Campus hosts first-ever conference on Serious Games

Annette Willemse -- Wed, 09/10/2014 - 12:36

Campus hosts first-ever International Conference on Serious Games

The Faculty of Economic Sciences and Information Technology on the Vaal Triangle Campus of the North-West University (NWU Vaal) recently made history by successfully hosting the first-ever International Conference on Serious Games in South Africa.

The theme of the conference was: "Serious Games to the Rescue", and saw delegates from across the globe in attendance. The conference was hosted at the Quest Conference Estate in Vanderbijlpark by the Serious Games Institute - SA (a dynamic unit within the Faculty of Economic Sciences and Information Technology). 

Dr. Ernest Adams   Werner Ravyse, Manager: SGI-SA

The three day conference included an interactive workshop by world renowned game designer, Dr. Ernest Adams. Adams shared his expertise and experiences with  enthusiasm and charisma that was well-received by the attendees. “The workshop was really good. I am not a game developer/designer but I  learnt a lot”,  commented one of the participants. Another participant commented that the information that was gained during the game design workshop by far exceeded his expectations. Adams was not the only international speaker; Prof Pamela Kato from Coventry University in the United Kingdom was also present and delivered an authoritative presentation on the success factors of serious games.  She was equally well-appreciated and incurred multiple praises during the feedback session.

Day two of the conference opened with a keynote address by Dr. Adams and was followed by a myriad of presentations ranging from games for Mathematics and Leadership, to making use of serious games to combat problematic gaming. On the other end of the spectrum were more phenomenological studies about South African communities and their access to technologies for the purpose of serious gaming. All the presenters paid careful attention to the key drivers that will ensure a successful uptake of serious games in South Africa.  Academics were not the only order of the day; an animation studio from Cape Town called “Sea Monster” gave a comprehensive presentation on a soon-to-be-released serious game relating to home-ownership, called HOUZZ-IT. The day was rounded off by an in-depth look at a water management game designed and developed by the DHI Group for the Olifants River basin.  Yet another international delegation, from Germany, together with a member from DHI’s SA office showcased this product. 

The final day of the conference commenced with a guest talk by Prof. Kato and persisted with many demonstrations of current serious game projects taking place in SA. Some of the highlights included SGI-SA’s own Mandela27 interactive graphic novel and an “Aliens on Campus” proposed game by the University of the Western Cape.  Other academic papers were also presented and the day was capped with a presentation by Formula-d on a Rockefeller Foundation backed game for business process optimisation.  Another highlight of the day was undoubtedly the panel discussion about starting a Southern African serious games association. The panel consisted of representatives from academia, industry and game developers. The first enthusiastic steps to such an association were taken and met with enthusiasm from the audience.

“All-by-all the first International Conference for Serious Games was a great success.  Our aim was to interweave the interests of academia and industry players in the relatively new field of serious games in SA. I feel that with the imput of  industry, six different academic institutions and guest speakers with extensive experience in both sectors, the conference was able to provide such a platform.  Academics could show through rigorous research what should be considered when creating serious games for South African audiences, and industry representatives were able to share their success stories, lessons learnt and future plans with the academics.  Our attempt to create a common platform was commended by both sets of presenters,” summarises Werner Ravyse, manager of SGI-SA.