Achieving learning goals with the help of design thinking

In order to develop effective serious games that resonate with our users, we work according to the principles of design thinking. This is a design methodology and a real hype, you could say. This is because this method is applied successfully by many organisations. Especially when solutions have to be found for complex problems, problems where people play a central role in the success of the solution.

What is so special about this iterative design method? The user is central to the design process, from start to finish. We are keen to share what this process looks like and how it contributes to the success of our customers.



Do you want to develop a serious game?
Or are you curious whether serious gaming can help to solve your problem?

Feel free to ask us for advice.

The value of design thinking in serious game design

The design thinking process is the starting point for game development at Raccoon Serious Games. Before we dive further into the process, what is the value for our customers?

  • Developed games closely align with the interests and perceptions of the user
  • We achieve an optimal match between the design of the serious game and the objectives of key stakeholders in the organisation
  • With an een iterative development process, we avoid spending a lot of money and time working out and/or producing a game design that does not resonate
  • We offer the possibility of low-key explorationwhereby customers can decide whether or not to continue with the route on the basis of the design letter.
  • We deliver a thoroughly tested game that effectively achieves the learning objective

Curious about design thinking? We take you through the process step by step.

Step 1: Empathise is all about.... empathy

This phase is about empathising with the users of a serious game. In other words, we will take a deep dive into the user’s world and mind. The aim is to understand what the user sees, thinks or feels from his or her frame of reference. The better we understand the target group of a game, the more powerful the result of a serious game.

We immersive ourselves in the world of our users and clients
In most cases, you can distinguish different target groups. On the one hand, you have various stakeholders within an organisation and, on the other, the players. Their frames of reference, interests and motives can be quite different.

Metal engineering

Site visit to metal engineering training centre for the empathy phase of an educational serious game

User interviews, observations and literature research

As a team, we are content driven. There is nothing we enjoy more than delving into our customers’ domains and experiences.  Almost always, a series of user interviews form the basis. We engage in conversation to understand what is going on and what type of player we have in front of us. In some cases, we observe existing processes or dynamics in order to understand them. And certainly not unimportant is reading up. This ranges from reading internal strategy or process documents to analysing scientific literature.  

Step 2: Define represents analysing and understanding

The collection of user insights is followed by an analysis phase in which we work towards a design brief. The insights gathered lead to an in-depth understanding of what drives the game’s target group and what the preconditions, success factors and pitfalls are. The design brief gives direction to the development process for a serious game. It is a document that the design team can fall back on when making design decisions.

Analyse, summarise and validate with the customer and target group

In this phase we extract the core from the results of the Empathise phase. Writing down what you are going to do in general terms, why, for whom and in what context ensures that everyone is aligned. Especially since we always validate the developed design letter with the customer, and preferably also share it with the user. We iterate until we have agreed on the content. In this way, we avoid differing expectations and unnecessary costs later in the process to make adjustments.

Step 3: Ideate kickstarts solution finding

This phase is about generating ideas and sketches for the serious game. The ideation phase is a highly creative process in which we do a lot of brainstorming, preferably together with our client and target group.

Diverge and converge

We like to take a structured approach to generating ideas. In several brainstorming sessions and/or design sprints, a team of interaction designers and serious game designers sinks their teeth into the problem. With techniques such as the Disney Method, morphological maps or so-called HCYs (How Can You), we make sure that we broaden the scope considerably. At each stage, we select the richest ideas and take them one step further. The ideas are enriched until there is a set of 2 to 3 powerful sketch designs.

Raccoon Serious Games

Brainstorms with the team and the customer to generate as many ideas as possible

Step 4: Prototype means playable mock-ups

Prototyping is the process of making things concrete. We translate game mechanics into something you can see, experience and play.

From paper prototypes and mock-ups to detailed designs

During the development process, the degree of detail in the prototypes increases. The aim is always to work as quickly as possible towards playable prototypes (which can be tested with the target group). This often starts with paper prototypes and as the development of the serious game progresses, these come closer and closer to the final result. Thus, we validate not only game mechanics, but also the look and feel of the game.

Paper prototypes for engineering escape room “The House of Alvara

Step 5: Test is validating the serious game

Developed prototypes and designs are frequently tested with users during development, on the basis of which a (part of the) design cycle is run through again. This way, we keep validating whether the serious game does indeed bring about the desired change and avoid investing a lot of time and money in a game that later turns out not to work.

Testing, testing and more testing

We continue to insist on it. Testing, testing and more testing. The user’s interaction with the game determines its success. The tests provide us with valuable information with which we can further develop the game. Think of:

  • Is the learning objective achieved?
  • Is the duration of the game right?
  • Is the level of difficulty right?
  • Are players having fun?
  • Are the interactions clear?
  • Is the playing material sufficiently robust?

Testing of paper prototypes at an advanced stage with a team of Routz

Van design thinking naar serious game design

How does the design thinking method translate into serious game design? The following picture shows the general progression in the development of a serious game. Sometimes a step back to earlier phases is taken, if new knowledge means that the results of earlier phases have to be refined.

Design thinking serious gaming

Do you want to develop a serious game?

Have you become enthusiastic about our process and would you like us to think along with you? Don’t hesitate to send us a message and get acquainted.

This post is also available in: Nederlands

Interested? Get in touch!

Kristel Thieme

Serious Game Expert

T: 015 20 24 772

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *