Week 2 Blog #etlead What are the common components of serious games?


Week 2 Blog

After doing a lot of reading, research, and collaboration this week, I have determined that the following are components that need to be included in a serious game:

  1. A character or identity that can be used in the game.  This character allows the player to interact with the environment.  Often times you are able to build an avatar or character that represents yourself in some way.  “These characters stage happenings in virtual space” (Pedagogy Elements, Components, and Structures for Serious Games Authoring Environments).  Players are allowed to experience the game through a character that they can identify with.  “Good video games capture players through identity” (Good Video Games and Good Learning).  The players are drawn into the games with a character that they choose.  Having a character or identity in a game is an essential component to getting players engaged in that game. 
  2. Game should be challenging enough to keep interest and engagement but not too challenging to frustrate players.  According to an interview with Curtis Murphy, a game should balance difficulty and skill where they have specific tasks (How to Build an Award Winning Serious Game).  Games should be built to keep that balance.  “The designer has to understand every kind of player playing the game and make sure that the game is enjoyable for all sorts of players”(Adaptive Game Mechanics For Learning Purposes).  Games should not just target an expert or a beginner.  The games should be able to adapt to everyone’s skill level.            
  3. Games should have rewards built in and promote risk taking.  Whether you are rewarded or penalized in a game, you should have immediate feedback (How to Build an Award Winning Serious Game).  Immediate feedback especially on errors allows for learner reflection.  Errors in games are seen as positive learning experiences.  (Serious Games in Defense Education).  The errors allow for learning and rewards give reinforcement and encouragement in serious games.  If you don’t have some type of reward, the game is almost pointless for players.  Rewards can be simple but everyone loves to get some type of reward or reinforcement.    
  4.  Build systematic thinking.  Games should encourage students to think about the bigger picture, not just isolated facts and events (Good Video Games and Good Learning).  This skill is a really important life skill that a serious game can teach you.  What is going to happen if I do this?  It directly translates over to many life events.  I believe that serious games should be grounded in reality and teach these types of lessons. 


There are many other components in serious games but these are the ones that I have researched and found to be important. 




Adaptive Game Mechanics For Learning Purposes: making serious games playable and fun, (2003), http://www.cs.mcgill.ca/~jtremb59/Papers/Adaptive Game Mechanics for Learning Purposes – J Tremblay.pdf


Good Video Games and Good Learning, http://www.academiccolab.org/resources/documents/Good_Learning.pdf


How to Build an Award Winning Serious Game (video), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PM-Z20MTkcY


Pedagogy Elements, Components, and Structures for Serious Games Authoring Environments (2007), http://www.cms.livjm.ac.uk/library/AAA-GAMES-Conferences/GDTW/2007/Papers/A4/LP4.pdf


Serious Games in Defense Education. (2008). http://www.caspianlearning.co.uk/MoD_Defence_Academy_Serious_games_Report_04.11.08.pdf



3 responses »

  1. Megan,
    I really enjoyed reading your components of a serious game! I went out and visited some of your sources and was really impressed by your choices. It’s fascinating that everyone seems to interpret the assignment differently and your post was a great resource that expanded my thinking. Great job! What are your goals for using this technology in your classroom? If you use this kind of technology, how do you balance it with curricular and program expectations? My sense is that this takes a bit of time to implements and if not used carefully, could eat a lot of time in a classroom that may be hard to come by. The fact that you did such good research on the necessary components means that you would make good choices for using this stuff rather than implement willy-nilly because the concept is so engaging. Gaming in school? How cool is that! I’m curious to know more about what you teach and to whom?
    I’m a librarian and I see some great applications and don’t have the curricular constraints I did as a classroom teacher but I think there’s still a stigma. Just curious to know your thoughts! Great job!

  2. Thanks for your comment Chris. I would love to implement technology and games into my classroom but right now, I am currently trying to wrap my head around how to do it. This year I am out of the classroom working for a grant doing cultural education and will go back into the classroom next year. Before I decide to use games in the classroom, I will need to know what grade I will be teaching. There will be a huge difference in what I can do with Kindergarten compared to 5th grade. I am really glad that I am taking the Ed Tech class this semester so that I can think about how and if I could incorporate serious games into the classroom. It will definitely take some time to plan and thing about how to best do this.

  3. I forgot about risk taking! But, YES, immediate feedback does encourage that!
    I found the comment about characters that the player can relate to. Games such as “The Sims” is all about creating an identity (and is a glorified version of playing dolls, but don’t tell anyone!). There are some games that don’t have a specific character, but force the gamer to BE that character. Usually those are thriller games and scare the pants off of you because your “in” the game (i.e. “Slenderman”… don’t play it in the dark). Doritos did a brilliant promo where players could only access their game online when it was night time in their region. I can’t play those kinds of games, because I really feel like I’m in it… but I sure can watch others play it on YouTube! (Check out Hotel 626 or Asylum 626… if you wanted to).
    Other concepts, I completely agree!

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