Serious games research – an overview of the research on the effectiveness of serious games

Serious games are fun, but they have a more important purpose than pure entertainment. The entertainment value of a serious game is fairly easy to check by looking at the smile on someone’s face. The degree of knowledge transfer or effectiveness of behavioral change through serious games is not.

Over the years, several research works have been conducted into (the effects of) serious gaming. In this article, we want to give an overview of some of the interesting studies on serious games.

The currently article would be periodically updated. Do you have a suggestion? Let us know by sending an email to info@grendelgames.com!

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Effectiveness of serious games:

  1. Current practices in serious game research: A review from a learning outcome perspective
  2. Serious Video Game Effectiveness
  3. A systematic literature review of empirical evidence on computer games and serious games
  4. A Meta-Analysis of the Cognitive and Motivational Effects of Serious Games

Serious games in education:

  1. The effectiveness of three serious games measuring generic learning features
  2. Learning with serious games: Is fun playing the game a predictor of learning success?

Serious games in healthcare:

  1. Serious Gaming and Gamification Education in Health Professions: Systematic Review
  2. Training in Basic Laparoscopic Surgical Skills: Residents Opinion of the New Nintendo Wii-U Laparoscopic Simulator
  3. Interactive Videogame Technologies to Support Independence in the Elderly: A Narrative Review

Serious games in sustainability

  1. Making Cool Choices for sustainability: Testing the effectiveness of a game-based approach to promoting pro-environmental behaviours
  2. Facilitating sustainability transition through serious games: A systematic literature review

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Effectivity of serious games

Current practices in serious game research: A review from a learning outcome perspective

The use of games for learning, often referred to as serious games, is discussed by many researchers. Serious games are seen as a way to influence both the cognitive and affective dimensions of learning, thereby motivating learners to learn. However, current research does not sufficiently substantiate this.

Research into: the effectiveness of serious games compared to other learning methods and specific game characteristics.

Type of research: Literature review

Twenty-eight studies with empirical data (based on experience, observation and empirical results) were reviewed to assess the effectiveness of serious games. A distinction was made between cognitive motor skills, affective and communicative learning outcomes. In general, serious games appear to be effective in terms of cognitive learning outcomes. The use of serious games to learn motor skills or to change behavior is also promising.

The researchers believe that serious games are promising, but that more research is needed that takes into account the alignment of learning outcomes and the game mode, the limited cognitive capacity, specific factors such as gender, motivation processes and new assessment methods.

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Serious Video Game Effectiveness

Given their interactive characteristics and intrinsically motivating appeal, games are often praised for their potential and value in education. However, extensive research into these assumptions is still lacking. Preparatory comparative research into the learning effects of games compared to traditional media has yielded promising results. This article is a comparative study that examines the effects of interactivity and media richness on student learning.

Research into: the effects of interactivity and media richness on student learning.

Type of research Literature review.

Data showed that a serious game is better at conveying factual knowledge through interactivity and media richness than traditional textbooks. The result is visible both immediately.

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A systematic literature review of empirical evidence on computer games and serious games

This document examines literature on computer games and serious games regarding the possible positive effects of gaming on players 14 years of age or older. Serious gaming concerns positive effects such as better skills learning, better knowledge transfer and more involvement.

Research into: the possible positive effects of (computer/serious) gaming on users aged 14 or older.

Type of research: Literature review.

A total of 129 studies were identified that provided empirical evidence on the impact of games and serious games on learning and engagement. The findings showed that playing games is related to a range of perceptual, cognitive, behavioral, affective, and motivational effects and outcomes. The most common outcomes and effects were substantive understanding and affective and motivational outcomes. Although empirical evidence for the effectiveness of serious games has been found in this literature review, more experiments are needed to provide more evidence of their effectiveness.

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A Meta-Analysis of the Cognitive and Motivational Effects of Serious Games

It is believed that serious games influence learning in two ways: by changing cognitive processes and by influencing motivation. So far, there is no compelling data to support these assumptions. In this research, meta-analytical techniques were used to investigate whether serious games are more effective and motivational than traditional teaching methods.

Research into: the degree of effectiveness and the level of motivation serious games provide compared to traditional techniques.

Type of research Literature review.

Serious games were found to be more effective as a learning tool, but they were not more motivating than traditional teaching methods. Further analyses of the learning effects showed that students learned more in serious games than in traditional instructional methods.

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Serious games in education

The effectiveness of three serious games measuring generic learning features

Serious gaming has evolved in recent years and offers many new opportunities in education. For example, a serious game encourages active and self-directed learning. In addition, serious gaming can better visualize abstract subject matter and make it practically applicable, which leads to more understanding and insight into the subject matter. Applying game characteristics, such as a scoreboard, also motivates students to become better and better.

Research into: the learning effect of serious gaming among students and which characteristics of serious gaming contribute to this.

Type of research: Experiment.

In the experiment, five different schools were all given a different serious game to use in the classroom. All games were focused on collaborative learning. A total of 346 students participated. The research yielded a number of interesting insights that confirmed a lot of theories about the value of serious games for learning. For example, it appears that elements from serious games (such as engagement, scoring and feedback) provide a more self-directed attitude, higher motivation, higher self-efficacy and more active learning than a traditional classroom lesson.

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Learning with serious games: Is fun playing the game a predictor of learning success?

Serious games are generally considered to have a positive effect on learning and motivation. However, few studies have examined how these factors are related. This research looks at the relationship between entertainment value, learning outcomes, and test results.

Research into: the relationship between the entertainment value of serious games, learning outcomes and test results.

Type of research: Experiment.

In an exploratory study 74 children from five elementary school played the learning game AWWWARE. The analysis showed that the expected entertainment value played only a small role in the pupils’ willingness to learn with serious games. Of greater importance was the expectation of the pupils that the learning game would be easy and educational. The level of actual gaming enjoyment also had a smaller influence than expected. While there was a correlation between fun and the motivation to stay engaged with the subject of the game, no effect was found on learning outcomes or test results. The results show that other factors, such as specific learning tasks, instructions, and support associated with the game, are more influential than the level of enjoyment during the game.

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Serious games in healthcare

Serious Gaming and Gamification Education in Health Professions: Systematic Review

Innovative approaches and solutions for education in health care are constantly being sought. Better knowledge of healthcare personnel leads to better results for patients. Serious gaming and gamification have the potential to educate health care personnel in an inexpensive and fun way.

Research into: the effectiveness of serious games/gamification for education in healthcare professions compared to traditional learning methods and other digital learning methods.

Type of research: Literature review.

There were 27 randomized studies and 3 cluster studies viewed with a total of 3634 participants. These studies show that serious gaming and gamification appears to be at least as effective as other traditional and digital learning methods. In many of the studies, serious games are more effective in improving knowledge, skills and satisfaction.

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Training in Basic Laparoscopic Surgical Skills: Residents Opinion of the New Nintendo Wii-U Laparoscopic Simulator

The training of surgeons has undergone a major transformation over the past ten years. Training has evolved as a result of reduced working hours, concern for patient safety, and the amount of minimally invasive surgical techniques. Surgical simulators are often used to teach basic skills and techniques to surgeons in training. For training in minimally invasive surgery, such as laparoscopy, simulation training has proven to be an effective training tool.

Hospitals use simulators to train the motor skills of trainee surgeons. These simulators offer many advantages to learn surgical skills, but there are a number of disadvantages. One disadvantage is the frequency of play/training. Surgeons need to keep training and practicing. It turns out to be difficult to motivate surgeons to keep practicing in order to maintain their surgeon skills. Another solution needs to be found.

Research into: the opinion of surgeons in training on the new laparoscopic simulator for the Nintendo Wii-U platform?

Type of research: Questionnaire.

Most respondents liked the new serious game for the Nintendo Wii-U. Its usefulness and suitability as a laparoscopic training tool were rated at an acceptable high level. However, the game needs to be improved. For example, a good scoring system must be in place before it can be integrated into the surgeons’ training programs.

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Interactive Videogame Technologies to Support Independence in the Elderly: A Narrative Review

In recent years, the use of games within the health care sector has increased, especially in rehabilitation after a stroke or a fall. This study provides an overview of how video games can be used to address health problems that lead to reduced independence of the elderly.

Research into: the use of video games to tackle health problems that lead to reduced independence of the elderly.

Type of research: Literature review.

The constant developing and improving serious games have a positive effect on the elderly, rehabilitation and independence. The integration of games in care environments has the potential to make the elderly more independent.

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Serious games in sustainability

Making Cool Choices for sustainability: Testing the effectiveness of a game-based approach to promoting pro-environmental behaviours

Attempts to reduce people’s carbon footprint have had mixed successes. Many actions were aimed at increasing awareness or knowledge about the subject. Nowadays, gamification is used to break habits and bring about a sustainable change in behavior. To build on this, a new game-based sustainability intervention has been designed and its effectiveness has been tested in two large-scale field studies.

Research into: the effectiveness of serious games to bring about a sustainable behavioral change.

Type of rersearch: Experiment.

Two large-scale field studies have been done. In the first study, playing the new sustainability game significantly reduced people’s electricity consumption six months after the game. In study 2, playing the game led to greater awareness of households’ efforts to save energy and to an understanding of the importance of sustainability. In both studies, high energy consumers changed their behavior and attitudes towards the environment. The study shows that it is possible to bring about a change in habits in the field of sustainability in the long term.

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Facilitating sustainability transition through serious games: A systematic literature review

Discovering innovative methods to achieve a sustainable society is necessary for the future of our planet. This study focuses on serious games and how users can better understand sustainability and increase their awareness of sustainable development strategies. Serious games can be used for all kinds of target groups interested in acquiring knowledge about sustainability.

Research into: de effectiviteit van serious games om een duurzame gedragsverandering te bewerkstelligen.

Type of research: Literature review.

In this study 77 Serious Games in the field of sustainability have been analyzed. This shows that there is a strong increase of serious games in the field of sustainability. These serious games are also used more often in education. In addition, it appears that not all serious games are fully focused on all aspects of sustainability (economic, social or environmental), but often focus on one aspect.

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