The term "serious game" has been floating around a lot lately. There has been much in-industry debate about what, exactly, constitutes a "serious game" (Versus a training game? Versus a plain ol' game?). Some argue that serious games are digital by their nature, others purport that serious games are really simulations or 3D environments. Some say that any kind of activity that is engaging for a serious purpose is a serious game, others say that the activity has to be directly related and utilizing the content at hand.
So what is a serious game?
A serious game is a game designed for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment. The "serious" adjective is generally appended to refer to products used by industries like defense, education, scientific exploration, health care, emergency management, city planning, engineering, religion, and politics.
So where do game shows fit into the realm of serious games?
Surely, the primary purpose (or original purpose) of a game show was to entertain. This is true if we think about the game shows that came with the early days of television--they were friendly competitions meant to test the wit of competitors, entertain, and bring the family games that everyone knew and loved from around the dining room table onto the new medium of television.
However, a game show's frivolous beginnings become irrelevant when they are re-purposed as serious games for absolutely every topic in every area of training.
Why do game shows make such strong serious games?
Their roots as (international) cultural fixtures make them a format that many trainees can identify with. (This also gives them a very short learning curve.)
They allow peer groups to work collectively--capitalizing on a trend of collaboration in the workplace.
They utilize both individually motivated and peer-motivated competition.
They are infinitely adaptable for content. Since most game shows are based on trivia/questions and answers, training material inserted into a game is a natural fit.
They can be played in traditional classroom settings, in large events, online or in webinars.
They are simple to produce, don't usually require much additional setup or programming and anyone can be a game show host.
These reasons put game shows solidly in the serious games camp. Of course, game shows can still be used as entertainment--heck, there is even value in doing an entertaining game in a training session (to give people a brain break, re-energize the room, break the ice, etc.)--but there is a huge potential for game shows in the serious games realm with very serious subjects.