The serious game is a concept which emerged in the 1970s and the term was coined by “Clark C Abt”. While we are close to completing five decades after the term serious game was coined, it’s not surprising that serious games are gaining popularity across the industries

But what is a serious game?

A serious game is a game designed for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment. This primary purpose mostly centers around training the players on a specific aspect of learning whether it is a knowledge or skill. A serious game can ensure the following when used as a part of learning strategy.

• They can engage the workforce
• They can make learning fun and enjoyable rather than being forced.
• Retention and recall of the learning topic

Now that we know what are serious games, let me share some tried and tested tips for creating serious games as a part of your learning strategy.

1.Understand your learners

While you develop an e-learning game, my first tip is to understand your target audience and their learning preferences. You can refer to the Bartle Taxonomy of players to understand the various type of players at your organization and chose the serious game type accordingly.
I recommend conducting surveys, interviews with the learners to know their preferences.  For example, we had included a superhero character in a serious game that we developed for a leading retail chain. We included the superhero character in the serious game as it was found from the interview with the learners that most of the learners loved taking the role of a superhero in the game.

Understanding the learners can give you more insights into their age, past and present experience with technology and playing the game etc.

2. Engaging game elements

When creating e-learning serious games, don’t skip including the game elements that brings the engagement factor. While the primary objective of e-learning serious games is not entertainment, you cannot neglect the element of fun, joy, and entertainment of playing a game.

Here are some tips to ensure that you sustain the engagement in your e-learning module.
•For example, include characters in the game. I recommend to even try including fictional characters, superhero figures etc in your e-learning serious game.
•Include the element of rewards in your serious game. Try including the element of surprise rewards(popularly called as easter eggs)  in your serious game.

While including the rewards in your serious e-learning game, the organization can consider the following factors-
•Provide immediate rewards
•Create level appropriate rewards without making it too easy
•I recommend awarding badges for status and achievement

•To sustain the engagement include challenges that are achievable. I recommend that the organisation should focus on including the element of continuous challenges i.e provide the players continuous challenges at each level of the game that then leads to another challenge keeping the players hooked to the serious game.

3.Balance between entertainment and serious task

For developing an e-learning serious game, the learner should ensure that there is a clear balance between entertainment and serious learning. The organisation shouldn’t sacrifice the learning objectives in the serious game for the sake of entertainment.
The organisation is therefore required to create a serious game by maintaining a balance between entertainment and serious task/learning objective.

4.Multiple ways to achieve the goals

Instead of including only a single step by step progression of achieving the goals, I recommend that the organisation allow the learners to explore the many different ways i.e multiple approaches to accomplish the goals. The organisation can also include branching options as it gives an individual path of learning experience driven by the learner himself.

5.The magic of engaging storyline

A good storyline adds to the strength of a serious game and can ensure a smooth and immersive experience to the learners. But I recommend that care should be taken to choose the appropriate storyline for the target audience.  Here are some tips when you choose to include stories in your serious e-learning game.
• Choose a story that leaves the player with a sense of wonder and mystery
• Use the storyline throughout the game.
• Fantasy context makes players more motivated to succeed.
• Not recommended to include the story to single player experiences

6.Enable rules for the serious game

Rules provide a framework that defines a game. It should be very clearly defined and instructed to the players in the game. Ensure that the organisation includes clear instructions and the learners are well aware of the rules.

7. Make it real

While I recommend the  inclusion of fictional characters or elements in your serious e-learning game, It is suggested that the learning aspect of your serious game is woven around the real world/ life aspects, For example, include the real element or background of  the factory or office as it can help the learners to relate it better.
Well this was a snapshot of the important tips to be considered while designing serious games for your learners and here is my bonus one 

8. Use it as a part of the existing learning strategy

The organizations enjoy the most success when serious  games are part of a larger blended curriculum or learning strategy. Instead of replacing the existing learning strategy completely with a new serious game, the organization can choose serious games to effectively blend with the existing ones. This enables the organization to focus the serious game to cover a specific skill or use it as reinforcement tool etc.

I hope these tips will be valuable to you when you design your next serious game. For more details, you can always contact me at arjun@playxlpro.com