Serious games, believe it or not, aren’t as dull as they sound. Despite their name, serious games are specifically designed to be fun as well as serve a purpose, typically for training or education. The word ‘serious’ applies more to the fact that the game simulates a real-word situation.
Gamification, on the other hand, is the idea of taking core elements commonly found in games like progress bars, point scoring and leaderboards and applying them to non-game experiences; no actual gameplay is involved.
Take Samsung Nation as an example. This is a community where consumers are offered rewards for simply exploring Samsung.com. In exchange for their participation, users progress through levels of achievement and are rewarded with badges.
Arguably, serious games have been labelled unfairly. Purposeful games. Focused games. Beneficial games. Any of these titles are much better suited. The words ‘serious’ and ‘games’ seem a slight juxtaposition, but saying that, a lot of people do get pretty serious about games!
It’s important to understand that even though they are called serious games this doesn’t mean they aren’t fun. In fact, the opposite. The whole reason they work so well as an effective learning tool is exactly that. They are fun.
Although there are predetermined learning objectives going into the development process, the gameplay element comes first to turn the learning experience into an enjoyable one. Learning what would usually be a dry subject within a fun, low-stress environment encourages efficient memorisation.
Games tell a story, a method of delivering information that has a powerful impact on a person’s ability to recall information and therefore time spent working towards mastering a skill or subject is dramatically reduced.
The key thing to creating a fun game is striking the balance between too easy and too hard. Gamers love a challenge and if they are close to succeeding at something the idea is they will carry on until they have.
An invaluable quality of games is that they are accepting of failure. Players know that failing at least once during a game is inevitable, so rather than acting as a barrier, failing is a positive hurdle to encourage players to continue on to victory. They also have the ability to relieve much of the anxiety that comes with learning something new.
Put simply, serious games are games. They are fun, meant to entertain, yet their underlying primary focus is to teach in an environment that doesn’t scare or intimidate the learner, but encourages them to master a subject or skill quickly and effectively.