Nowadays, video games are part of our life. Even if they are often disparaged because of their violence, they are also recognized to have some benefits. Various studies show that playing can improve some professional skills, like providing better hand-eye coordination for surgeons, for example. This observation has led to the development of serious games that can be used in companies to train their employees with good results.
Video games are often associated with children and violence. But various experts in psychology and education, among others, recognize the benefits of some interactive games when played in moderation. Of course, how you play, the content of the game, where your focus is drawn onscreen, and how you control the characters should be taken into account to define a game’s effects.
Already in 2003, C. S. Green and D. Bavelier showed that playing action video games was able to radically alter visual attention processing. Since then, gamers were proved to have better reflexes, spatial attention and hand-eye coordination, for example. On February 27, 2013, Patrizi et al. showed that a Nintendo® Wii™ training program had a positive impact on laparoscopic surgical skills. Indeed, the doctors who, for one month, regularly played three Wii™ games requiring visual concentration and hand-eye coordination, performed surgery more successfully. Taking it even further, scientists at University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston reported that teen gamers are better at virtual surgery than medical residents… Dr Sami Kilic, the lead author, got the idea for this experiment when he observed his son so immediately at ease with a robotic surgery simulator. The conclusion he draws is that “As we see students with enhanced visual-spatial experience and hand-eye coordination that are a result of the technologically-savvy world they are immersed in, we should rethink how best to teach this generation.”
This raises the question of the evolution of teaching and training, not only during formal education, but also in a professional environment. Nowadays, there is a real market for games called serious games whose primary purpose is not pure entertainment, but training, advertising, simulation, or education. They took off in the mid-2000s, when small game companies needed to find a new way to survive, as they couldn’t compete with their big competitors on the pure entertainment market. Several companies, public administrations and the defense department use these kinds of games.
Tony Fortin, Director of Les Cahiers du Jeu Vidéo at the Pix'n Love Editions, insists on the fact that a true serious game should include a world evolving with the decisions taken by the gamer. It must provide a genuine interaction and not follow a simple scenario where, at the end, you are right or wrong, or you drove well or not. This is different than e-learning.
This is the case for SimUrgences which recently received an award at the Health Communication Festival for its role in training accident and emergency doctors and cardiologists to care for victims of cardiac emergencies. On another level, Renault Academy uses this kind of entertainment to increase client satisfaction and the commercial performance of the company. Their first game was developed in 2009 and earned the title of “Best Serious Game 2009 in France”. Since then, they have developed more games adapted to various professions, like the head of sales or service counselors; they all have their own game.
Among these serious games used as training units by companies, there are some advergames. These are part of a communication strategy, but, here again, the training value of a game like “My Job Interview”, developed by telecommunications company SFR, can not be denied. Indeed, it helps young people prepare to find their first job. It is certainly very useful for them, but the commercial role of the game remains predominant, as all along SFR is present with its music, its logo…
For more information:
 Nature. 2003 May 29;423(6939):534-7
 Giannotti D, Patrizi G, Di Rocco G, Vestri AR, Semproni CP, et al. (2013) Play to Become a Surgeon: Impact of Nintendo WII Training on Laparoscopic Skills. PLoS ONE 8(2): e57372. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057372