"Field of Dreams" Mentality in eLearning, Serious Games & 3D Simulations

Designing Digitally


In the 1989 cult classic Field of Dreams, mysterious voices instructed Kevin Costner, a struggling Iowa corn farmer, to build an elaborate baseball field amidst his crops. As the soft whispers on the wind told Costner, “If you build it, they will come,” he felt an overwhelming desire to blindly construct his ballpark…even though the act would almost surely bankrupt him.

Modern-day software developers often take on the same type of “Field of Dreams” mentality when they design Serious Games, 3D Simulations, eLearning and other titles, simply because they believe that consumers will come out of the woodworks for a chance to play them. While this is true in a select number of cases, the vast majority of software titles end up never taking off for a number of reasons. We have listed some of these shortcomings below-

An Abundance of Smart Marketing

Have you ever noticed that epic blockbuster movies coming out of Hollywood are often advertised months in advance of the initial screenings? That’s because a smart marketing campaign will try to build up tremendous hype by the time release day comes around, so that consumers will work themselves into a frenzy with anticipation.

The exact same concept should be applied to Serious Games, 3D Simulations and eLearning, but only a handful of companies take pre-launch marketing strategies to heart. In fact, it is often only an afterthought due to tight budgets and inadequate planning, with developers expecting word of mouth to flood their online servers right from the start. It simply does not work this way.

Gameplay that Exceeds Consumer Expectations

It is also vital for Serious Games developers to make sure that the titles being created are in-line with what consumers are currently searching for. While it would appear that the main goal would be to create a title that’s extremely entertaining, the client will also expect a great learning experience that will empower his employees for years to come. At the end of the day, both traits need to be delivered because today’s brand of gamer is extremely unforgiving when it comes to even minor glitches, confusing gameplay and/or storyline issues.

In today’s gaming world, “pretty good” is no longer good enough. From having a polished feel to implementing a simple user-face, developers have to ensure that their software titles can deliver a wow factor straight out of the box. At the same time, however, it is also important to keep in mind that over-developing a game is also a sure-fire path to failure, since it will be extremely difficult to become profitable.

Enticing Player Rewards & Incentives

Likewise, a great 3D simulation or eLearning module will not only deliver fantastic content, it will also keep players motivated to advance. The easiest way to make this happen is to create very clear objectives and incentivize them with rewards, advancements or some type of prestige. Be forewarned though; the incentives have to present actual value to hold the gamer’s attention.

Take Google News, for example, and their “News Badges” that were handed out for reading different types of content. This campaign started in mid-2011 to give readers a feel of an extra accomplishment for getting their daily doses of world news from the Internet giant, but the campaign ultimately backfired. Nobody cared that they had an extra icon next to their name because it was meaningless, and some even took offense to the obviously shallow marketing tactic.

While it may seem like our staff at Designing Digitally, Inc. has Jedi-like powers due to our proven track record, our success has come from understanding what motivates the end-user to have fun and strive towards victory. Feel free to contact us to see how we can educate and inspire your organization.