METANOMICS HOSTS DAVID WORTLEY WORTLEY
OF THE SERIOUS GAMES INSTITUTE
JANUARY 28, 2008
BEYERS SELLERS: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to another session of
Metanomics. We’re here on JenzZa Misfit's Muse Isle, and we thank JenzZa for
allowing us to conduct our Metanomics event here today. We also thank our
sponsors, who include Cisco Systems, SAP, Generali Group, Saxo Bank, Sun
Microsystems and Kelly Services. And a special thanks to my own institution, Cornell
University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, for supporting me in running
the Metanomics series. And also special thanks to Second Life Cable Network for
making it possible for SL residents and web viewers to join us live and see us, as
well, on SLCN.TV.
I’d like to welcome two new event partners that we have with Metanomics today.
There is a place to see the show with the crowd at the New Media Consortium, that’s
a community of hundreds of leading universities, colleges, museums and research
centers, and they’ve been making a big push in SL.
Also, we welcome as a new event partner, Etopia, SL’s premier environmental
eco-village showcasing real-life examples of sustainable development, renewable
energy, organic living and authentic community. These two join our current event
partners, ComMeta, Rockliffe University, Colonia Nova and the Terrace.
Before we get started, let me also remind our live audience to join the Metanomics
chat group to join in on the backchat. So we encourage you to chat away so that we
can get some feedback on what you’re finding interesting and topics you’d like us to
discuss. And also, please chat any questions you would like us to address.
If you are here on Muse Isle and you have good voice quality, a headset, you can
ask your question yourself, just IM me, Curric Vita or Yxes Delacroix to let us know
you’d like to ask a voice question, and we’ll ask you to go on up to the microphone,
toward the front and that way we can get you on SLCN’s camera as well.
Okay. So now that that bookkeeping is out of the way, I’d like to introduce David
Wortley. David Wortley, welcome to the show.
DAVID WORTLEY: Thank you very much. It’s a great pleasure to be here, and I’m
looking forward to talking to you. It’s 7:00 here in the UK in the evening, so I’m just
sort of home in my spare room.
BEYERS SELLERS: Well, you know, a couple drinks in hand, and I’ll get you to say
things that you wouldn’t otherwise have said in a public venue.
So David, you are the director of the Serious Games Institute at Coventry University.
Let me just read something that I got directly off the web site here, which is that
you’re responsible for--and here I’m quoting--“... the development of the institute as a
brand new, self-financing initiative to establish a center of excellence for the
emerging Serious Games application area, working with academics, regional
development agencies and leading computer games companies. David aims to
make the SGI a thought leader and focal point for games-based learning, simulation
and immersive 3D virtual environments.”
Well, that’s an excellent fit for our Metanomics show and things I’ve been very
interested in myself. Let me start, David, by asking what do you think of as being
Serious Games? What does the term mean to you? Let’s see. David, did we lose
DAVID WORTLEY: Okay. I’ve just locked my talk now. Can you hear me okay now?
BEYERS SELLERS: Okay. Yeah. Sounds perfect.
DAVID WORTLEY: Okay. Yeah, Serious Games, I understand, is the use of
electronic games, technologies and practices for purposes other than simply
entertainment, so it’s really the end product or the output, which is Serious. We still
expect the games and the virtual environments themselves to be entertaining and
BEYERS SELLERS: And can you give us some examples of the types of games
that SGI is already involved in producing or plans to be producing soon?
DAVID WORTLEY: Yeah, I can. But before I do that I should just make it clear that
the institute is a public/private partnership. We don’t actually develop the games and
environments ourselves. What we do is work with industry to support the
development of those games, so we act as kind of intermediaries and brokers. But
the typical kinds of applications that are being developed with the companies that we
work with are Serious Games for training people in entrepreneurship, business skills,
health-related activities. We have a company that specializes in games for teaching
people how to handle trauma injuries in the battlefield or first responders, how to
respond to an explosion in a high street and treat casualties. We’ve got a really wide
spectrum of applications that we operate in.
BEYERS SELLERS: So if I can just ask you to elaborate on the games that sound
nearest and dearest to my heart. You mentioned entrepreneurship first. So is the
idea that someone would get a chance to start up a company in a virtual
environment and deal with all the problems an entrepreneur faces?
DAVID WORTLEY: That’s exactly that. It works exactly that way. When someone
plays the game, they play the role of somebody starting a business up, and they
have to deal with all the kinds of challenges that people have in starting a business
up. And they make decisions in real time, and they see the impact of those decisions
on the performance of the business, the profitability, etcetera. There are many
different types of games that work in this space. Some of them all purely work on a
kind of standalone basis, so the player plays by themselves. But there are other
games where they work through some kind of mediator or facilitator who works with
the individuals so that they help to understand the results of their decisions and why
those results came about.
And some of them all work through peer-to-peer learning, which I think also is very
effective. So instead of the individual working with a tutor or working by themselves,
they work with a group of other entrepreneurs so they learn for each other.
BEYERS SELLERS: Okay. Yeah, very interesting. I’d like to go back to something
that you were saying just a minute ago where you were saying you guys at SGI don’t
actually develop the games yourselves. I know that to do them well they can be
extremely expensive. And it also mentions in the summary of what you guys are
doing that SGI is a self-financing initiative. So can you just talk a little bit more about
how the funds flow and how you get these partnerships to work and how you don’t
cost too much money to Coventry University?
DAVID WORTLEY: Well, the initiative itself is a partnership between Coventry
University and Advantage West Midlands, the regional development agency, and it
all really arises out of the need in the West Midlands to find a replacement for the car
industry and the heavy manufacturing that’s disappeared to the Far East. And we’re
fortunate enough to have some leading games development companies and
publishers in our region already there, people like Blitz Games and Code Masters,
already producing games for the global marketplace. So we already have a
presence in the games industry.
And so the idea behind this funding is to create a model that will develop into a
self-sustaining business. So it’s made up of a number of components that will help to
deliver the results that the region’s looking for but won’t cost the taxpayer a great
deal of money. Part of that is to do with the role that we play in attracting funding for
applied research so mainly public sector funding but increasingly private sector
funding through corporate partners who will pay for our researchers to do work,
which will provide them with some commercial benefits.
The dream ticket that we’re trying to seek is for corporate and public sector partners
to work with us. We come up with innovative ideas for projects; those projects will
deliver benefits for the public partner or the private sector partner, but they will also
provide work for the small games development companies in our region.
So our revenue comes from applied research, it comes from rental that our tenants
play, who are based within our buildings, and it comes from some of the advanced
facilities in the Serious Games Institute. So we’re putting in infrastructure that will
allow us to, for example, do hosting of Virtual World applications and generate
revenue based on an ASP model.
BEYERS SELLERS: And so it sounds like the markets that these games would
ultimately be selling to are not just private industry, but also government agencies
and public education. So is SGI then playing the role, somewhat, of also an
intermediary trying to give game developers access into these markets?
DAVID WORTLEY: Oh, very much so. We are an intermediary. Exactly. We are a
facilitator. We’re a broker. And when we’re successful, by understanding the needs
of industry, we act as a kind of--and also being very indivitive and entrepreneurial in
what we’re doing within the institute, we attract investment which can go into games
development companies so that they’re not having to make the market, they’re not
having to devote a lot of their energies to sell the concept of Serious Games. We act
as a focal point, and we bring potential partners and potential clients to them, so
we’re helping to reduce some of their overheads and act as an intermediary in this
BEYERS SELLERS: Let me follow up on the comment that you made that you’re
going to not leave it to the game developers to sell the idea of Serious Games. The
term “Serious Games” has been around a long time and, given the type of research
and teaching I’ve been doing, I’ve been following it now for close to a couple
decades. I see the true believers think Serious Games can do amazing things, but
they really, as far as I can tell, haven’t broken into the broader marketplace beyond,
in particular, the military and emergency team reaction simulations. So do you see
that changing in the near future? And how, exactly, are you making the pitch?
DAVID WORTLEY: Well, yeah, I do see that changing, and I see a gradual
evolution. I think the main difficulty in developing the marketplace for Serious Games
has been the cost involved in developing Serious Games, which have really made
the use of Serious Games only economically viable for fairly large organizations with
the budgets to be able to do it. And even in those kinds of marketplaces, in a lot of
ways the jury is still out on how the effectiveness of Serious Games compares to
traditional learning techniques.
But I see that gradually changing over a period of time where, through all the
publicity that Serious Games and Virtual Worlds are getting, people are really
beginning to understand that this is a new way of engaging people in learning
activities, so they are increasingly more receptive to the idea of Serious Games. And
the same time as that is happening, there are increasingly productive tools which
help in the development process.
One of our tenants in our building is a company called PIXELearning. They’re a
relatively small company, but they are developing a platform called Learning Beans,
with the idea that a lot of the cost can be taken out of the development by having a
productive platform where--essentially can be used as a tool to create brand-new
Serious Games, particularly for business simulations, where a lot of the
cost-intensive parts of development work are taken away by the platform that people
are working on. I think that the industry generally is working towards this goal and,
as the cost comes down and the awareness is increased, I think the marketplace will
continue to develop.
BEYERS SELLERS: So actually we’ve just got a whole bunch of questions in from
our backchat channel. Let me again remind viewers that you can join the
Metanomics Group, and then you could follow the backchat and ask questions as
well. One question here is about the difference between simulations and Serious
Games. Do you distinguish between those?
DAVID WORTLEY: Well, there’s a great deal of overlap between simulations and
Serious Games. I mean some Serious Games are simulations. A lot of the
business-related Serious Games are simulations of how a business operates, but
Serious Games they don’t necessarily need to be simulations, and not all simulations
are Serious Games. But there is a space where, in order to play the game, you’re
having to simulate a physical process. And I think, in the business world, most of the
Serious Games that I’ve seen are, in fact, simulations of some kind of business
process, and that’s how people learn.
The reason why games are attractive from a learning perspective is that, unlike
being thrown into the deep end of running a business, you can afford to make
mistakes and learn from those mistakes without ruining a business. So I think it’s a
very positive aspect of Serious Games, which would not necessarily apply to other
forms of learning activity.
BEYERS SELLERS: One of our very first guests on Metanomics way back in the fall
was Sandra Kearney from IBM, and she talked a fair bit about an offshore oil rig set
up in a Virtual World, and the idea was that it was a lot less dangerous to train
someone on a virtual oil rig out in the middle of a virtual ocean, than to do the real
DAVID WORTLEY: Yeah, absolutely.
BEYERS SELLERS: So I can certainly see that. I see a number of questions in the
backchat asking about your view of Second Life as a platform and, before we talk
about Second Life, I’d like to mention that I know SGI recently announced you were
going to use Forterra Systems’ Olive platform. And next week we’re going to have on
Metanomics Robert Gehorsam, who is the president of Forterra Systems. So I want
to be prepared for that. And so I have several questions for you about your use of
Forterra. Before we talk about Forterra specifically, where do you see Virtual Worlds
fitting into the Serious Games marketplace and SGI’s efforts in particular?
DAVID WORTLEY: Well, the area that we’re particularly interested in is how virtual
worlds and physical worlds can be integrated. And this really does fit in with Serious
Games because in training, for example, in first responder disaster management, a
lot of the situations you want emergency workers to be able to handle it’s either too
risky or too costly or just to impractical to be able to do that in the real world. So
having Virtual Worlds which really reflect real-world situations, not only in the way
the city looks, the place looks, but also in the behavior of the objects within that
Virtual World. Very important to have those realistic. So those are the kinds of
applications where we see Virtual Worlds playing a real role. You mentioned the
virtual oil rigs as well. But all kinds of physical environments where training people in
those physical environments is costly or risky. There is potential to use Virtual
Worlds for those. And I don’t know whether you want me to go on and talk about
Second Life and how that relates to--
BEYERS SELLERS: Yeah, sure. Definitely. This sounds like just the time.
DAVID WORTLEY: Yeah. We feel it’s very important to be, if you like,
heterogeneous when we’re looking at different virtual platforms, so we don’t say
Second Life is better than Forterra or vice versa. What we’re saying is that these are
completely, in our view, different types of Virtual Worlds. And I think we owe a great
deal of debt to Second Life and what it’s brought to making Virtual Worlds with such
a high profile.
My view of it is that Forterra is a great engine for creativity. It’s a really good example
of Web 3.0 and making technology available to everyone to be able to explore and
experiment. And it’s a great tool for creativity and entrepreneurship. But it’s an
environment in which you might say that all things are possible, and I probably share
the view of a lot of people who would have concerns about doing, if you like, real-
world simulations, serious business simulations, serious emergency exercises in the
Second Life environment, mainly to do with concerns about security, lack of ability to
host a solution on your own servers, and also the lack of fidelity of reproduction of
physical behavior. I know some of these things are already addressed and can be
addressed, but I don’t think Second Life can be or should be all things to all men.
And so where we draw a line in the sand between--oh, the other aspect of Second
Life versus Forterra is the fact that there is a lack of an ability to be able to bring in
industry-standard virtual assets from 3D Studio Max and other types of environments
to be able to use designs that you’ve created elsewhere or applications you created
elsewhere. Those are the main differences between the two. So we see Second Life
as a great tool for working with, particularly, the creative sector, looking at how it can
be used as a platform to promote creativity in the music industry, video animation,
many, many types of opportunities where creativity is the key.
Whereas, with Forterra, we see a strength in its being its open interface, its ability to
work with other industry standards, its ability to create an environment and
applications that are faithful to fit [AUDIO GAP] its added security. All of those things,
in our view, make it suitable for a different set of applications, which are more around
the commercial or the corporate environment or the government environment for
emergency planning, etcetera. So we see strengths in both platforms, and we will
continue to work with both platforms. We’ve got projects going on with both of them,
but the projects themselves are quite different in what we’re trying to do.
BEYERS SELLERS: So can you talk a little bit more about the actual arrangement
you have with Forterra? And the reason I ask this is because I’m just trying to put
together a couple things you’ve said. One is that SGI isn’t really in the business of
creating the Serious Games itself, that’s going to be farmed out to the corporate
partners that you’ve got. On the other hand, you have said that SGI has chosen
Forterra as a platform. So are you saying that you’re going to be encouraging your
partners to develop content within Forterra Olive platforms?
DAVID WORTLEY: Yeah. The relationship with Forterra really comes--its origins are
in the fact that we work with a UK company called Ambient Performance, and they’re
one of our tenants that are moving into our business. We deliberately have chosen
them because we have a high regard for their understanding of the marketplace and
developing some of the potential. And so really working with them and collaborating
with them and looking at different solutions, we chose to host Forterra as a platform
at the SGI to provide opportunities, not just for Ambian Performance, but for
developers of Virtual Worlds and virtual applications to be able to create applications
on the marketplace. Because a lot of small businesses they would not have the
resources to be able to afford to do that kind of hosting or to afford the licenses to be
able to do it themselves. So in a way, we’re providing the infrastructure that will allow
small businesses to create new opportunities for themselves and, at the same time,
generate a bit of revenue for ourselves as the people who host the services.
BEYERS SELLERS: Okay. So you actually are hosting. You have your own servers,
you have your own Forterra Olive-based worlds that people can create so SGI’s
partners can deal directly with you rather than having to go to Forterra themselves,
to say, “We like--
DAVID WORTLEY: Oh, yes. They will not deal with Forterra directly normally. How it
would come about is that they would either find potential clients themselves or
through the events that we run out of the Serious Games Institute. We would
introduce them to potential partners and clients and kind of act as intermediaries that
would not only help the small businesses to generate revenue from developing
applications, but also for ourselves, because projects might be a project where we
would be engaged to become an honest broker and make sure we provide project
management, for example, or some applied research, to make sure that the client
got best value from the commercial side of it.
BEYERS SELLERS: Okay. Fascinating. Now you do have an island or, I guess,
Coventry, I believe, has an island in Second Life, and there’s a building for SGI. How
are you using Second Life currently in your efforts?
DAVID WORTLEY: Well, the kind of background to that is that our vice chancellor
just over a year ago put out an email appeal for any ideas for how to develop the
university in new and interesting ways. And both myself and the professor of
problem-based learning suggested that an island in Second Life would be a good
way of raising the profile of the university and exploring the use of these new
technologies for student education. So our first island was bought as a kind of
collaborative project, and Professor Savin-Baden, who’s the expert in problem-based
learning, she worked with a team of students and consultants that we work with to
develop the bulk of the university island. And most of this is not trying to make an
exact replica of the university, but to create spaces where they can explore different
uses of Second Life technology.
What we wanted to do as a Serious Games Institute is to use it as an opportunity for
people to not only get a glimpse of what our building looks like and the kind of
facilities that are in there, but also use it as a way of providing some of the
beginnings of integrating real and virtual worlds. So initially, we’ve begun by--rather
like you’re doing here. We create an environment in which a virtual audience sees
some of our live workshops. And I guess the only difference between what you’re
doing here and what we’ve been doing is that, typically, events that we’ve run also
have a physical audience as well as a virtual audience. So in other words, if we’re
running a workshop within the Serious Games Institute, we will have probably 20 or
30 people who are set in the Serious Games Institute and, at the same time, we’ll
have a number of people in a Virtual World.
But as well as the university island, we recently have bought two other islands for a
project called Second Life Science City, and this is very much about developing an
island where we can use that as a way of engaging some of the digital media
companies in the West Midlands in exploring and using the potential of Second Life
for developing their business, whether it is a promotional tool or whether it’s looking
at new applications that we can run within Second Life. So we actually have three
BEYERS SELLERS: Okay. Thanks for elaborating on that. I have a question from
Grace McDonnough. I hope I’m pronouncing that correctly. Going back to your--you
talked about an ASP model.
DAVID WORTLEY: Yes.
BEYERS SELLERS: So the question here is, “First, can you describe what you
mean by that ASP model for working with the developers?” And then second, she
also wanted to know about how this might compare to what the Multiverse platform
is capable of doing, if you’re familiar with that one.
DAVID WORTLEY: Well, I’m not intimately familiar with Multiverse platform but, as
far as the ASP model is concerned, Application Service Provider, what I mean
essentially is that you are to serve as facilities manager for a client so, instead of the
client having to invest in the capital hardware and pay staff to support hosting their
own service, the client pays you a fee for providing the infrastructure, looking after
the technology and maintaining a certain quality of service. So it’s normally based
on--well, it can be a number of models. It can be based on a kind of monthly
arrangement fee, or it can be based on a usage fee. So that’s what I mean by an
ASP model, is that people are paying you to provide the infrastructure instead of
having the cost and the hassle of doing it themselves.
If we’re hosting a number of different clients and applications on the same server
and the same network or same banker servers and the same network, then it’s often
very much more cost effective to do it as an ASP model than it would be to try and
do it yourself.
BEYERS SELLERS: Okay. So yeah, I’m getting a better sense then of what your
enterprise model is at SGI. Can you give us a little information on the size of your
budget, how many people you have working with you? What’s the mix between
academics, technical types and business and outreach people?
DAVID WORTLEY: Yeah, sure. Well, as I mentioned, I think--or maybe I didn’t
mention in the beginning--this project is extremely new. We only had the contracts
signed by our development agency ten months ago. So in that ten-month time, we’ve
had to acquire a building, we’ve had to equip it, put all of the technology and
infrastructure in, try and build a profile, attract tenants, etcetera. So we’re running
very lean at the moment. At the moment, directly employed by the Serious Games
Institute we have myself and my research director, and we have one person who
looks after the building and acts as a receptionist. So that is the sum total of our staff
running the project. But within the building itself, we have or will have over the next
couple of months something like five small businesses with between something like
30 or 40 staff. And then we’re in the process [AUDIO GAP]. And currently we have
something like 15 or 20--
BEYERS SELLERS: I’m afraid I lost--you cut out just in the last bit of that. The last
thing I heard was that you had about five or so small businesses that were going to
be moving in.
DAVID WORTLEY: Yeah. We have one that’s moved in already, and the others are
ready to move in. We’re just waiting for a contract to be signed with a support
agency who are helping them with some of the transfer costs to set up their offices
there. And these companies, between them, will probably employ between 20 and
In addition to that, on our applied research floor we have a Serious Games applied
research group. Now, this number’s probably 15 to 20 researchers, but these are
academics who currently work in faculties at the university, and they will essentially
use hot-desking facilities. And they will be supplemented by applied researchers that
we will be recruiting over the next few months. We’re about to advertise for our first
two applied research posts. I’m actively working with some of our corporate partners
on projects to identify where we could bring additional staff in.
BEYERS SELLERS: And actually I have two questions. One is, what is
DAVID WORTLEY: Hot-desking is where somebody can come in and sit down at
any of the desks at the Applied Research Center and have access to the same set of
facilities, the Internet, to access their own space on the server. So it is a space that
is not dedicated just to that individual person.
BEYERS SELLERS: Okay. That makes sense. I don’t want to talk too much about
just the structure of the organization because there’s so many things we can move
on to. So you mentioned the public funding that you are getting is coming from a
regional development group, not the UK. Excuse my ignorance about the politics of
funding in different organizations in the UK. But this sounds like it’s more of a
regional funding. Is that right?
DAVID WORTLEY: Well, yeah, that’s correct. The way that it works in the UK is that
the central government provides different regions of the UK with a pot of money, and
the reason behind this is that they argue that the regions know best where they see
their economic future, so they have a certain amount of discretion on what industry
sectors they try to develop.
So each regional development agency has a pot of money, and then the future of
that region is placed in their hands in terms of public sector intervention. So in the
West Midlands, as I mentioned, we’ve seen the loss of the car industry to the Far
East, and a lot of manufacturing has disappeared from the region, so the region itself
looks at its skill base and it looks at its assets and tries to identify those sectors
where there is going to be a fairly substantial and sustainable growth. And Serious
Games is one which is a very good match to the skills that exist within the region.
So the regional development agency are putting something like an equivalent of,
say, $7 million into buying the building, putting infrastructure in and creating a capital
base around which we can operate.
The university then, itself, provides some revenue funding and some seed capital to
help pay my salary and the salary of my research director. And then it’s up to us, if
you like, that seed funding, that working capital, for us to identify new projects and
partnerships where we can build on that, like a startup business, effectively.
BEYERS SELLERS: Okay. Thank you. Let’s move on a bit to just talking about what
the future holds and where these Serious Games might take off. And one very
important market sector is in public education, or more formal education. This is a bit
challenging, certainly in the U.S., I can’t speak as well for the UK, but there are
concerns, for example, about whether games can be a credible way of providing
education, whether it’s possible to make the types of assessments of whether
learning objectives are being achieved. Are you looking at the formal education
market, and what’s your take on these problems if you are?
DAVID WORTLEY: No. I agree with you, but I think one of the problems is that if
you were simply to try and use Serious Games and these technologies simply to
provide a different way of educating young people to the way we’ve done it in the
past, I think that is not the right way to do it.
I think that the information society is changing the nature of the way society works,
and I think the way that we’ve educated kids in the past is no longer particularly
relevant for the future. If you look at the way the world that the kids are coming into
now with the console games, mobile phones and communication technologies,
digital media, their lives are completely saturated by that, and it has such an integral
part of their life.
The other thing that I think--the other impact that it has is it is breaking down the
barriers between scientists and artists and programmers and developers. So I think
the next generation, the generation Y that are coming through, in a way they’re
almost a different species to my generation. And, therefore, I think we need to look
at education and how it can impact on society in a different way. So rather than can
we adapt Serious Games to teach mathematics, or can we create our scientists
through Serious Games, I think we need to look at the generation that’s coming
through. We need to look at the needs of society and look at the way we learn and
look at it in terms of a lifelong learning process, rather than training for skills. I think
this will influence the way we use the technologies.
And from a university point of view, I think that those universities who are able to
meet the expectations and aspirations of the generation Y will be the universities that
will succeed in the future, certainly, in attracting students to be part of it and also
being able to deliver on the expectations of both the students and society as well.
BEYERS SELLERS: Now, is SGI going to be actively working to address some of
these issues that are less implementing the technology and actually more making
the pitch, explaining to people in educational sectors the role these games can play
and so on? And I guess the related is, you mentioned the research staff that you
have. Are they all sort of technical development researchers, or do you have people
who are looking at issues like assessment and teaching effectiveness?
DAVID WORTLEY: Well, the answer to both questions is yes, really. I’m already
doing this. I speak at a lot of conferences around the world, eLearning conferences.
I’m in Paris next week at the iLearning forum. Most of these tend to be academic-
type conference, with a mixture of some business people in there, and I’m making
these very same points to those audiences, in trying to illustrate that through my
And on the questions of the applied researchers, yes, Serious Games is a very
multidisciplinary activity, so we have people in the Serious Games applied research
group from a wide variety of disciplines--from mathematics, from health and life
sciences, but also from performing arts. So it’s a real mixture of art and science and
people coming together in a way which breaks down the silos of their own disciplines
and encourages them to collaborate in ways that have not really been seen in higher
education, or not until recently, anyway.
BEYERS SELLERS: Okay. We have a question. Earlier you were talking about the
younger generation and that Serious Games may speak to them more effectively as
an education tool than they would to older generations. So Malburns Writer asks
how older people are adapting to the types of training projects that you and others
are creating already.
DAVID WORTLEY: Well, yeah. I mean you’ve really touched on something that I
feel quite passionate about and quite interested in. You know, we often tend to
dismiss old people as being technology laggards, but it’s been my experience that,
certainly in the UK where older people have a lot of discretionary income there--they
have the income, and they also have the time to be able to exploit the potential of
And one of my particular interests is the use of devices like the Nintendo Wii with--I
describe them as ambient technologies. They’re not a games console. They’re not a
mouse or a keyboard or a traditional kind of input device, but they’re something that
people of any kind of generation can pick up and be able to use to interact with
technology. And I think, with older people, this is particularly important.
My pet--I call it a Serious game because I certainly take it very seriously--my pet
ambient device is Guitar Hero. And the use of a guitar and to be able to play along
with a rock band and to be able to recapture your youth is not only a great incentive,
but it’s also a fantastic way of interacting with the technology and one which older
people can also get into.
My background is--I’m not a hardcore gamer; I have developed Serious Games on a
desktop computer before, in the past, some time ago, but I do struggle with games
consoles. But, if I were to give the best example I know of game technology,
practice, design, everything that is good about the way you develop a product for this
market, I would put Guitar Hero at the top of the list by a long way, because it’s got a
BEYERS SELLERS: Now you’ve forced my hand, David. I have to ask. What type of
music do you like that you like to play on Guitar Hero? What’s your favorite songs?
DAVID WORTLEY: Rock music. I mean, I like all kinds of music. My favorite band is
Pink Floyd, but I’ve been a fan of Rock music ever since I was at university. So
playing along with these bands, like Mountain and Rolling Stones--yeah, it gives me
a lot of pleasure. But also I’m using myself as a kind of one-man laboratory to
understand how this kind of technology in an older person--I’m in my 50s--whether
this can be translated into physical benefits like better hand/eye coordination, more
flexibility, better speed of reaction. So I’m using myself as a kind of human
laboratory, with some quite interesting results, as I watch my progress through the
different levels of Guitar Hero. Do you play yourself?
BEYERS SELLERS: Personally, I like Halo and the first-person shoot-em-ups
which, I think, have improved my hand/eye coordination, but I’m still enough slower
than my two kids that there’s really no hope in player versus player.
DAVID WORTLEY: Yeah. I wouldn’t even go there.
BEYERS SELLERS: But I’m glad that I stoke their self-esteem, and that’s the
DAVID WORTLEY: Well, you fulfill an important role, then.
BEYERS SELLERS: So they can see that I truly am old. You should know, by the
way, that--maybe things are different in the UK, but in the U.S., you’re not allowed to
call anyone “old.” People can be “senior citizens,” or they can be “mature.” And
“older” is okay, but you can’t call anyone “old.” It just doesn’t sound right.
DAVID WORTLEY: Okay. Well, I’ll reserve that description.
BEYERS SELLERS: As long as you’re not running for public office here.
DAVID WORTLEY: I’ll reserve that description for myself, then.
BEYERS SELLERS: So let’s see. We’re closing in on the end of our hour. We did
have some questions. So Lyric Wilberg and Airabella Ella both wanted to hear a little
bit more of your thoughts on just education in generation. You made some remarks
on how methods of education should change, and they’d just like to hear a little more
of that, if you have some ideas you’d like to get out there.
DAVID WORTLEY: Yeah, sure. Well, the point I make to people when I’m talking
about this and trying to get people to understand the role of games and learning is to
make the point that this is something that’s not new. I mean, throughout history, ever
since the dawn of mankind and intelligent men, we’ve used games as a way of
learning about ourselves and the world around us. So even from the time we’re born,
we work in an environment where we can explore and experiment in a relatively
risk-free way. So games are certainly not new as a tool for learning.
And, as we’ve grown older, certainly my generation, we’ve then been subjected--if
that’s the right word--to a model of hierarchical learning where you basically have
subject matter experts who transfer their knowledge to you. So you sit in a
classroom with a lot of other people, and you absorb existing knowledge.
I think, with the technology available now with the birth of the Internet and
particularly Webtalk 2.0, learning is much more of a collaborative exercise now. It’s
much more based on peer-to-peer learning rather than hierarchical learning because
information is so much more readily accessible that the role of the teacher is
changing from being the fountain of all knowledge into being something of a
knowledge facilitator, or a broker, a person who can guide you through relationships
and help to moderate the learning process, which largely comes from peer to peer or
the world around you.
And the other aspect of it, which is relatively new, is a greater emphasis on learning
by discovery rather than learning by being told something. You explore and discover,
and I think technologies of GIS and Google Earth, Microsoft Virtual Earth, are going
to be quite influential in the way that we learn in the future.
So in summary, I think what’s happening is that the balance of the way we learn is
shifting away from the hierarchical model of absorbing knowledge into much more of
a collaborative discovery-based type of peer-to-peer learning.
BEYERS SELLERS: Well, that’s a great summary and a new and interesting
perspective. As the type of guy who stands up in front of a class, teaching more or
less by the old-fashioned method, I guess I’m going to have to be used to being
more of a facilitator or, if these games catch on, maybe I’ll have to view myself more
as a Dungeon master, something like that.
But anyway, thank you so much, David Wortley, of the Serious Games Institute, for
coming on to our show, and we wish you the best of luck with SGI and at Coventry
University. If anyone else has questions, feel free to hang around.
I do want to point out that, in really just a few minutes, there’s going to be another
event that should be very interesting: the MacArthur series on philanthropy and
Virtual Worlds is going to have a discussion, “Virtual Liberties: Do Avatars Dream of
Civil Rights?” And I am going to paste the SL URL into the Metanomics backchat for
that so that people can go along and listen to Douglas Thomas, Barry Joseph and, I
believe, Jack Balkin. Oh, and Robin Harper, who has also been on Metanomics
before. We’ll be talking about avatar civil liberties.
Again, David Wortley, of the Serious Games Institute, thank you very much for
showing up. Thanks to all of our Metanomics audience for tagging along, and we will
see you next week, when we’ll have Robert Gehorsam, the president of Forterra
Systems, which should be a very interesting hour. Thanks a lot.
DAVID WORTLEY: Thank you very much.
[AUDIO ENDS AT 57:59]
Transcribed by: http://www.hiredhand.com
Second Life avatar: Transcriptionist Writer