious Games create the same feeling of “playing” as ordinary computer games, and also offer the participant the opportunity to progress to more difficult levels and/or to eventually win. However, in contrast to ordinary computer games, the primary aim of Serious Games is to pose challenges that the users have to overcome. Without realising that participants are learning, they start to acquire the concepts or abstract ideas and use them within the context of the game. Real-life situations or processes are simulated on PC or cellphone so that people can learn new skills (such as piloting an airplane) or renew existing skills (for example, military personnel who improve their strategic skills through simulated war situations). Serious Games can also be used to transfer people skills. Situations in the workplace can, for example, be simulated on the screen so that the participant can learn certain effective behaviour management techniques.
About the academic sideSGI-SA’s objective is twofold: one part is aimed at the academic world, and the other at industry. As far as the academic side is concerned, the design of basic elements of Serious Games forms part of the projects of third-year BSc IT students. From this year, two Serious Games modules will be included in the expanded BSc IT curriculum, while a Serious Games project will form part of the honours level of this qualification. A master’s degree in Serious Games is also in the pipeline for the near future – a first for the African content.
But also a commercial impactAs far as the commercialisation of Serious Games is concerned; the institute supplies games or elements of games to organisations, thus generating additional income for the University. Furthermore, these games offer training possibilities to organisations in the private and public sector, contributing indirectly to the economic development of the country. The institute is already involved in several projects, including the following:
- A life skills game played on MXit, with soccer as a theme.
- A game known as TASK (Teen/Adult Survival Kit), also for MXit.
- “That’s Life”, a board game for tablets.
- “Royalopoly”, a game about team work in business, for tablets, PCs and cellphones.
- A safety game for risk management in factories, among other work settings, for tablets, PCs and cellphones.
These projects also create opportunities for research, which in turn contributes to the promotion of Serious Games in South Africa.
New developmentsWith an eye on the future, SGI-SA is developing a post graduate diploma in Serious Games, in partnership with the Netherlands and the UK. Furthermore, the SGI-SA is an active role player in the international Mandela 27 Project – a cultural collaboration between the European Union and South Africa. Their involvement in this international project is truly a feather in the cap of this young venture.
For further information about the SGI-SA and what it has to offer, browse over to www.nwu.ac.za/sgi/welcome.html. Werner Ravyse, the SGI-SA program, can be contacted on 016 910 3277, or via email at Werner.Ravyse@nwu.ac.za.