8 Serious Games

Carrie Lewis Miller

Learning Objectives

  • Summarize the current availability of serious games and digital games for educational purposes
  • Select 2-3 digital games for potential use in your own organizational context

Serious games are digital games designed specifically for learning or for another purpose than entertainment.  These games can be used for education and learning purposes or for on-the-job training.  Companies such as Little Bird GamesFilament Games, and Designing Digitally have a portfolio of games created for just those reasons.

Serious games employ game mechanics (stories, interactivity, rules, challenges, competition, risks) to topics with “serious” agendas.  One example is the game Cashier Trainer, designed to give new hires training on job duties and register functions before going out into the workplace.  Results of a study comparing the game to conventional on-the-job training showed that new hires in the Cashier Trainer game group performed as high or higher on a final skills test (Oprins & Korteling, 2014).

As a part of the serious game movement, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) have become a part of the digital educational experience.  Augmented Reality harnesses the power of tools we have at our fingertips, such as Smartphones and Tablets, and uses programming to superimpose computer-generated images over images of the real world.  Examples of AR include the apps Curiscope and Star Walk, both of which allow users to explore 3D images and interact with the content.  Virtual Reality (VR) uses special technology tools, such as Oculus Rift glasses, to immerse the user in a computer-generated world.  Often, VR headsets will be paired with gloves or full helmets that include sensors to give the user a fully tactile experience. zSpaceAlchemy Immersive, and Google Expeditions are all sites dedicated to the use of VR in education.

Serious games are often built using programs such as Unity 3D.  Most game design platforms require a basic knowledge of programming languages, but some such as Twine or GameStar Mechanic are better for users who do not want to code.


Questions for Discussion

  1. Choose either the pro or con for the use of digital and serious games in learning.  Is this trend a positive or negative for learners? What evidence can we find in academic studies to support your argument? What is the current state of serious and digital games for educational purposes? How does that fit in with your thesis?
  2. Using the impact guides at the Center for Games and Impact (https://gamesandimpact.org/impact-guides/), select 2-3 digital or serious games that could be used in an educational context that you are familiar with. Explain why you chose those games and how they fit into teaching and learning in your organization.



Oprins, E. B. E., & Korteling, J. H. (2014). Transfer of training of an educational serious game: The effectiveness of the CASHIER TRAINER. In Simulations, Serious Games and Their Applications (pp. 227-253). Springer: Singapore.


Recommended Supplementary Material

  • De Lope, R. P., & Medina Medina, N. (2016). A comprehensive taxonomy for serious games. Journal of Educational Computing Research. https://doi.org/10.1177/0735633116681301
  • Game and Learn Podcast by Dr. Ruben Puentedura (episode 13: Serious Games https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/serious-games/id429426265?i=1000092588134&mt=2)



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Game Based and Adaptive Learning Strategies Copyright © 2021 by Carrie Lewis Miller is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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