What is a serious game?

Driven by content, and enthusiastic about an impressive result.

Serious games, you hear all kinds of things about it nowadays. Gamification is an increasingly trendy term and companies love it. What are these serious games that everyone is talking about? And why does Raccoon Serious Games make these games?

Spelers spelen een serious game over het klimaatverandering
Serious looks: It's not easy!

In this blog post, I will discuss the general definition of a serious game, the different possible forms, and explain how serious gaming can achieve certain goals. Then, I will give a number of examples from our portfolio and conclude with our view on serious games.

The general definition of serious game

There are many different definitions of serious games to be found. Everyone uses it in a different way. But, if you read them all, you see that the same thing always returns:

A Serious Game is a game developed with a goal that is different from just entertainment

This is still a pretty broad definition, but the most important thing is: Each serious game has a specific goal. And in our context, that goal always boils down to learning something. And with a serious game you can teach people something by letting them experience it. At least, we believe so.

Serious game over cybersecurity
Players step into the shoes of a hacker to experience how easy it is to penetrate a security system

Different forms of serious games

I already mentioned it: We believe that you learn best by doing something. And that is more than just listening, watching and seeing. You have to experience it.

In the serious gaming world there are a lot of different forms of serious games. You can roughly subdivide these into four types:

  • Digital Serious Game A game that you play on your computer, telephone or tablet. It looks a lot like an e-learning environment, but in the form of a game. This allows players to achieve a goal that is very measurabe
  • Serious Board Game A board game in which you come into contact with a complex subject or strategy while playing. By playing, you get the hang of this and afterwards the player will understand the complex matter
  • Serious Roleplaying Game A game in which the players are given a role. Each role has its own importance, and the group is assigned a common goal. Here the players learn to discover each other’s interests, and understand and see how they can work together towards “the greater goal”
  • Serious Escape game A game based on escape rooms, in which the players are immersed in a certain context. By solving puzzles they advance in the story and are inspired and activated to work with the subject.

A serious game can have different goals. Depending on the purpose, you choose a suitable type. We strongly believe in physical interaction: it puts the subject, the context and the goals within reach of the players. They literally get to work with it and this allows you to stimulate all five senses. By experiencing you learn the most, and the most of what is learnt lingers.

De puzzel van een serious game wordt gelegd
Players construct a polder model to discover how and why they are made.

How do you use serious gaming?

You can use serious gaming for almost anything. If you want to activate, motivate or teach employees, you can choose to do so with the help of a serious game.

We have already used serious gaming for the following:

  • Communication of strategy Instead of presenting a powerpoint presentation, we let participants piece together the strategy themselves. “What belongs here”, “what do they mean by this”, “how does this work” and “ooh, now I get it” are statements that are made during such a game. After playing, the players know how the strategy really works.
  • Guiding digital transformation In addition to providing training, employees must be included in the changes that will come with the introduction of a new digital system. This can be difficult, especially if you do not fully understand why it is necessary, or if you are afraid that your role will change dramatically. By playing a serious game, the employees themselves were given the tools to understand the transformation and discover what it meant for their role.
  • Environmental participation Many construction projects have an impact on the environment. You would like to include all residents in your plans, but bringing them over to the construction site for a standard presentation and tour proves difficult. By using a Serious Escape Box, the open days became popular and visitors came. In addition, the players got to know the building assignment and discovered the chosen solutions. Two birds with one stone!
  • Security Awareness Trainings By letting people experience how easy it is for hackers to have all the information that can be found online and thereby be able to tempt you to click on dangerous links, the players understand what they should and can watch out for. It is fun to do and you also learn from it!
Serious games over de strategie
The players discover the strategy and put it together themselves

Why do serious games work?

There are so many more examples to mention. And as you can see, every serious game has a clear learning objective. While playing a serious game, several things happen that help the players achieve the learning goal:

  • You enter another world The game world is another world in which you are immersed. You can safely try, fail, and get back up there. This is very important for a serious game, because you can experiment freely and learn from it!
  • You are constantly motivated Our games are designed in such a way that you are constantly motivated to continue. There are several winning moments in the games that give you energy. If you stray from the line, the game (or the guides will bring you back in the right direction. A kind of soft guardrail that gives you a little push even if you hit it
  • It is not complex Even if you have to deal with serious and complex subjects, we make it less complex in a game world. We filter all noise and remove all nonsense, leaving the core. You can also simplify things if necessary; which is allowed because you are in a game world. – as long as you can make the translation to the real world afterwards
  • You give the players autonomy In a game, players are given autonomy. They can play themselves, direct themselves, make decisions themselves. This ensures that everything they do, encounter and learn feels like it’s on their own and initiative. And everyone knows that it is best to remember something when you have taken the initiative yourself.

In conclusion: What is serious gaming?

For us, a serious game is as follows:

  1. A game where you learn by experience
  2. You learn because you do, and thus experience it yourself
  3. The experience is fun!

You can use it for almost all situations where the participants need to learn or do something new. Whether it’s a strategy, presentation, change, on-boarding, job application, safety training, construction environment or project startup, you can achieve your goal better with serious gaming. And it is fun too!

Enthousiaste spelers over serious games

This blog post was written by Jan-Willem Manenschijn
Jan-Willem Manenschijn works at Raccoon Serious Games as a Game & Tech expert. Raccoon Serious Games believe in physical serious games that allow players to experience. They are content driven and incredibly creative; translate complex assignments into an understandable game with ease. Originally published on medium.

Do you also want to have a serious game made for your organization? Get in touch with us!

This post is also available in: Nederlands

Interested? Get in touch!

Jan-Willem Manenschijn

Serious Game Expert

T: 015 20 24 772
E: info@raccoon.games

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