The first step in making a serious game



Previous research works have looked into the effectiveness of serious games and the results have been positive. Nevertheless, going for such a relatively ‘new’ technology remains an exciting step. . Before you actually opt for a serious game and start developing it, it is important to make two considerations: 1. what is the question, the problem or the idea about? and 2. what conditions does the solution have to meet to be effective?

Serious games are games with a purpose other than pure entertainment. Despite the fact that the serious game has to be entertaining to hold the player’s attention, conveying a message is at the heart of the game. Serious games are used to, among other things:

    • Transfer knowledge;
    • Learning skills;
    • Changing behaviour;
    • Create awareness;
    • Increase motivation.

Before actually choosing a serious game and starting development, it is important to first answer two questions:

  1. What is the question, the problem, or the idea?
  2. What conditions does the solution have to meet to be effective?

What is your question, problem or idea?

Of course, serious games are great fun to use as a tool. But its added value is even more important.. In addition,, you also want the game to fit in seamlessly with what you want to achieve. That is why it is important to start with the next question:

What problem do you want to solve with serious games? Or what idea do you want to implement through serious gaming?

This is the first step we take when we receive an application for a serious game project. It often concerns a problem that is difficult to solve through traditional means. Usually, a serious game is a cheaper alternative with better results. For instance, replacing an expensive simulator for a serious game.

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Based on a problem or idea, the objective is set. We try to make it as specific, measurable, time-bound, achievable, and relevant as possible. Subsequently, research is done with the stakeholders in the project, for example, the domain experts and the customer. This research is also known as the ‘requirements analysis’. Here, we describe the problem that the serious game will solve.

An example of an objective could be: “To allow surgeons to practice doing laparoscopic surgical procedures 25% longer within 6 months after the launch of the serious game”. The duration percentage and number of months makes the objective measurable and will be based on the study.

What are the conditions for the serious game?

The next step is to determine the conditions of the serious game. The research from the first step helps to create a framework in which the serious game can be developed. Stakeholders are asked what the conditions are for the serious game. We translate these into a clear list that is sent back to the customer and domain experts. They then indicate which points on the list have a high or low priority. The final conditions list is important for 3 reasons:

  • To ensure that the objective is achieved
  • To get the wishes of all stakeholders into the game
  • To connect the game to the target group

Drawing up conditions for the serious game is also very practical because it provides insight into how the game is used and the target group to be reached. If this is not yet clear, it will be made concrete at this stage. Questions that can be asked are:

  • Who is the target group?
  • On which device should the serious game be played (in other words: which device is most accessible to the target group)?
  • How much time does the target group have to play the game (in other words: should the challenges in the game be long, or should there be several mini-games that last a few minutes)?
  • Does the game have to be playable independently, or is guidance needed?
  • In how many languages should the serious game be played?

And now?

The problem and the objective are clear. The conditions have been drawn up. We can play it on our own! Developing a serious game is a real voyage of discovery. And in addition to the development, a good implementation plan must also be developed and implemented. But how do you ensure that your serious game is also successful? Earlier we wrote an article about the development and implementation of a serious game: a good sequel to this article!

Finally, of course, you also want to know how long it takes to develop a serious game. Then take a look at this article in which we provide detailed answers to that question.


Would you like to know more about serious games or do you have a challenge for which serious gaming might be the solution? Please contact Tim Laning for a talk:

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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