Top 10 Reasons Why Serious Games Are A Great Addition To Your Learning And Development Tool Kit

Top 10 Reasons Why Serious Games Are A Great Addition To Your Learning And Development Tool Kit
Summary: With so many options available to you, why should you consider a games-based approach for your Learning and Development? Check out our top 10 reasons!

Serious Games Add So Much Value!

This is probably the most common argument you might hear if you are looking into serious games. Everyone in the industry screams this out at the top of their lungs, but that’s because it’s true.

1. They Are Engaging

You may think serious games will only appeal to the young, to the gamers, but actually cleverly designed solutions should appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds, regardless of whether they have played games before or not. And here’s why: a well-crafted serious game will give the user something to care about—an objective that they want to achieve; an objective that is relevant to the business or situation that the user currently finds themselves in. A serious games designer will tap into the motivations of the user and make them central to the story.

Games also present information as nested problems; they will give the user an objective but the user themselves have to actively get involved with the scenario to work out how to achieve the objective. Serious games also utilize interesting characters and reward loops to keep you pushing forward. Users will start to buy into the scenario and become emotionally invested in seeing it through.

2. They Are A "Safe Environment"

Do most learners have a place they can go and practice their skills in a realistic environment? Unfortunately, unless you are a pilot or a nuclear technician, the answer will most likely be "no." Most businesses won’t have a simulated business with real people and market data just there for their staff to practice on. Serious games can be the missing link between knowledge and practical application on the job.

Therefore, serious games can allow users to practice the skills or methodologies they have read about or go "off-piste" with their own strategy and actually see the consequences of their actions without any impact to the business. In fact this practice in a virtual environment will benefit the business greatly, by reducing the number of mistakes your staff will make in the real world.

3. They Work According To The Laws Of Learning

Serious games are designed to hook us in and appeal to our brain; their designs are mapped to how we intrinsically learn. As the main purpose of a serious game is to develop new knowledge, skills, and to ultimately produce a behavior change, they have to align with how we learn.

We base our designs around the laws of learning. This is quite a complicated subject, so let’s examine one of the basic premises of learning. Looking back in time, we hear throughout every culture on earth the process of telling stories to pass knowledge down to new generations. Stories create emotional connections, which increase the likelihood of retention. In today’s society we use stories for leisure, books, movies, and games, and they all appeal to us through clever use of narrative, characterization, and the epic challenge, but they are rarely present when it comes to learning.

Now the difference between reading an educational book or watching an educational movie and playing an educational game is that you the player, as the protagonist, takes control, and all the action revolves around you. You make the choices, the consequences happen to you, and because the choices are wrapped up in a story in which you want to succeed, you create an even stronger emotional connection to those actions. We even exhibit physiological responses when we fail in games; it feels so real sometimes that our brains can’t tell the difference on the most basic biological level.

Because you are placed at the center of the action, you learn at your own pace. You don’t have to keep up with 25 others who have other jobs they have to get back to. You evaluate your actions in your own time. You can fail as many times as is necessary to grasp the solution.

This ability to learn at your own speed is down to the use of pacing in the design of these interventions. When designing an eLearning course, for example, there is a specific amount of content, a set number of screens, a set number of words per screen, some audio, animation, and if you’re lucky multiple-choice questions to add some variety. However, in a serious game, the content is indistinguishable from the actions and choices you have to make, therefore you will only progress and succeed once you have mastered the knowledge. The content is paced in a careful way to ensure you understand—not just remember, but truly understand—before continuing. Because you understand, new information stands out to you, and you are able to pull on information stored in your long-term memory and not just your working memory to solve problems.

4. They Are Reusable

A serious game should be judged not on how many learners complete the game but on how learners reuse the application. Serious games by their very nature are designed to be played several times. They are generally nonlinear and allow a learner to explore different paths and different consequences. This results in learners building a well-rounded view of a situation or problem. From the games we host ourselves we know users play our games on average 4.3 times. This replay is reinforcing learning and through the use of scoring we can see that learners are getting better the more they play.

Serious games can also be very flexible; you can use them in many ways. You can apply a context to the learning experience and ask your learners to focus on different learning objectives, or to play in a certain way with a certain mindset, for example. Or you can apply the same application to different stages of the learning lifecycle, as a precursor to a course and as a refresher six months down the line, for example.

5. You Can Roll Specialist Knowledge Out To A Wider Audience

Serious games are great for taking complex topics, like six sigma for example, that have traditionally been part of an intensive classroom course (which could be expensive to roll out to a whole organization) and turning it into a case study game so that the learning can be accessed by a wider audience. Yes, they train to a lower level, but at least they will begin to understand the same lessons that your senior management is learning, ensuring your organization from top to bottom are speaking the same language.

6. They Are Cost-Effective

Cost-effectiveness of serious games is reached because of some of the reasons I’ve already discussed. Firstly, they can be reused many times per learner and across the organization in different contexts, and they can take complex content and reach a wider audience ensuring your message is heard by everyone in the organization. OK, so there may be an up-front development cost, but if a serious game is built correctly they can be modified and tweaked for years to ensure that they are kept up to date.

7. You Can Capture Data!

Because you’re making lots (and I mean lots!) of decisions in a game, and those decisions are very telling about your thought process, you can capture the journey to a particular point as well as to the final end result. Imagine if you received all of that data from everyone in your leadership team, your middle managers, or your entire organization. You could map the strengths and weaknesses of your organization and create an informed strategy for how to address them, or go down to the level of the individual learner and begin to create a truly personalized learning plan based on their actual performance (which can be measured through situational judgement games, for example).

8. They Are Expected

Serious games and interactive learning applications are reaching a stage where new hires will expect them. Companies who use these approaches are often seen as progressive in terms of their Learning and Development and will attract the top talent. These methodologies will also help retain talent by ensuring your in-house Learning and Development is enjoyable and your employees want to keep learning.

9. They Complement Other Forms Of Learning

As I mentioned above, games can be the missing link in your Learning and Development tool kit—you need a knowledge piece, you still need on-the-job training, reinforcement, etc., and serious games complement these other forms of learning brilliantly. A study by MIT has revealed that your attention levels are lower in a lecture than when you are asleep, and the new generation of workers as well as those already in your organization are looking for new ways to learn. More than likely, they’ve already started learning outside of work using MOOC’s or YouTube, for example. Serious games are just one aspect you should consider as part of your digital learning strategy.

10. Because They Work!

Research by Sitzmann in the paper titled "A meta-analytic examination of the effectiveness of computer-based simulation games" looked at the instructional effectiveness of computer-based simulation games relative to a comparison group on a comprehensive set of training outcomes, particularly focusing on the post-training outcomes. Data was collected from 6476 participants ranging from students (undergraduate and graduate) and employees through to military personnel. Sitzmann found that self-efficacy, declarative knowledge, procedural knowledge, and retention results suggest that training outcomes are superior for trainees taught with simulation games relative to the comparison group: "Overall, declarative knowledge was 11% higher for trainees taught with simulation games than a comparison group; procedural knowledge was 14% higher; retention was 9% higher; and self-efficacy was 20% higher."

In our own research we have seen:

  • 50% reduction of errors in complex engineering processes
  • 100% reduction in distracted driving events in fleet driver training
  • 25% improvement in productivity for global auditors

All of which contribute to saved budgets and happier end customers. What's not to love!

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Totem Learning
Totem is a learning company. We blend behavioural psychology, technology and creative expertise to help companies walk through the walls that stand between them and where they want to be.

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