The First International Conference on Serious Games South Africa

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In August, myself, Duke and Bryan made the trek up North to Vanderbijlpark to go attend the first conference on Serious Games in South Africa. The North West University Team really pulled together a fantastic group of speakers and international guests.

A personal highlight for me was the Game Design workshop hosting by Ernest Adams. Not only did I get genuinely excited by the games we were designing, but it really demonstrated how ad hoc creativity can produce really stellar ideas (even if they are very rough). I was particularly fond of this excercise, as it gave me and opportunity to work alongside Marco Rosa from Formula D. A company that has been pioneering Serious Games and interactive digital installations in South Africa and abroad. We were tasked to come up with a pop star game for girls, that would teach them valuable skills. We combined elements of pitch-matching games, with an isometric management game, where a young aspiring songstress needs to sing her way from the shanty town, to the stages of the city. A number of tasks allow her passage to new areas of the map: talent, attention, money and contacts. Of course, there are many pitfalls, as our Singerella has to avoid dodgy managers trying to exploit her, avoid being robbed, and choose the right songs for her voice.

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The conference was fantastic in it’s merging of industry and academia. I delivered a talk on some of the research I conducted in Ocean View among gamers, titled “On Context: Exploring Mobile Phones as Gaming Consoles Among Resource-constrained Youth in Ocean View, South Africa”:

Serious games, as an emerging field in South Africa, could benefit from understanding how ethnographic research assists game developers. We report an ethnographic study of mobile phone gaming among a group of children in Ocean View. Here, phones as object commodities gained value as media commodities. In the peer group studied, cultural capital was developed through owning the ‘right’ kind of feature phone. Moreover, access to the “fancy” feature phones reflected the role of class and gender privilege in technology appropriation. Notably, boys were the most avid mobile gamers and owned individual handsets, whereas girls barely used their handsets for games, and often had to share handsets. We suggest implications for the design of serious games based on these findings.”

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