Trip report: Serious Play 2014

Last week, I attended the Serious Play 2014 conference in Los Angeles. I measure the value of any conference by how energized I felt at the end, and boy howdy, was I fired up by the last session. Not only were there many top-notch presentations, but the conversations between and after the official sessions were very interesting. A few of the most intriguing conversations included…

  • Why the boom, over the last few years, of medical games?
  • Are we pursuing a too-narrow approach to serious games for education?
  • Have we put the technology discussions in proper perspective?
  • To what extent do serious games need to be ongoing activities, requiring continued development, to succeed?
  • Have we overdone the in-game rewards too much?
  • What are the metrics that we should collect about game play, and what impact should we expect them to have?

My own humble offering among the presentations, was a hymn to game development. I think the game design questions are important, but design only takes you so far. Serious games have big (dare we say, serious?) ambitions, which means that design, the fine art of creating an experience for people playing the game, can only take you so far. Game development, which entails critical decisions beyond the current design, such as whether we’re designing the right type of game in the first place, deserves far more attention.

You can see my slides here (also embedded below), and listen to a recorded version of the presentation here. I struggled through the writing of this presentation, since it was the first time I had articulated a lot of the thoughts in it. They all fit together, but I packed too much into it, as evidenced by the 75 minute playing time for the recorded version. Still, it won’t be the last time I’ll be talking about these issues, so I had to start somewhere.
A major point near the end of the presentation is the importance of feedback loops in serious game design and development. In that spirit, I’d love to hear your feedback. Drop me a line at if you have any suggestions, praise, or denunciations you wish to share.


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