Effectiveness of serious games

The basic gist of this article is that no realistic conclusion can be made at this point about whether serious games are an effective learning tool or not, despite many ‘experts’ positive claims. This is for a few reasons, lack of a definition as to what a ‘serious game’ actually is and hugely varied control groups being two of the main ones.

What think is that serious games have huge potential, but they are not ‘the answer’ to successful learning. They’re just a tool, and a tool of the times – children are growing up with iPhones and tablets in their hands now, and technology is a huge part of their lives. To ignore it is futile, not to mention stupid. The article mentions it is “important to maintain a level of continuity and consistency between the tools used in education and users’ everyday lives” (pp. 207-208) which refers to this phenomenon.

Now how successful these serious games will be depends on various things that are not just the fact that they are a ‘serious game’. The article says, “researchers identified important criteria that enhance the effectiveness of the SG (story genre, immersion, fantasy, design and gameplay)” (209). These are not things that make up a successful serious game; these are things that make up a successful game, and stripping it back even further, a successful experience. If you remove the gameplay element, these are things that make up a good book, or a good movie. They’re talking about how well the game holds the attention of the user. So obviously to make a good serious game you need to create a good experience, but in a way that facilitates learning without breaking the immersion of the player. And following the experience line of thinking, what is a good experience to one person will not necessarily be the same for another. Learning is different for everyone, as is what we find enjoyable. Serious games are not the answer for everyone.

So from my rambling we get that a good serious game is:

> First and foremost, a successful game. This means it is engaging, immersive, and provokes the player to want to continue playing.

> Dedicated to teaching something. Obviously, you’re here to learn, and the game must focus on that in a way that you can remove your knowledge from the game space and apply it to real life.

> Not aimed at everyone. You can aim for a wide audience, but you must accept that games are not the answer for everyone. Some people like just sitting down with a textbook, and if that works for them, then great.

A couple of other important things:

208. “Serious games are games primarily focused on education rather than entertainment.”

209. “The use of serious games to promote health related behaviour change has a positive effect” > serious games do not just have to be about factual learning.


REF: Girard, C., Ecalle, J., & Magnant, A. (2013) Serious games as new educational tools: how effective are they? A meta-analysis of recent studies. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 29, 207 – 129


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