Q&A: Doug Whatley, CEO, BreakAway Games

We fired some quick questions at Doug Whatley, founder and CEO of pioneering US serious games firm, BreakAway Games, who told us about his 18 years at the forefront of gamification and games-based learning…

What is your company and how it is involved in serious gaming?

BreakAway Games. We are one of the original serious games companies, having been doing this for over 18 years. We have created serious games on many topics including military, incident response, healthcare, education, and training of all kinds.

When did you personally get involved in serious gaming? In what position/expertise?

I guess I officially got started in serious gaming when I founded BreakAway in January of 1998. We used to joke that we wanted to do serious games but we doubted anyone would pay us for that, so we would have to do entertainment games. We’ve actually done pretty well with serious games, but some months it still feels like no one will ‘pay’ us for serious games <g>.

How would you qualify the evolution of serious gaming market in the last 5 years, in terms of growth, maturation…?

Over the past five years the market has grown significantly, especially in the past two years. But, the most important evolution has been from using the games as tests or proofs of concept to actually now being cornerstone products. Products that are important to the bottom line.

How much of your business is international or United States oriented?

BreakAway’s business is about 20 per cent international.

What are the main markets sectors serious gaming is thriving on today?

BreakAway sees lots of opportunities in many sectors, currently our projects are mostly healthcare and much of the rest is creating User Interfaces that take advantage of the games business knowledge about user experiences.

What direction do you see the serious games market heading in the next 5 years?

I believe that serious games will continue to grow swiftly. It started in areas where the ability to train was limited (combat or medicine) and now has moved to areas where its engagement does a better job at motivating education that current methods. Going forward the interactivity of games will begin to make it the go to method of training and preparing for complex tasks.

What could accelerate the adoption of serious games?

The next key for the serious games market is an investment ecosystem focused on serious games.

What is the technology that you expect to impact the most serious gaming in the coming years?

The ubiquity of mobile computing platforms will provide a platform for serious games to be available for all types of important uses.

Could you give us the best/most successful example of a serious games project you have been involved in?

BreakAway created a game, Incident Commander, for the Department of Justice to help teach the principles of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) when it was created. It was a multi-player game to help fire, police, public works, administration, and others practice working together using NIMS to respond to an incident (fire, natural disaster, criminal acts, etc.). It was a huge success for DoJ and is still in use many years later through-out the country and even the world.


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