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The Start of SG&C

The Serious Games Showcase & Challenge (SGS&C) began in 2005 when Team Orlando leaders felt a strong need to stimulate industry creativity and generate institutional interest toward the use of digital game technology and approaches for training and education.

They formed a partnership with the National Training Simulation and Association (NTSA), the organizers of Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC), and the first SGS&C was held at I/ITSEC 2006.

From there, the SGS&C team grew into a volunteer-driven group, led each year by both an industry and government representative, and actively supported by Team Orlando. SGS&C has been a growing staple of I/ITSEC event ever since.

SGS&C Original Logo
Growth & AWareness

Major Milestones

In 2006, the SGS&C was held for the first time at I/ITSEC. In this first year, the challenge placed eligibility restrictions for submissions based on company size and financial caps. The first SGS&C even prohibited government funded entries. These restrictions were all based on an attempt to find and showcase the mythical “garage serious game developer.” The SGS&C even offered a cash award to incentivize these developers to participate.

Learning from the inaugural SGS&C, the committee lifted the restrictions on submitting organizations for the second year of the challenge drawing a more diverse set of games and developers.

As the SGS&C grew, the committee received feedback that student and government developers were shying away from the challenge unwilling to compete against larger corporate development teams. For the third year, games were invited from student, government, and industry developers. To encourage participation and fair competition a new awards structure was introduced.

Games now competed for awards for: Best Serious Game Student Category, Best Serious Game Government Category, Best Serious Game Industry Category, and the People’s Choice Award.

In 2011, acknowledging the game changing potential of mobile devices, the SGS&C introduced a new entry and award category focused on Serious Games developed for mobile platforms. The team was seeking true innovative games that not only could be played on mobile phones and tablets, but that embraced their unique affordances to push game play experiences to new heights.

Alongside this focus, the Special Emphasis Award for Adaptive Force Training was introduced, championed by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) to encourage entries that offered novel approaches to meet the emerging adaptive force training challenge.

In 2012, SGS&C started reaching out to game challenges around the world.  The new initiative allowed winners of coordinated Serious Games contests from international markets to become automatic finalists at SGS&C.

That same year, Simulation Australia sponsored the first international challenge, the Serious Games Showcase, at the SimTecT conference. SimTecT nominated two winners from their contest who received an automatic finalist berth in the SGS&C. The region continues to provide finalists to the SGS&C through the Serious Games Showcase and Challenge – Australasia (SGSCA) with biannual challenges held at the Australasian Simulation Congress events.

In 2013, recognizing the high quality STEM focused games for middle and high school students the SGS&C had started receiving as entries, the committee sought a partner to more appropriately evaluate these student focused serious games.

A partnership was formed with Orange County (Florida) Public Schools (OCPS) to select the first Students’ Choice Award winner. Middle and high school students around the county collectively evaluated select games from a student perspective to determine the award. OCPS students and teachers get the opportunity to learn how games can be used for learning and education while participating in the Challenge.

The Students’ Choice Award was added to the annual challenge.

After three years awarding novel games to support Adaptive Force Training, OSD issued a new special emphasis focus — the best use of social media (2014) and social media crowdsourcing (2015).

The core SGS&C awards remained constant from 2011 through 2015. The Special Emphasis recognition was awarded to the serious games best using social media as part of their game execution for 2014 as well as for the final special emphasis award given in 2015.

What better way to celebrate 10 years of the SGS&C than with more international outreach!

In 2015, SGS&C extended its international partnership to include the Brazilian Independent Games Festival  (BIG), the first and largest festival of independent games in Latin America. Every year, BIG selects the best independent games in the world based on visuals, sound, narrative, gameplay and innovation.  The BIG Festival also has a section devoted to educational games, and provided the Challenge with one finalist in its first year of collaboration.

In 2016, the awards committee desired the ability to award risk- taking innovations in serious games. It was felt that often serious games that exhibit unique characteristics or techniques in terms of hardware integration, instructional design, game design, content topic, or a combination thereof end up too much of a novel experience to win the more structured serious game awards.

The award for Best Serious Game Innovation was added in 2016, replacing the previous Special Emphasis Award.

As the challenge saw mobile games becoming almost as prevalent as PC games and with a number of mobile games winning both the Best Mobile Serious Game and other awards in the same year, it was decided there was no longer a need to specifically highlight the use of mobile platforms with their own award. However, virtual reality, mixed reality, and augmented reality (collectively referred to as XR) applications in serious games were beginning to emerge. To encourage developers to push the limits and bring novel game solutions on XR platforms, a new entry category was created.

The first Best XR Serious Game Award was given in 2018.

As part of vIITSEC in 2020, the SGS&C hosted a 15th Anniversary Retrospective Event – no awards were given in 2020 – and all attendees were invited to view the virtual prerecorded event. Pre-recorded presentations / interviews included: The Evolution of Serious Games, Education and Training Games, Health Games, and Government and Military Games. The SGS&C also shared video tours of all of our past finalists and winners grouped by year, by content area, and by developer type: business, government, or student.

Visit the 2020 Annual Recap for an overview. View the full event here: Free Access to 2020 Virtual Retrospective Event

In 2022, we continued to build our international affiliations by announcing the launch of the Serious Games Showcase and Challenge Europe (SGSCE) with the Defense Simulation, Education and Training (DSET) conference held in the United Kingdom. SGSCE held its inaugural challenge in June 2023, and we look forward to welcoming their future winners as an automatic finalist, alongside SGSCA, in this challenge at I/ITSEC.

Motivated by feedback from finalists and showcase visitors, the SGS&C re-categorized the main awards to focus on the intended end user of the serious game: government or general audience. The Best Government Developed Game and Best Business Developed Game awards and introduced the Best Government Audience Serious Game Award and the Best General Audience Serious Game Award.

Interested in getting involved?

We would be happy to help you. Please reach out to our team.