Simulations are suitable for teaching and training skills. Yet the effectiveness of a simulator can be improved if it is combined with gamification techniques. By improving the experience of simulations through gamification, users will stay motivated longer and will be better trained.

A simulation is an imitation of reality. Simulators can be used for surgical training, and educating students.

Simulations are also suitable for training and demonstrating practical training situations. Yet the use of simulators has its challenges.  Target users are known to struggle with the required motivation needed to maximize the training effect of simulators. This was the case at the University Medical Center Groningen. Surgeons found the training simulator boring and made little use of it, although they derived great pleasure from playing Angry Birds during each break.

Making simulators more effective with gamification

Simulators often do not use gamification techniques. Trainees may find the simulator incredibly fun in the beginning, but in the long run their motivation dwindles fast, decreasing effectiveness.

Gamification is a technique in which game elements are incorporated into a process to motivate users. We all like a challenge or a competition. It motivates us to go the extra mile and to be the best,   especially when there is a reward in return. There is a reason why games use a leaderboard, badges, rewards and the sense of competition among players.

A major advantage of gamification is that it is relatively easy and quick to implement. Suppose it is possible to keep score in the simulation, then a competition between users can already be set up. In the next section, we give more examples of gamification techniques for simulators.

Gamification techniques for simulators

There are several gamification techniques that can be used to stimulate human emotions and create a positive user experience. The main elements for a good gamification solution are challenges, goals, rewards, feedback and competition.

1. Challenges and goals

Motivation comes by pursuing challenges and goals. In gamification, there can be different (end) goals. Think of achieving a certain number of points, becoming first on the leaderboard or completing a level. When we achieve such a challenge, the hormone endorphins are released in our brains. This is also called the happiness hormone. It makes us feel euphoric.

Sometimes there can also be a goal in the form of a game story. You often see this in serious games, such as Underground. This game is about the brave girl, Sari, who has her robot friend Sw4nk. Sari’s father is not happy with Sw4nk and sends him to the mines. As Sari, you  (the player),  tries to free Sw4nk from the mines. Players, surgeons, in this case,  empathize with the characters and have the end goal of freeing the robot boyfriend. This motivates them to complete all the levels and finish the game.

2. Rewards and feedback

Challenges and goals are more fun when you achieve them. There is a reason why sales departments often use sales targets. If the employee reaches them, he or she receives a bonus. Of course, you don’t have to give a financial bonus if someone makes sufficient use of a simulation. You can also work with points and badges.

Points are a reward for successfully completing an activity. These points also provide insight into game progress. An important function of points is to provide feedback.

Badges work both as a reward and as a way of providing feedback to the player. When a player completes a level or challenge, he or she receives a visual badge. This in turn helps to stimulate the happiness hormone. In addition, badges provide insight into progress. For example, the player can be told in advance that there are 12 badges to be earned. The player then knows that with 8 badges he or she is well on his way to the top of the leaderboard.  A gamified simulator must be built in such a way that each user has his own account, where he can see the progress.

3. Competition

Learning as a team is more effective. Playing together or competing against other players also has a positive effect on the user experience of a gamified simulator. Leaderboards are a way to stimulate competition between players. A leaderboard is a visual ranking based on the number of points gained.  You have insight into your total score and that of other players. For instance, when a player sees that he or she is in second place with 4 points behind, he or she is motivated to play more and capture first place.

If the gamified simulator cannot display a visual leaderboard, an offline leaderboard can be used. Here With the leaderboard, the players or the supervisor can keep track of the total scores.  At the end of the competition, prizes can be given out to the top scorers.


Simulators are still suitable for training and for preparing trainees for real-life situations.  The effectiveness of a simulator can be improved with gamification techniques, such as challenges, rewards and competition. By using these techniques, the target audience is more motivated, both in the short and long term.


Want to know more about gamification for simulations? Please contact Tim Laning to discuss it: