Video Game Genres for Learning

Designing Digitally



Choose the Right Genre for Your Serious Games

A serious game is one methodology organizations can deploy in their learning programs to help the workforce problem-solve and learn. While the ability for games to entertain is a draw for learners, the primary purpose of serious games is to ultimately teach the learner a new skill. As such, organizations employ serious games in marketing and advertising collateral and internal training programs. However, program designers that derive inspiration from the video game genre can also gain a significant advantage.

When the graphics, themes and interactions of the video game genre shape  serious game development, the result is a rich learning experience. When choosing the right types of serious games, organizations should use these video game genre features when creating the modules.


Action and adventure.

This genre is probably the most popular, requiring the player to experience significant action moves in adventurous settings. The games generally require the player to move through a series of short objectives to reach a long-term goal, calling for puzzle-solving skills, combat moves and more. For example, the armed forces takes its trainees through simulations of the combat and stealth games before releasing trainees into real-life situations.

Role playing.

 In this type of genre, the games give nod to board-game strategies from popular games like Dungeons and Dragons and brings it to life digitally. 

Adventure games.

In these games, the learner acts as the protagonist of the story, working alone to solve a problem. As opposed to the action-adventure game, this game generally allows for a solitary player who’s required to carefully observe the scenario and use critical thinking skills.

Life simulation.

Farmville is the quintessential life-simulation game, where players live in a virtual world and earn resources and skills to create an artificial life or world. Tactics involved in this game include designing the player’s characteristics and relationships with other characters, but the game lacks any end destination – it’s possible to play the game ad infinitum.  In serious game development, programs can simulate what’s required to create a strategic solution to a business problem or interact with teams.

Multiplayer role playing.

These massive multiplayer online role-playing games pit many players against each other in the quest to reach the final destination, and require player interaction throughout the game. World of Warcraft is one such game, as is Phantasy Star Online.


In these games, learners must call on the critical thinking and planning skills, coming up with innovative ways to “win” the game. Resource planning is essential to moving up in levels and reaching the final destination.

Vehicle simulation or racing.

Similar to combat training for armed forces, vehicle simulation games can include flight, sea or aviation training. These programs reduce the cost of training for organizations.

Innovative serious-game developers can learn much from video game genres like action adventure, adventure, role playing, life and vehicle simulation, and strategy. By employing these tactics with the right types of serious games, learning designers can teach learners new skills that they then put into action in their daily work lives. What other genres are out there we can use to adapt for learning?