Games Get Serious: 4 Tips to Adopting Serious Games in Workplace Training



Enter a darkroom, and log into your computer simulator.

The rat-tat-tat of machine gun fire issues from a craggy hilltop only a few meters from your team’s location. You are the leader of a small paramilitary unit dropped in a remote and dangerous province of Afghanistan. Your mission is two-fold: first, identify the local tribal leadership; second, ascertain if there is any immediate Taliban threat. As you ready your gun to return fire, you realize that you have completed one of those two mission objectives.

This is the face of military training, if some young advocate of serious video gaming technology have their way. The idea is to create a video game that simulates actual mission scenarios where soldiers can learn skills experientially in an immersive environment, instead of in traditional classroom settings.

The push toward using serious games is in the hope of capitalizing on the predilections of a young military force. It is estimated that between 58%[1] – 67%[2] of Americans play video games, logging in approximately 10,000 hours of game time by the time they have reached the average age of video game players, which is 30.[3] There is still somewhat of a gender gap in video game players, with 55% of all players being male[4] – despite the drastic increase of females who are drawn to the social nature of massive multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPG), such as World of Warcraft. These numbers correlate to the average age of the 1.3 million active soldiers across all branches of the military is 29, with only 15% being female.[5] This places the military in a sweet spot for the adoption of serious video games in their training regimen.

While the military is one of the most vigorous developers of serious gaming technology, it is by no means the only one. Many companies in the private sector recognize the same utility of serious gaming for simulation and training. There has been a much slower adoption of serious game technology in the business world, however, despite the demographic numbers being as highly relevant there as they are in the military. The modern workplace is divided between three generations, the Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers, and Millennials. Two thirds of the workforce have grown up playing video games, so it makes sense to tap into that potential with a training regimen that utilizes this technology.

Resistance toward serious gaming technology often comes from those that see it is childish or unprofessional. Or their perception of games is of the violent first person shooters such as Call of Duty, or Halo. But a serious gaming experience can help develop soft skills such as negotiation, cultural awareness, and exception training in the same immersive way as the military training games, without devolving into silly or unprofessional methods. A training regimen that utilizes serious game technology must consider the benefits it has for the user. Where a video gamer will often play a game solely for the pleasure of playing it, a worker will play a serious game for what they get out of it.


Four Tips to Gaining Adoption of Serious Gaming Technology [6]

1 – Make sure your game is easy to use.

Any game system that you implement that is too hard or frustrating will only turn your workers against it. Because there is no sense of playing the game for pleasure, instead for a goal, some workers will continue on with a game that is difficult to use, but you jeopardize full adoption with those who are less resolute.

2 –Games, even serious ones, must be fun.

If a game is too boring, or too frustrating, then you will risk broad adoption of the game. There is also a learning benefit to an enjoyable game, the feelings of enjoyment can improve decision making. It has been observed that dopamine levels increase when a player is enjoying a game[7], this can increase your worker’s satisfaction with their job, and their engagement with the work.

3- Make the game directly beneficial to your employees.  

If a worker believes that the training will be of direct benefit to them in their immediate (or future) role in the organization, there will be a desire to broader adoption of the technology. Finding and relaying effectively what the individual ROI of using the game will be, is key to gaining broad acceptance. 

4- Make the game social. Competition and collaboration is key to engagement.

Highlight the social aspects of your serious training game. Many of your employees already waste time on the job playing social games on Facebook, or on their mobile device. In developing your serious game, one way to gain the same type of critical mass as these more traditional games, is to create a social aspect to the game. This creates a sense of “reciprocal interdependence”[8] where employees feel they can compete and collaborate with each other inside the game space. This will also foster this same type of collaborative environment outside of the game space.

For more information on Serious Games and other trends, download PlazaBridge Group’s CEO guide to 14 Trends for 2014. There you will find the most cutting edge trends that your organization needs to implement today. Also, look out for upcoming webinars that will speak to these trends and other tips to helping your organization maximize revenue growth with innovative thinking in 2014 and beyond.

[1] Entertainment Software Association, 2013 Sales, Demographic and Usage Data


[3] See citation 1

[4] See citation 1


[6] Adapted from Yoon, Gunwoo, Brittany R.L. Duff, and Seoungho Ryu. “Gamers Just Want to Have Fun? Toward an Understanding of the Online Game Acceptance.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology. 43 (2013): 1814-1826.

[7] See citation 6

[8] See citation 6

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