How to increase employees’ motivation with serious games



Motivating employees is a subject on which an infinite number of articles have been written. We all believe that an employee should have a healthy dose of motivation, and when a change takes place within an organisation, an employee is required to be flexible and cooperative. In short: a lot is expected of employees. Maintaining or increasing motivation is therefore important. How do you increase the motivation of employees with serious games?

Serious games can be an effective means to motivate employees and even to realise a change in behaviour. Games in the workplace through engaging characters, an exciting game world and competition between employees. A serious game can also be made in such a way that users become motivated to play a certain level again or to move on to the next game world. Games involve employees more in the subject for a longer period of time. This long-term involvement motivates employees to learn new things or implement a behavioural change.

Motivation in the workplace

Motivation: as an employer, you naturally hope that your employees have it. A motivated employee is not only happier, but also more productive. And if you want to achieve a change in behaviour among your employees or implement a change within your organisation, it is important that employees are aware of this for a long time. Motivation is also very important for this.

In this article on behavioural change through serious games, we have already looked at two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. These different forms of motivation are important to understand, especially in the case of behavioural changes. With intrinsic motivation, you do something from within yourself, such as running because you value a healthy lifestyle. An example of extrinsic motivation is that this person receives a medal for running. The motivation, a medal, then comes from the external environment.

The same principles take place within a company. Personnel do certain work and receive a reward in the form of wages. When performing well, bonuses can be added to this and the managers regularly give compliments to keep the employee motivated. Quite simple, isn’t it?

We now know from decades of scientific research that this is not an effective way to motivate people in the long term. You can read more about this in Daniel Pink’s renowned book ‘Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us‘.

Moreover, there may be certain processes in the company that need to be used regularly by employees, but are not fun. Even though they generally like their work and are motivated, such processes can reduce overall motivation.

Serious games to motivate employees

Serious games are able to make certain activities fun. Earlier we posted an article about why serious gaming is fun. Game design and certain game mechanics play a major role in the fun factor in games. Certain ‘boring’ business processes can be converted into a serious game to ensure that employees enjoy an activity.

In practise: Underground

Serious games are already widely used in practice to motivate employees. An interesting case is about the game Underground. This game was created together with the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) to maintain the motor skills of surgeons in training. Previously, this was done by having the surgeons practice on a simulator. Not only did this simulator cost a lot of money, it also wasn’t used enough. Nevertheless, the UMCG saw that the employees did play games on their mobile phones during the breaks, such as ‘Angry Bird’.

That is why Grendel Games and the UMCG developed the game Underground. The game takes place in the mines, where surgeons move around in the game character ‘Sari’. Sari has to free her robot friend ‘Sw4nk’ from the mines by completing various challenges. The game is played with a converted Wii controller: a laparoscopic controller. Laparoscopy means ‘looking in the belly’. The surgeon makes a small cut in the belly and can then ‘look into the belly’ with a camera. By playing the game, trainee surgeons practice laparoscopic surgery.

How is it then possible that the surgeons in training were motivated to play the game and thus train their motor skills? A number of factors have been incorporated into the game to increase motivation:

1. Challenging puzzles that are fun

In the exciting world of Underground, surgeons have to solve various challenging situations. After completing a puzzle, the player gets a little closer to the earth’s surface. This form of progress motivates the surgeons to continue playing and get out of the mines as quickly as possible. This is where intrinsic motivation comes into play: the surgeon in training wants to complete the game as quickly as possible to show that he or she is good at the game. A competitive setting helps to stimulate intrinsic motivation.

A catchy story that keeps grabbing your attention

Underground has a total of four game worlds and tells an exciting story of Sari and Sw4nk. Players want to know how the story continues and ends, like in a film or book. Combined with the number of game worlds, this is a good motivation to play the game for a long time. It is already interesting for the player to complete one game world through challenging puzzles and the experience in the game. After completing the first game world, the player moves on to the next world. Because surgeons in training have to practice a lot, sustained motivation and a long practice hours is needed.

3. A reason to play the serious game again

In addition to completing the challenges, robots must also be collected in each level. It is possible to complete a level without collecting every robot, but the surgeon in training will be motivated to replay the level to collect all the robots, for better rewards. In addition, the player can earn ‘Quadronite’ if he or she manages to guide these robots along a certain path. These game mechanics are implemented to extend the playing time without losing the player’s motivation.


Serious games are fun. It is possible to turn a business process that is not enjoyed by employees, such as the training of a surgical procedure, into a serious game. Employees are then motivated to get involved by playing a serious game. Smart game mechanisms help to retain an employee’s attention for a long time. A longer period of attention means more knowledge transfer, more practice time, or a more effective transmission of the desired message.


Would you like to know more about serious games? Please contact Tim Laning to discuss it:

Tim Laning

Business developer

Do you want to know more about the possibilities of serious games? Let’s discuss what serious games can do for you.


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