Serious Games - How Learning Can Be Not So Serious

Designing Digitally


Think learning is serious business? Well, you’re right. But learning can also be interesting, fun and engaging at the same time. By using non-traditional delivery techniques, training designers have found that they are better able to gain and hold the attention of their learning audience. Some of the best techniques for doing this involve the use of games in the delivery of training. In fact, some of the best training course designs are those that employ one form or another of game mechanics and design.

As any video gamer will tell you, the level of engagement and immersion when playing a modern video game is quite impressive. That’s because the brain is being stimulated to such a degree by the scenarios being presented that almost all cognitive function is focused on the game. Think what would happen if we could generate that same level of intense focus on a training module.

What are serious games?

Serious Game Designing DigitallyGaming in general teaches people to solve problems in unique ways, using trial and error methods and by repeating an action until it is perfected. By using game-based techniques like this in job performance training, an employee can gain valuable skills and knowledge the same way. That’s the idea behind serious games.

When we talk about serious games and gamification within a training environment, it makes sense to clarify what we mean by each term. Generally speaking, gamification is the use of game mechanics like levels, badges and rewards in a non-game, or training, context. When we talk of serious games on the other hand, what we’re referring to is the use of high-definition graphics, virtual reality simulations, and techniques that allow a user to practice skill performance in a game-based environment.

There’s no doubt that the use of serious games in training design is gaining in popularity. Organizations from the U.S. Military to Fortune 100 companies are incorporating serious games into their training programs for a variety of reasons. Here are some of the reasons given from a recently published Gartner Group study:

  • Reduced training costs

  • Safer delivery of certain types of training

  • Improved performance results

  • Better engagement

  • Better knowledge retention

  • Ease of training delivery

  • Greater training participation

The benefits of serious games in training

From a purely L&D perspective, serious games offer the opportunity to engage learners in an activity that is both entertaining and educational. It allows us to present learning opportunities and scenarios that are fun, challenging and rewarding. Serious games also allow a learner to more easily translate the material from theory to practical relevance. In addition, they are far more effective in teaching problem-solving and other soft skills.

While the incorporation of serious games into the corporate training environment is growing, it is still a relatively small piece of the eLearning pie. That may be partly due to the complexity that goes into designing serious games, but also because many organizations don’t yet know the capabilities of this new tool. When designed and developed by experts, serious games can be used to train for some of the most dangerous and complex performance tasks. Some examples of this include:

  • Emergency response training

  • Heavy equipment training and skill building

  • Medical device and surgical training

  • Complex mechanical/assembly training

  • Detailed process and installation training

  • Scenario-based sales training

  • Soft skills training

  • Compliance training

How serious games can help train your workforce

Whatever the industry or job skill, a serious game can be developed that will deliver unique and valuable training to your workforce. Through the use of simulations, branching scenarios, role-playing, 3D virtual skill tests, problem-solving challenges and other techniques, your employees will learn and retain the information they need to perform their jobs better. Comprehension and retention will be improved, and the training participation rate will likely improve as well.

Let the experts here at Designing Digitally, Inc. help you take your training to the next level. We’ll work with you to develop serious game training that is cost-effective, engaging and relevant to your workforce. We can create customized serious games for just about any industry and job type. Let us know how we can help you train your workforce to compete in today’s tech-intensive environment using the next generation of training techniques.