Serious game

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Serious games induce some kind of affective or motor learning (understood in very broad sense) at any level. Put more simply: serious games are used for more than entertainment. (Susi et al. 2007, Breuer & Bente, 2010).

See also:

Serious games have a long history. A good example are military games. Today (since the late nineties), "serious game" most often relates to a kind of educational computer game or a kind of educational computer simulation. Abt (1975:9) is considered to be the first author to define serious game: "We are concerned with serious games in the sense that these games have an explicit and carefully thought-out educational purpose and are not intended to be played primarily for amusement." According to Susi et al. (2007) serious games are games that “engage the user and contribute to the achievement of predefined objectives”. In other words, serious games are also being used for other purposes than education. According to Breuer & Bente (2010), “the term 'serious game' as it applies to digital games was coined by Ben Sawyer in his 2003 paper on the potential of using digital games for policy making (Sawyer 2003).”

We suggest the following technical definition for serious computer games: A serious computer game is any kind of interactive application - for example a computer simulation or a microworld - that is designed and implemented according to gameplay principles. Often, serious computer games makes use of game technology that has been developed for recreational purposes, but it must not. Finally, a non-serious game could be used for serious purposes, e.g. a board game may be used for team-building or to learn strategic thinking.


Serious computer games go back to the 1970's (Abt, 1970), and mainly appeared under names like "educational game", "business game", "gaming and simuluation", "simulation", "edutainment", political games. However, there may be some subtle differences with respect to modern main-stream serious games, for example:

  • The "fun" aspect usually was less developed in simulation games
  • Older serious games did less often use so-called gaming engines
  • Educational games did often just implement a rewards system and were probably not as engaging as real video games
  • Edutainment refers to games that (maybe) would develop cognitive skills with younger children, mainly commercial CDs
  • Serious games most often play in real world settings and the target audience is rather adults as opposed to smaller children in edutainment or older educational games.

Recently, so-called gamification gained attention in some circles. "Gamification" mainly uses simple reward systems that are supposed to engage users in activities. It's inspired by "boy scout" badges and actually implements badging systems.

Serious games in the landscape of games, simulations and education

The main purpose of serious games is education and training. Within education, there are many different subtypes, e.g. drill and practice games on one end and so-called "epistemic games" that help players learn to think like professionals on the other.

Other areas of serious gaming use include advertizing, political and religious propaganda, health (helping people in various ways with health issues), military, etc.

Aldrich (2009b) presented a diagram that defines serious games as a games genre that can include educational simulations.

Copyright: Aldrich, C. 2009 - reprinted with permission (click on the picture)

Martens (2008) cited by Ulicsak (2010) identified Game-based-learning (i.e. serious games) as the intersection of learning, games and simulation.

Game-based learning according to Martens (2008), based on a figure in Ulicsak, 2010

Breuer and Bente (2010) created a Venn diagram that we reproduced in slightly modified form and that identifes how serious games fit into the general "entertain education" area and how it relates to technology-enhanced learning (called e-learning in the original):

Serious games in the Landscape. Modified figure from Breuer and Bente (2010)

Entertainment education simply refers to the ida to make learning more enjoyable, e.g. by adding game design elements, though gamification or other similar means. Game-based learning refers to all sorts of games made for educational purposes. Digital game-based learning (DGBL) includes games that include learning as the main or sole purpose, both typical learning games of the 80's as well as large subset of modern serious games. The diagram shows that serious games may include other purposes than education. Edutainment can be seen as a subset of DGBL (as in the original figure), however we also left the possibility that edutainment can just refer to a kind of non-serious game (e.g. a title that may not harm your children)

See also:

Features of serious games

At first, serious games are what the title indicates: games. As such they don’t represent real or serious situations, but they still require actions and some emotional participation from one or more decision makers who pursue their own goals (Högsdal, 2011, p. 118; Reinmann, 2005, p. 219). The game itself is flexible and bound to certain rules at the same time thereby forming a safe area of practice and experimentation which has its own innate goals and that you enter voluntarily without external pressure (ibid.).

Opposed to normal games, serious games for computers or played online follow implicit or explicit learning goals instead of pure entertainment therefore justifying their addition “serious” (de Freitas, 2008, p. 43; Högsdal, 2011, p. 118). Although they can contain elements of entertainment or competition (see gamification), they usually apply these successful gaming mechanisms and its thereby increased level of involvement only to initialise gains in knowledge and competencies (Jantke, 2011, p. 80; Masuch, Schmidt & Gerling, 2011, p. 27; Kriz, 2010, p. 73). So serious games (very often also called game-based learning or digital learning or educational games) can be called a link between (online or e-) learning and (computer) games where concrete classification is a matter of the particular context (de Witt & Ganguin, 2011, p. 97; Jantke, 2011, p. 83). The overall pedagogical concept in which it is solely the learner who becomes active whereas the teacher is just in charge of creating an inspiring reflexive learning environment can but doesn’t have to include representations or simulations of a piece of reality (Helm & Theis, 2011, p. 9; Kriz, 2010, p. 73). Simulations like these also enable experimental learning, i.e. they can demonstrate processes that would have been too expensive, time-consuming or risky when implementing them in the real world (ibid., p. 75; Frick & Hitz, 2011, p. 162). Inevitable for them would be a reduction of reality in a didactic manner though (ibid.).

The Summit on Educational Games, page 18 identifies the following features of optimal learning environments and note that gameplayers implemented many of these features in gameplay:

  • Clear learning goals
  • Broad experiences and practice opportunities that continue to challenge the learner and reinforce expertise
  • Continuous monitoring of progress, and use of this information to diagnose performance and adjust instruction to learner level of mastery
  • Encouragement of inquiry and questions, and response with answers that are appropriate to the learner and context
  • Contextual Bridging: Games and simulations can close the gap between what is learned and its use.

Breuer and Bente (2010) point out that in game there are three levels of human-computer interaction:

  1. On a micro-level of individual inputs and outputs (e.g. you push a button and your character moves)
  2. On a narrative level (i.e. you interact with game elements such as non-player characters to progress through the game and unfold its story)
  3. On a meta-level of setting and manipulating the game's rules (this includes choosing a difficulty levels as well as cheating or creating your own game content via editors)”

This means, that a learner can experience a feeling of self-efficacy, i.e. more easily experience their own actions to be effective in the virtual game world. More generally, games seem to induce states of flow, i.e. situations where learners have clear goals and receive immediate feedback, the challenge is adapted to the skill level, feel to be in control, are focused on the task, etc.

Digital learning games are also used as trainings for instructional knowledge and as medium for reflection in the context of professional training; there they are enriching classical teaching methods with educational technology and multimedia facilities (Feist & Franken-Wendelstorf, 2011, p. 69; Helm & Theis, 2011, p. 9). Topics are ranging from team building, project management up to leadership or personnel development in general (ibid.; Metz & Theis, 2011, pp. 63ff.). Implementation happens in simple computer-puzzle games, video games or in more complex digital or web-based learning games (Kriz, 2010, p. 75).

Serious games genres

Serious games are not necessarily labeled as such. Many synomyes are used, e.g. immersive Learning Simulations (ILS) or game-based learning software. In addition, some types of simulations, construction environments like microworlds, etc. that do have some kind of "fun" aspect now are also being sold as serious games...

A natural list

Below is a provisional list of genres. Some can overlap, i.e. a game can be a kind of several genres.

  • Advertizing games: “is the practice of using video games to advertise a product, organization or viewpoint.” (Advergaming, Wikipedia)
  • Construction games: include several subgenres
    • Building games (e.g. roads, bridges, buildings, ...) where players acquire some underlying principles and/or skills.
    • Simulation games like SimCity where players could develop more abstract knowledge like planning or understanding a system.
  • Edutainment: include games that may teach something to children or at least not harm them ... Usually commercial CD ROMS.
  • Health games: include a broad range of games
    • Exergames: help people exercising and often includes technology that tracks body movements, body reactions, or use of mechanical devices. In addtion, such games often use input devices like a wii fit board or the Kinect.
    • Assessment games
    • Therapeutic games
    • Prevention games
  • News games: apply journalistic principles to the creation of a game (Newsgame, Wikipedia). Its purpose is often to sensitize people about a recent situation.
  • Games for change, games for good etc.
  • Simulation

It is difficult to draw a clear border between serious games and simulations and between serious games and edutainment. The difference between a serious games and a simulation is that serious games rely on key elements of computer gaming, i.e must be based on good gameplay and playability. The difference between serious games and other gaming genres like edutainment may be that the former has some built-in serious purpose, whereas the latter becomes serious when the user decides to assign such a purpose to it.

Alessi and Trollop

Alessi and Trollip (2001), still the best textbook on educational multimedia, notice that (in 2000) games are mostly used either with (1) younger children rather using "drills in game clothing" or (2) college and professional students in business courses rather using simulation games. In addition, the define a typology of educational games that are based on real game genres:

  • Adventure and role-playing games
  • Business games
  • Board games
  • Combat games
  • Logic games and puzzles
  • Word games

Brannigan (Caspian learning)

Chris Brannigan of Caspian learning in some slides and in blog postings, retrieved 16:33, 10 October 2012 (CEST) identifies the following types, most of which are a kind of simulation:

  • Egocentric Sims: Player plays an individual character and views the action as through the eyes of this individual character.
  • Branching Story Sims: Engage the user in an unfolding sequence of animated scenes within a story or event. The user is able to influence and even determine the flow of the story by making choices and decisions at different points.
  • Real Time Strategy Sims: A player is given control over a range of resources and units to manipulate and deploy within an evolving scenario. This is a variant of episodic turn-based sims.
  • Exocentric Sims: Player sees the world in a perspective from above. Typically she/he could control persona and objects in the scenario.
  • Episodic Sims: An episode of action and events will occur and then the player is given their ‘turn’ to make a response. Example: Civilization (game) or business simulations.
  • Construction and resource Management: A player must build, expand or manage an entity or project with limited resources. As opposed to to turn-based or real time strategy simulations, the emphasis is on building and managing. E.g. SimWorld
  • Virtual Worlds: Such multi-user environments allow to control and dvelop an avatar. The player has relative freedom to move and to act. Exemple: Second life or games embedded in second life.
  • Device-based Sims: provide the player with realistic operating control over various kinds of devices and vehicles. E.g. an airplane, a machine to operate, a car.

Branningan's taxonomy focuses on kinds of game play and human-computer interfaces.

Sawyer and Smith

Ben Sawyer and Peter Smith, in their 2008 Serious Games Taxonomy (broken link), used two dimensions:

  1. Content: Games for Health, Advergames, Games for Training, Games for Education, Games for Science and Research, Production, Games as Work
  2. Sector: Government & NGO, Defense, Healthcare, Marketing & Communications, Education, Corporate, Industry

Crosstabulated, this lead to the following table: [[File:|800px|thumbnail|center]]

Sawyer & Smith Serious games taxonomy 2008: Source: Understanding "Serious" Games

Breuer and Bente

Breuer and Bente (2010) suggest nine criteria for classifying serious games and the authors suggest that it “is flexible and open for additions and changes. It can be used not only by game designers to advertise their products, but also by researchers to describe and compare games and by educators and learners who use them to express their view of and experience with the game.”

  1. Platform, e.g. PC, mobile phone, Wii
  2. Subject Matter, e.g. latent semantic analysis, cooking fish
  3. Learning Goals, e.g. be able to compute if 2 documents are close using LSA, know 20 kinds of sea fish.
  4. Learning Principles, e.g. rote memorization, exploration, observational learning, trial and error, conditioning
  5. Target audience
  6. Interaction mode(s), e.g. multiplayer, Co-Tutoring, single player, massively multiplayer, tutoring agents
  7. Application area, e.g. academic education, private use, professional training
  8. Controls/Interfaces, e.g. gamepad controlled, mouse & keyboard, Wii balance board
  9. Common gaming labels, e.g. puzzle, action, role-play, simulation, card game, quiz

Learning effects and assessment

Measuring learning

In order to assess possible learning gains achieved through serious games, Niegemann (2013) suggests several criteria for evaluation:

  • How does their potential to stimulate motivation and interest look like?
  • How much information is trying to be conveyed, is the quantity reasonable and is the information actually correct?
  • How high is the amount of “seductive details” that rather distract learners from the actual learning content?
  • Do learners have action choices being relevant for learning?
  • Does the learning environment provide rich feedback?
  • Is enough support given to transfer learning outcomes from inside the game out into the real world?

Shute et al. (2010), in order to respect learning though games, suggest to “focus on propose using ECD (Evidence-centered design), stealth assessment, and automated data collection and analysis tools to not only collect valid evidence of students’ competency states in game environments, but to also reduce teachers’ workload in relation to managing the students’ work (or “play”) products.” (Shute et al. 2010: 158).

Gunter, Kenny & Vick, (2008) describe the RETAIN model developed by Shelly, Gunter et al. and that is based on several components:

The RETAIN model defines five criteria for which 0-3 levels are defined:

  1. Relevance: “In addition to presenting learning materials in a way that is relevant to learners, their needs, and their learning styles, instructional units should be relevant to one another.” (Gunter et al., 2008) and according to Sweller's germaine load principle “the more closely the materials are related to the focus of what is to be learned, and the more relevant the topics are to the learner the greater for learning is to take place.” (Gunter et al., 2008)
  2. Embedding: “how closely the academic content is coupled with the fantasy/story content” (Gunter et al., 2008). I.e. typical game elements like structure, storylines, player experience, dramatic structure, fictive elements must be directly related to academic knowledge. ()
  3. Transfer: “ability to teach player–learners how to transfer knowledge from one situation to another requires the answers to several questions.” (Gunter et al., 2008). This implies that transfer firstly has to happen within games using new and different situations. Transfer is related to Bloms higher levels and Gagné's steps three and nine.
  4. Adaptation: “Assimilation relates to a process in which learners interpret events in terms of what they already know. Accommodation relates to transfer and refers to learners being forced to change or create new knowledge to make sense of something that doe not fit their existing ideas or understandings” (Gunter et al., 2008)
  5. Immersion: “[...] can be measured hierarchically from a simple interaction/reaction to being fully engaged to an intellectual investing in the context of the game (learning situation)” (Gunter et al., 2008). This implies that immersion goes beyond simple feeling of being there, i.e. the player should be intellectually engaged.
  6. Naturalisation: “[...] correlates to the concept of automaticity or spontaneous knowledge, in which a student uses the learned information habitually and consistently, monitors it, but does not have to devote significant mental resources thinking about it.” (Gunter et al., 2008). This concept also could be related to procedure learning (Anderson).

Summary table of the RETAIN evaluation rubric (for details, please consult the original). Level 3 includes levels 1 and 2, and level 2 includes level 1

Summary of the RETAIN evaluation rubric
Level 0 Level 1 Level 2 Level 3
Relevance little stimulus for learning limited educational focus, some irrelevant content Learning objectives are defined, interest is created game is relevant to learners, and challenges or adequate for learning
Embedding learning content disrupts play Learning is exogeneous to fantasy context includes intellectual challenge and problems content is endogenous to fantasy and fully involves learner
Transfer No levels of challenge mapped to objectives Levels of challenge are too similar, some useful content Easy progress through levels through active problem solving. Higher level knowledge should be transferable Authentic real life situations and after action reviews
Adaptation Fails to engage in interactive, unstructured information Builds upon existing cognitive structures, engages in cognitive conflict Learners are encouraged to go beyond given information. Old schemas are identified and adapted to new situations Learning becomes an active process that integrates prior knowledge
Immersion No formative feedback, little active participation Elements of play are not in sync with learning objectives, players do not feel fully interactive learners are involved cognitively, physically and emotionally Favors belief creation and includes opportunities for reciprocal action
Naturalization Little opportunity for mastery of facts and skills Replay is encouraged to improve speed of processing Encourages synthesis of elements and judgments Learners become efficient content users and spontaneously use acquired knowledge


Niegemann (2013) briefly summarises 3 good reasons for serious games from a theoretical point of view:

  • Learners tend to be more motivated
  • Serious games also cover and address motivational aspects
  • They enable as well as foster learning by doing

“Can games be used to support meaningful learning? Most likely the answer is yes, conditional on more research being conducted in this area. In general, we believe that (a) learning is at its best when it is active, goal-oriented, contextual-ized, and interesting (e.g., Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000; Bruner, 1961; Quinn, 2005; Vygotsky, 1978); and (b) learning environments should thus be interactive, provide ongoing feedback, grab and sustain attention, and have appropriate and adaptive levels of challenge— i.e., the features of good games (e.g., Prensky, 2001; Salen & Zimmerman, 2004).” (Shute et al. 2010: 137)

As a subcategory of e-learning digital learning games offer similar benefits: independency of location and time, flexible working style or taking different levels of individual learning speed into account (ibid.; Metz & Theis, 2011, p. 63). Altogether they enable self-determined, self-regulated and autonomous learning up to the extreme of a completely self-controlled state of learning arrangement as the learners are almost 100% responsible for their own learning results – provided that there is an open-minded and self-explorative attitude on the learners’ side (ibid., pp. 63ff.).

In good serious games users moreover encounter phenomena that they are usually quite familiar with from normal games: immersion and flow. In order to achieve these effects, constant balance between task or game requirements and user abilities is required implying the need for an individual adaptation of difficulty and complexity (Frick & Hitz, 2011, pp. 163f.; Kriz, 2010, p. 75). If successful gamers can be grabbed and motivated in such an extensive way that they become almost resistant to external distraction, playful learning sort of happens along the way (Feist & Franken-Wendelstorf, 2011, p. 69; Frick & Hitz, 2011, pp. 163f.; Metz & Theis, 2011, pp. 63ff.).

A major puzzle in terms of motivation concerns hard fun (Papert, 1998). Many games are difficult and achieving a certain level relies a longer and maybe diffcult process. Therefore one may ask the question, why some some people enjoy the challenge of a game but dislike challenges in a school setting. Although this does not apply to the whole population - the promotors of serious gaming seem to forget that most people don't play and proable don't like to play video games and that many leaners actually do enjoy leaning - one can ask what differs a learning situation in game from the one in a typical school setting.

The Summit on Educational Games report also identifies the kinds of knowledge and skills that might be taught effectively with games and simulation. The list includes knowledge and skills that are hard to teach and train in other ways.

  • Higher order skills such as strategic thinking, resource management mastery, interaction with systems, multi-tasking and decision making within complex situations and changing scenarios, learning to compromise and to make trade-offs, manage complex relationships, exercise leadership, collaboration and team building
  • Practial Skills Training in a safe environment, such as operating complex machinery, laboratory work, marketing techniques
  • High Performance Situations
  • Rarely used skills
  • Developing expertise
  • Team building


“There is no uniform pedagogy within serious or educational games; earlier games tended to be based on a behaviourist model. Later games try and incorporate experiential, situated and socio-cultural pedagogical models. The learning outcome is dependent upon an appropriate pedagogy and the underlying game mechanics and how the content is integrated into the game so the learning is intrinsic to play.” (PDF Ulicsak and Wright, 2010).

“In his influential review of games’ motivational aspects, (Lepper and Malone 1987; Malone 1980a, 1980b, 1981, 1983a, b, 1984), concluded that content needs to be intrinsically related to the fantasy/storyline of the game in order to produce the best learning environment.” (Gunter, Kenny & Vick, 2007).

“It has been widely noted (Egenfeldt-Nielsen, 2007; Hays, 2005; O’Neil, Wainess, & Baker, 2005; Randel, Morris, Wetzle, & Whitehead, 1992; Tobias et al., 2011; Tobias & Fletcher, 2011b; Vogel et al., 2006) that the enthusiasm for using games for instruction far outstrips the available evidence for transfer from games to external tasks. It would be useful to divert the energy devoted to rhetoric about the affordances of games to conducting research demonstrating that those affordances can be productively used to improve learning from instruction” (Tobias and Fletcher, 2012). The same article suggests “that such efforts are best assessed as transfer from game play to performance on external tasks that are targeted by the instruction. Review findings suggest that such transfer may be expected only if the cognitive processes engaged by games and external tasks overlap. Integrating games into a course of study is likely to facilitate such transfer”.

This somewhat optimistic view of Tobias and Flechter about possible learning effects that serious games can have, is according to Young (2012b) due to the fact that the former view games as a subset of simulations. This implies that Tobias et al. may include simulations with somewhat game-like elements in their reviews.

Young et al. (2012) reviewed research about educational affordances of games in mathematics, science,language learning, physical education, and history. The authors conclude that, except for language games, “many educationally interesting games exist, yet evidence for their impact on student achievement is slim”.

How about learning from playing "not serious" games.

Breuer (2011:241) identified several types of studies that investigated the influence of playing digital games on perception and lower level cognitive processing. “Previous research has, e.g., shown that digital games can improve visual selective attention (Green and Bavelier, 2000), mental rotation skills (Greenfeld et al., 1994), spatial perception (Subrahmanyam, 1994) or eye-hand coordination (Griffith et al., 1983).” He also notes that few research exists with respect to higher-order cognition and concludes: “Given the complexity of tasks present in many current computer and video games the question arises whether digital games can also affect higher order information processing such as the formation and alteration of cognitive schemata.”


Although some researchers (e.g. Prensky, 2007) tend to consider playful learning as the almost 1-in-all answer to all areas of education and predict their glorious victory in the future, most educationalists also see the drawbacks of serious games and therefore several limitations regarding their usage in education. Niegemann (2013) recaps some important points there based on theoretical and empirical considerations:

  • Learning with serious games usually requires a lot more time – both in creating adequate material as well as learning with them
  • Playing can create rather high cognitive load as there are a lot of information to be processed simultaneously
  • To fulfil requirements resulting from their gaming nature (e.g. fun elements, interesting storyline etc.) there is also numerous distraction and “seductive details”
  • Coming from their previous experiences users are likely to approach serious games rather with a more entertainment than with a learning attitude

Game design

We believe that serious games must be games, i.e. implement gameplay and playability principles, else they should be called educational simulations or microworlds or whatever else they are. See also

Gunter et al. (2006:104) define the following most important elements of serious game design:

  • Scenario exposition
  • Problem Setup
  • Offer Challenge/Choice
  • Provide Direction
  • Elicit Action/Decision
  • Discernable Outcomes
  • Success/Failure Screens

With respect to Gagne's nine events of instruction, they consider that "stimulating recall" and more importantly "retention and transfer" may be missing from common game elements. This led the authors to formulate the RETAIN model we already introduced above.

The following model by Kritzenberger (2012 summarizes elements influencing player experience as derived from literature review and a case study of the game Winterfest (in German). “At the beginning and before starting with the case study on the learning adventure, a written survey was conducted with 279 persons taking part (Wulf, 2012). It was conducted in order to find out, which elements of adventure games are regarded as important by people. These Elements which stayed in the minds of people are candidates for cognitive schemes player can activate.” (Kritzenberger, 2012:1332) In particular, she argues that “According to schema theory (Smith and Queller, 2001) the whole process and all events occurring during gamplay are arranged according to this cognitive scheme. Similar evidence derived from studies on video games and has there been regarded as important precondition for immersion (Douglas and Hargadon, 2000).”

Elements influencing player experience, (figure redrawn from Kritzenberger, 2012:1332)

Kritzenberger (2012:1333) argues that “[...] all the influencing control elements found for player experience in video game are relevant for player experience in educational games as well.”. Her study also found out that “If the user does not have a relevant frame and schemes for established influential elements, these elements will not be able to trigger frames. The result may be that immersion, which has been identified as one of the most relevant player experience constructs, will not happen.”. In other words, even if one manages to build a game that does include typical gaming elements, users may not associate contents with a gaming genre, i.e. instantiate a prior cognitive scheme, and then reject the game as "not fun".


(by no means complete so far, there are many kinds)

Citizen Cyberscience games


  • Re-Mission 2, internet and apps for IOS as well as Android, small free action games to help kids and young adults suffering from cancer to improve cancer treatment adherence and boost self-efficacy (category health game/therapeutic game)
    • Review (out of a practice session with edutech students at university):

"The game itself is rather easy to learn and handle with a typical game-like interface guaranteeing an easy entry to the game. It includes a lot of action in the style of an old arcade-game shooter making it an entertaining experience in the beginning. However, as usually with small-game shooters, gaming fun is rather short-term and after some time decreases significantly. Besides, the gap between actions inside the game and the real world appears to be rather huge so there is hardly any transfer of learning outcomes possible which might be connected with the high overall gaming speed and its nature as a shooting game. Additionally, the reason for the game’s rather poor educational performance could be that for the practice session only university students at the age of above 24 took part – whereas the game’s intended audience are rather kids and young adults."


Political sensibilization, education and propaganda

Many of these games are playable through a web browser. Some of these may require a plugin, e.g. Flash or a more exotic format like Unity

  • Amnesty the Game “Using your wits, drive and passion you have the opportunity to save six prisoners condemned to death, help spread the message of justice and human rights, and support Amnesty International’s fight against Capital Punishment!”
  • Darfur is Dying, internet, sponsored by mtvU, free game to help stop the crisis in Darfur (category narrative-based simulation/viral video game for change)
    • Review (out of a practice session with edutech students at university):

"The game is basically split into 2 sub-games: the first one is to forage for water for your refugee camp while hiding from aggressive militias who might kill you. If being successful, you can enter your refugee camp and engage in other services to benefit your camp community (grow crops, build bricks, pick up medicine etc.). If you play the game for the first time, you are probably a bit irritated and puzzled what to do actually and you start out with simply following basic game principles, e.g. foraging for water and trying not to be captured by militias. The second sub-game is even more confusing as the usability there, especially navigating your avatar, is rather poor and students first didn’t know what they are actually supposed to do. It definitely requires a bit of time until you get used to the gameplay and fully understand your action choices. On the other hand, there are a lot of interesting facts about the situation in Darfur in the real world and how to take real-world actions now to stop the humanitarian crisis there, e.g. by hitting the “take action” button that motivates you to contact president Obama and other politicians or to start campaigns informing about the Darfur crisis. Altogether it seems that the gaming fun in this game is slightly reduced in favour of a stronger focus on the educational and learning aspects."



  • Serious Games Taxonomy by Ben Sawyer: Digitalmill, Inc. & Serious Games Initiative and Peter Smith: University of Central Florida, RETRO Lab.


  • Summit on Educational Games, Harnessing the power of video games for learning. Web site includes a Fact Sheet, PPT, and Full report, Federation of American Scientists, 2005. Still good reading.

Indexes of serious games

  • Serious game (Wikipedia), includes a longer list at the end of the article

People and organizations

  • “The Serious Games Initiative is focused on uses for games in exploring management and leadership challenges facing the public sector. Part of its overall charter is to help forge productive links between the electronic game industry and projects involving the use of games in education, training, health, and public policy. The Serious Games Initiative was founded at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, D.C.”, retrieved 11:40, 5 October 2012 (CEST). At this date, the website was empty (only a home page)...
  • Games for Health “Founded in 2004, the Games for Health Project supports community, knowledge and business development efforts to use cutting-edge games and game technologies to improve health and health care. The Pioneer Portfolio of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the lead conference sponsor and a major supporter of the Games for Health Project.”, retrieved 11:40, 5 October 2012 (CEST)
  • “Health Games Research is a national program that provides scientific leadership and resources to advance the research, design, and effectiveness of digital games and game technologies that promote health. It is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio and headquartered at the University of California, Santa Barbara.”, , retrieved 11:40, 5 October 2012 (CEST)


conferences and proceedings

  • SGDA 2012 (list of contributions, but (Access restricted)
    • Minhua Ma, Manuel Fradinho, Jannicke Baalsrud Hauge, Heiko Duin, Klaus-Dieter Thoben (Eds.): Serious Games Development and Applications - Third International Conference, SGDA 2012, Bremen, Germany, September 26-29, 2012. Proceedings. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 7528 Springer 2012, ISBN 978-3-642-33686-7
  • ICEC 2012. International conference on entertainment computing. (no proceedings so far).

Resource sites and pages

Informal literature


  • Annetta, Len; Marshall R. Murray, Shelby Gull Laird, Stephanie C. Bohr, and John C. Park (2006). Serious Games: Incorporating Video Games in the Classroom, EDUCAUSE Quarterly, HTML
  • Abt, C. (1970). Serious Games. New York: The Viking Press.
  • Aldrich, C., (2009b). Virtual worlds, simulations, and games for education: A unifying view. innovate: Journal of Online education, 5(5). PDF (Open access)
  • Aldrich, Clark (2009). The Complete Guide to Simulations and Serious Games. Pfeiffer. pp. 576. ISBN 0-470-46273-6.
  • Alexander, A.L. Brunyé, T., Sidman, J. & Weil, S.A., 2005. From Gaming to training: A review of Studies on Fidelity, immersion, Presence, and buy-in and their effects on transfer in PC-based Simulations and Games. [http:/ PDF]
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The first draft of the article are strongly based on the Wikipedia Serious game article. Further versions then were inspired by Ulicsak, M., and Wright, M., 2010. Games in Education: Serious games. Bristol: Futurelab.--------


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