Those tasked with training at corporations, colleges, and government agencies are seeking ways to increase knowledge retention and engagement with their learners. To do this, many turn to web-based training of some kind. However, there are also those who are looking for more than an eLearning module or simple page turner. Utilizing serious games is a great way not only to educate your workforce, but also to engage and entertain them at the same time.

The right approach

When an organization decides to embark on a serious game project, there can be major setbacks if it is not approached properly. For the most part setbacks are the result of:

  • Little-to-no planning
  • Tough-to-pinpoint metrics
  • Rough implementation strategies
  • Insufficient planning for implementation, marketing, or post-deployment strategies—the “if you build it, they will come” attitude.

Effective serious games are living, evolving things that cannot simply be ignored after development and “put on a shelf” to collect digital dust.

When considering the development of a serious game, the phrase “measure twice and cut once” comes to mind. Before development begins, your learning objectives must be clearly defined and in parallel with the rewards and feedback systems used within the game. What are you trying to teach? After completing their training, what skills should the learner have acquired? By outlining your measurable objectives clearly before the start of the project, you ensure you are investing in a serious game that will reach those learning objectives. There is no real value in a game that looks great but doesn’t reach your objectives and doesn’t reinforce the behavior change.

Human nature

In the development of a serious game, one must also consider how to inspire involvement in the game. Appealing to the competitive nature of humans through leaderboards, badges, and gamification can spur involvement and get employees excited. And when you get good at this, you can disguise training as something much more fun and entertaining. What’s more exciting than beating your boss in a game and receiving recognition for doing so? Status can be more important to people than a gift card or catered lunch, so make sure your incentives are relevant and desirable to your audience. An internal marketing plan is another great way to keep employees up-to-date and interested in their training.

Success metrics

One of the most important aspects to consider is how you will measure the success of your serious game. Recording pre-deployment and post-deployment metrics that exist within your organization, such as sales rates per quarter or even attrition rates over a five-year span, help you gauge the success of your training. For instance, sales figures prior to your training game, when compared to post-deployment figures, can provide you an external metric of success. This is not the end-all result, but it’s one small example of how external metrics can track success.

What metrics are important to your organization? How can you utilize the data to measure performance and relate that data to the learning objectives? Tracking events such as how often people play, when they play, and for how long, can give great insight about your game. However, it does not provide you enough metric data to see how successful a serious game is. By recording and analyzing metrics that make sense to your learning objectives, your organization will fare better than those who choose to have a game developed and leave it “on the shelf.”

Post-deployment strategies

So you have a serious game developed. Now what? As mentioned earlier, serious games are a living, evolving entity that require attention throughout the life of their deployment. How are you going to keep employees involved? What performance support pieces are available within your game? What can you do to ensure the training is continually beneficial? By utilizing an internal marketing plan, you can keep your learners engaged, in the loop, and excited about participating. Making resources available in the game is another excellent way to utilize your project as a performance support piece.

Knowing your objectives, who your learners are, and the metrics involved in measuring success are vital to getting the most of your serious game!