USA Today published this concise history of serious games today which is worth a read if you’re trying to wrap your head around what makes games serious:

“The Serious Games Movement got a start in 2002 when the U.S. Army released the video game America’s Army as a free online download (www.americasarmy.com). That game “was the first successful and well-executed serious game that gained total public awareness” says Sawyer. More than 5 million people have become registered users. By exploring the video game, you experience what it is like to be in the Army.

As academics began to recognize the potential scope of video game technology, conferences sprang up. In 2003, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars held a “Serious Games Day.” In 2004, the first Serious Games Summit was held at the Game Developers Conference. That same year, MIT Comparative Media Studies helped to sponsor the first Education Arcade: Games in Education Conference in Los Angeles two days before the E3, the video gaming industry’s yearly conference…

As the Serious Games Movement has gained creditability, funding is starting to become available. Foundations, governmental agencies, non-profits and venture capitalists have provided money for development of serious games. Even universities are supporting development of serious games by permitting students to produce these games for academic credit.” Story continues here…