The industry of educational games/serious games is not new, with the first educational games such as Star Wars: Droidworks (a game about learning science) being launched as early as 1998. The trend continued with games like Whyville, Big Brain Academy and recent ones such as Match Blaster. Serious games have not only persisted, but are expected to grow as games based learning become a complementary learning tool. According to estimates of a report by Ambient Insight the market is predicted to grow from $1.5billion in 2012 to $2.3 billion in 2017.
Within educational games lies the budding industry of corporate training games. These are rapidly replacing traditional e-learning as companies realize the interactive value of games over e-modules. Games with their just-in-time learning support and ability to simulate complex decisionmaking are increasingly being adopted by companies to train their employees. The Ambient report predicts the growth of simulation-based learning market, which includes corporate training games, to increase from $2.3 billion in 2012 to $6.6 billion in 2017.
While educational games maybe gathering traction, they are still relatively limited in their use, mostly because of the high perceived costs of game development. According to Julie Brink of ViaLearning “Many organizations perceive game-based learning as cost prohibitive and don’t think of it as a supplementary piece to a blended program.” In her blog she continues to explain that this is largely a misconception; the average cost for a custom-built adult e-learning game may range from $15,000 to $50,000.
The International Development Sector has yet to catch on with the boom in educational games. While there have been some attempts to integrate games as part of development projects (explained further in the next section), there are very few games that are being used for the training of development practitioners. We therefore feel that the opportunity is ripe for stepping into this niche area and setting the trend for a much needed innovation. According to Diane Tucker, Director of the Serious Game Initiative“The structure and complexity of games make them effective tools for investigating wicked problems and seeing the ramifications and trade-offs dictated by policies designed to address them […] Games’ interactivity transforms players from spectators into actors—participants with agency.”
International Development is a global agenda and there is increasing emphasis on aid effectiveness. The World Bank alone has 11,839 projects in 172 countries. Billions of dollars are pumped into the sector each year; In 2010 the World Bank contributed US$458.75 billion, USA donated US$38 billion and NGOs had a share of US$2.4 billion. There is an emerging appetite for learning tools that build the capacity of development practitioners and policy makers around the world. Potential clients for GRID products include multilateral and bilateral development agencies, NGOs, think tanks and universities offering international development programs.