Best Practices for Instructional Design of Serious Games

Designing Digitally


When it comes to designing and developing a serious game that is both engaging and educational, the Designing Digitally, Inc. team understands what needs to be done. The goal of serious game design is to turn would-be boring content into something interesting, aesthetically engaging, and educational. While instructional game design strategy is dependent upon the content and client goals, there are a number of best practices we have found that will help contribute to your success. This list is far from exhaustive, but the tips below should give you a better comprehension of how we work and how we will be able to benefit you and your company.

Know Your Objective

When it comes to designing a learning game, it is essential for you to have an instructional objective or goal in mind. In other words, what is the exact message you want your game to convey to users? What do you want them to get out of it? By asking yourself those questions and other similar ones, you will have a better idea of what your goals are and what direction you are interested in going.

Who Is Your Audience?

The next step is to determine your target audience. It is best to have a general idea of your learners' educational background and specific needs before starting out. This will help you develop a game that not only captures and holds their attention, but also equips them with new knowledge that they will be able to retain and use in the future.

Properly Embedding the Game

It is important to embed the game using a specific structure for best results. An example of this would be to inform learners at the beginning of the game what, exactly, they will be learning. The next step is to allow learners to use and experience the game and then to educate the learners on the overall goal and important aspects of the game. Then let's start to look at the type of mechanics you want to add to the experience. These mechanics will make up the format of the learning game, so choose wisely and make sure it sticks with the audience.

Keep it Simple

A successful instructional game is not inundated with complicated rules and concepts. People respond better to simplified, to the point instructions, so it is important to keep the rules and scoring simple. Also, let them learn while discovering, rather than a large upfront load of instruction.

Make Sure Your Learners Are Comfortable

Before they begin the game, it is a good idea to make sure all learners are comfortable with the rules and understand what their role is. You may also want to provide them with a practice round that will not count, especially if the game seems a bit complicated.

Be Smart About Your Focus

Focusing your game on various learning outcomes instead of just winning will help keep users engaged and interested. Most people do not like to lose, so it is a good idea to center the objective around something other than strictly winning or losing.

Group Learning

Depending on your game and overall goal, it may be useful to implement group learning. Groups oftentimes better facilitate learning and keep people interested. This is becoming ever more popular, so adding group social competition will help drive the experience.

Design For Multiple Sessions

People typically want to play a game more than once, so it is essential to make sure your design is one that can continue on and keep the learners engaged. This does not mean developing a loop where users will perform the same actions over and over again. The game should allow learners to continue playing but with another strategy.


Users respond well and retain more information with interactive games. Boring lectures or blandly presented information will cause learners to lose interest quickly, and more importantly, they most likely will not learn anything.

Our team at Designing Digitally, Inc. understands how to create and implement an effective instructional game that will keep users interested and educate them at the same time. By following the 9 practices listed above and many others, we can help you develop a game that will be successful and well-received.