Serious Games Directory


This page is dedicated to the many experiments in “serious gaming,” a catch-all term that focuses on games about real world issues in an attempt to either educate players or to entertain using real world ideas as a context for storytelling. These games run the gamut in terms of type: you have your basic quizzes, your choose-your-own-adventure-style games, and your full-blown simulation games.

News games also fall into this category. I consider news games works of journalism that attempt to use gaming elements as the medium for storytelling.

The list below is updated irregularly as I run across new works. If I’m missing something, please let me know so I can add it to the directory.

As some people have asked, I categorized each game below based mainly on the mechanics involved with the game. My definitions:

  • Budgetary: These are your “fix the budget” games. They are mainly pretty data visualizations that allow a player to try and balance a budget or explore the budgetary process. I would say they are more popular among media, because they are easier to build compared to other types of games, use data as a central driving piece of the game, and still feel serious enough to publish on a news site. I say this because there is still issues around people perceiving games as a child’s endeavor, not a serious platform for storytelling.
  • Chance: These are games where the results are largely randomized and skill is replaced with luck. Think games involving gambling, like poker or blackjack.
  • Choose-your-own-adventure: These types of games offer players an opportunity to explore multiple story paths within an overarching story. Think of those old books you read where it tells you to turn to page 4 or page 51, and depending on which page you go to, the stories takes a different form. I think these types of games are a natural fit for journalism, because you can show multiple perspectives of a story while better allowing a player to live the experience of the character in the story through choice and immersion.
  • Other: Games that don’t fit neatly into any of the other categories here.
  • Platformer: These games are your side-scrollers, your Super Mario Bros.-like games. Your character navigates an maze of puzzles and obstacles to get to a goal.
  • Puzzle: These games play to a player’s logic. Each puzzle in the game, no matter the form, requires the player to figure of a logical sequence that will “solve the puzzle.”
  • Quiz: Super popular in media. These are your trivial games, where you test the knowledge of the player on the topic matter at hand. Real easy to build and implement.
  • Racing: These games require the player to get from point A to point B, and there is usually a ticking clock element to the game.
  • Shooter: These games test a player’s dexterity by requiring them to “shoot” targets. If you’ve ever played Call of Duty or any other first-person shooter game, it’s kind of in that vein. There are also the “tap the screen to shoot” variations to the game, especially as games go mobile.
  • Simulation: These are one of my favorite type of games. Extremely complex and anchored in real-world concepts or replications of existing systems, simulation games force the player to make decisions within the context of the system being simulated. The consequences of the player’s actions are usually not fully known, there are random or hidden elements to the game to which the player must make the best decision they can given what is known, and there is still an element of “chance” in the game. Think Risk or Civilization.
  • Strategy: These types of games are similar to simulation games in that you must make decisions while not knowing the exact outcome. Unlike simulation games, strategy games usually have all the elements of the game out in the open for the player to see; there is usually no random element to the game (no dice rolling, no random events, etc). The best example of this is Chess.

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