Serious about games?

Coined by Clark Abt (1970), the term “serious game” refers to a game whose primary purpose isn’t to entertain.

Serious games  can be games for

  • education
  • training
  • social good
  • health

Although serious games can have important impacts, this doesn’t mean that serious games can’t be fun. Well-designed serious games create a sense of play and experimentation.

In her talk for The School of Life, Jane McGonigal describes how games can change the world and increase our ability to flourish at the same time.

Gamification: Re-imagining the game layer

Part and parcel of the idea of serious games is the idea of “gamification” or using game dynamics and mechanics to increase engagement and desired behaviors. In this video, Seth Priebatsch reflects on the different types of game strategies used to influence behaviors.

For an interesting view of how some game designers are reacting to the hype surrounding the term “gamification,” read these comments to the question “Why are so many game developers opposed to gamification?”

I’m not a fan of gamification as a way to drive a revenue stream. For me, Farmville is not the epitome of gamification, or at least I hope it isn’t. Still, I think we can’t ignore gamification (done right) as a viable approach to  educate and/or actually do some social good.

Some serious game resources

Some resources I’ve found during my investigations on serious games:

  1. Serious Games Initiative
  2. NASAGA (North American Simulation and Gaming Association)
  3. Games4Change
  4. Ian Bogost – Water Cooler Games
  5. Serious Games Source
  6. Inside Social Games
  7. Social Games Studies
  8. Gamificationco
  9. Avant Game
  10. Gameful
  11. e-Clippings (Learning as Art)

Do you have any favorite resources?


Abt, C. (1970). Serious Games. New York: The Viking Press.


7 responses to “Serious about games?

  1. Hi Dianne,

    Thanks for addressing this exciting topic in your blog! Three of my favorite e-learning games resources are as follows:

    Aldrich, C. (2005). Learning by doing: The essential guide to simulations, computer games, and pedagogy in e-learning and other educational experiences. San Francisco, CA: Pfieffer.

    Gee, J. P. (2007). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Quinn, C. N. (2005). Engaging learning: Designing e-learning simulation games. San Francisco, CA: Pfieffer.

  2. Thanks, Joseph. These look like great books, will definitely check them out!

  3. Dianne, great post. I’d like to invite you to visit , it’s still very much a WIP but we’re working on making it the resource for gamification information and discussion.



  4. This looks great, Nathan. I’m bookmarking it.

  5. Pingback: Learning about games: for your book list (and more) | Instructional Design Fusions

  6. Nice article dude! loving reading from ya.

  7. Pingback: 3 great blogs « designtolearn

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