Being that this is the first week of class, I have decided to go against the grain here a little bit. Rather than choosing an extremely successful serious game, I have chosen to discuss a very successful game that has a mostly unrealized serious application. That game is Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (KTANE), a communication game centered around the defusal of a bomb with which detonation is imminent.
Gameplay is relatively simple. One player assumes the role of “Bomb Diffuser”, while the other players assume the role of bomb “Experts”. The “Bomb Diffuser” is the only player who is allowed to see the bomb, and so the “Experts” role is to sift through a lengthy, paper-print manual, relaying information to the diffuser about what steps they need to take in order to successfully diffuse the bomb before its timer depletes. Additionally, Virtual Reality is supported for the “Bomb Diffuser” role (and makes the experience even more enjoyable), however, it is certainly not required as the diffuser can also play on a traditional PC using just their keyboard and mouse or a USB Xbox controller.
The reason that KTANE is such as successful game is due to the fact that it forces communication in tense, stressful situations, thus resulting in an extreme feeling of reward and accomplishment when one successfully completes a level in-game. This is because during times of extreme stress, we generally tend to lock up and begin struggling to communicate our thoughts precisely and effectively. Consequently, being put into a virtual bomb defusal scenario can help to develop and enhance communication skills in tense or stressful situations, thereby making KTANE a serious game.
Part of the reason why I believe KTANE is so successful in the development of communication skills is because of the scenario that the developers, Steel Crate Games, chose to immerse their players in. A bomb defusal is a classic media scenario for thickening the air with massive amounts of tension as one small mistake will lead to the demise of the diffuser and those around him/her, all while being rushed by the piercing, non-stop ticking of the bomb’s timer. Being that the bomb is obviously fake, the scenario safely puts players into a state of urgency, forcing them to communicate in order to diffuse the bomb before time runs out, after which the team is shown a leaderboard containing their best defusal times for each level as an added incentive for further developing their skills.
Furthermore, when it comes to the serious aspect of KTANE, I stumbled across a Steam review that made mention of using the game in a classroom scenario for foreign students trying to learn English. In such a setting – and I can speak from experience as I took four years of Spanish during middle and high school – speaking to your classmates in your non-dominant language feels extremely awkward and unnecessary as we could all more effectively communicate in our primary language. For this reason, KTANE is the perfect medium for getting non-native English speaking students to communicate with each other in English (as the instruction manual is only officially available in English at the moment). The sense of rush provided by the bomb defusal scenario is enough incentive to force students outside of their comfort zones, making them challenge themselves to quickly develop communications strategies that would ultimately lead to them being able to utilize the language they are trying to learn more comfortably in the future.
Below are some gameplay videos from YouTube which demonstrate the skills of both new and experienced players:
New players: https://youtu.be/1DVDXK0shB8?t=1m52s
Experienced players: https://youtu.be/kPzoEraiZ5I?t=38m30s