The Virginia Serious Game Institute – Dedicated to Supporting Innovation in Serious Games
by Nate Smith and Calvin Carlson
Accelerators are growing in number across the region, to target market-centric start-ups and support new innovations and entrepreneurship in areas such as cybersecurity, technology, and other growing sectors. Accelerators are designed to provide start-ups with new connections and a collaborative learning environment which typically consist of institutional and corporate partners, investor networks, as well as support on product development, customer expansion, and building a community relationship. Accelerators are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to resources available for new business, as academic institutions are coming to the playing field to participate in the fast-paced incubator space.
One such institution is George Mason University (GMU) Virginia Serious Game Institute (VSGI), a product of a public-private partnership between George Mason University and Prince William County, Virginia. As the U.S. affiliate of six related institutions around the world, VSGI is dedicated to the research and cultivation of serious games and simulations.
VSGI has always focused on its Incubator program: if a studio or start-up has a promising idea for a game, simulation, or program with applications in an educational or professional setting, then VSGI is eager to assist in the development and marketing of the product. Providing not only space and technology for the companies brought in, but also a real hands-on mentorship program supported through the National Science Foundation, networking support, access to investors, product evaluation, and brand recognition.
While accelerator programs take different approaches to generating income from their startups to include revenue from equity, profit share, and/or a fee-based service, VSGI’s incubator program is supported by state and local funds and new start-ups affiliated with GMU can reside for free with no equity, profit or fees associated.
GMU-VSGI incubator has yielded some very engaging results targeted towards a younger demographic, such as a board game that teaches genetics using cartoon kittens. Their programs for use in business and higher education settings are truly remarkable.
- Scriyb, by Scriyb. While this isn’t the first program designed to stream and archive lectures for students/employees to view, it is the first to help you sort them into their ideal groups. Using information about the students/employees, Scriyb will sort them into the groups it determines will allow them to produce their best possible work. Imagine working on a group project, but instantly meshing with your teammates.
- Zephyr Drone Simulator, by Little Arm Studios. As personal drones have increased in popularity, the FAA has been getting closer to instituting stricter laws around owning and operating one. In anticipation of this, Zephyr Drone Simulator was created; a simulation program with realistic flight, weather, and wind physics, it even notifies you if you have broken any FAA regulations while playing. With this tool, prospective private drone operators will be able to practice piloting various models of drones, without the risk of damaging a very expensive piece of equipment.
- Hospital Rescue by Hospital Training Games LLC. The medical profession is a field built on cooperation. It can take a team of doctors to treat a single patient, and those doctors need to know how to work together, sometimes across great distances. But how can these doctors get experience, without risking the lives of their patients? Hospital Rescue offers a solution. Players take control of a virtual doctor and work in real-time with other players to treat their patients. For more experienced healthcare professionals, they can play as the Chief of Staff for a virtual hospital, to get leadership experience in a low-stakes environment.
- IMMERSE, developed by several GMU students. This is an AR (augmented reality) medical training application that can be used to teach, assess, and reinforce education in critical healthcare situations. For example, someone seriously injures themselves, but you are unsure of how to treat them. This app displays how to properly treat the injured party by projecting AR instructions over their injuries.