Serious Games

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What is a serious game?
A serious game is the use of any game-like activity for reasons beyond just having fun. Here are some examples:

  • If you use a stock market-like exercise to ask customers about the features or products in which they’d like to invest, you’re playing a serious game.
  • If you use a role-playing exercise to teach someone how to be an effective negotiator, you’re playing a serious game.
  • If you participate in a contest to come up with the best crowd-sourced solution to a difficult scientific problem, you’re playing a serious game.

How do serious games work?
While there are many types of serious games, they all share some common characteristics:

  • Structured. Serious games change the rules, but they don’t eliminate them altogether. A serious game might change the way members of a team make decisions from, “Who has the loudest voice in the room?” to “Who has the idea that has the most support from customers?”
  • Purposeful. Many (if not most) serious games don’t have winners, but they do have a result. A list of the biggest impediments facing an organization…A score that tells how well a student has learned how to apply the curriculum from a class…The list of programs that citizens are willing to fund with their tax dollars…There’s always an interesting outcome.
  • Time-bound. Serious games don’t go on forever. In fact, they usually achieve their results quickly, within a few minutes, a few hours, or however long it takes to complete a set number of turns.
  • Participatory. Unlike many situations in life, serious games give everybody gets to participate. Games also motivate people to participate in new ways, often simply because a game can be more engaging, exciting, or just plain fun.

What’s next?

You might be interested in learning about the different sorts of games. Or, you might start looking at the list of case studies in successfully using serious games to address common business problems.