Week 2 Reflection: Components of Serious Games

As I reflect on this week’s blog posting I find myself feeling more confident with some concepts and less confident with others.  To most people this probably doesn’t make much sense so I should probably explain why.  First, there are so many different “good” components that our class has mentioned as Thomas pointed out.  Also, Scott made a really good point that many of these components can be grouped to do that.  This is where the confusion comes into play for me, when I try to group different components I become confused by which components to group together.  For instance, Scott pointed out that interactivity can include hierarchical thinking and risk taking.  So, on our wiki for group three I included well-organized, risk oriented problem solving as one component.  I had listed interactivity as a separate component originally, but since interactivity is “defined as a game property that allows users to influence the quality and course of events occurring in the game world,” then I would agree with Scott that interactivity could be grouped with “well-organized, risk oriented problem solving”.  Then Donna pointed out that interactivity is a better term than collaboration, which I completely agree with as well.  This is where I am confused.  Is interactivity, as defined in digital gaming, more closely linked with collaboration or problem solving?


I have spent quite a bit of time reading through the comments on the wiki and trying to come up with components that follow our group’s criteria.  This is a very difficult task because all of the ideas are great ideas.  It is hard to weed out what is crucial and what I feel should go into the list of components.  Sometimes what I want may not be what the group feels are good components.

I contributed to Gary’s page by suggesting the possibility of combining some components.  For example I mentioned maybe grouping motivation and engagement into one component.  I found an interesting literature review that discussed motivation and engagement.  In the article Floryan states, “The theory is that student motivation will rise when the sense of freedom within a game is increased.  This is because students can quickly judge how much there is to discover within a system.  When they detect a vast and interesting world, they wish to explore it, and freedom within a game allows them to do just that,” (2009).  I then asked Gary if maybe we should be exploring freedom as a component in serious games since freedom seems to lead to motivation and engagement because students are allowed to explore.

I also commented on Shauana’s blog.  I agreed with Brandi’s commented and also pointed out that  Shauna did touch on the “purpose” of serious games.  Brandi had mentioned that she was able to pull two components from Shauna’s post; I was able to pull the “purpose” as another component Shauna listed.  Shauna quoted Frank (2007) and said that the game…”must take care of the motivational aspect, but must also contribute to the overall serious purpose.”

On Sara H.’s blog I recommended the possibility of considering rules on her list of components.  I stated that rules are everywhere in the real world and if we are truly trying to mimic the real world the students should be used to seeing rules.  I was also to pull the idea of the game having risks from Sara’s blog.

Finally, I did post on Tiffany’s page however I am unable to view what I posted and honestly cannot remember.  (I do not think she has her comments where we can view them).


Common Components of Serious Games

I have spent the bulk of this week exploring many different sources discussing the different components of serious games.  As I sit down to write my initial blog I feel overwhelmed with lots of knowledge about serious games.  I must have read five or six articles just today about serious games.  Although I am overwhelmed I feel like I can begin to compile a list of common components of serious games.  The following is a list of some common components of serious games.  I have included sources and justification for each component.  This is by no means my final list of components but is merely a start. 


(The components are in no particular order)

1.       Interactivity “In the context of digital games, interactivity is defined as a game property that allows users to influence the quality and course of events occurring in the game world,” (Klimmt and Vorderen 2007 as cited in Serious Games: Social Change Why They Should Work Ch. 16, Klimmt, Christopher).  Additionally, players act and make a decision then the game responds (Gee, James in Good Video Games and Good Learning).  “Learner-generated content will be recognized as one of the principle design mechanisms for learners to demonstrate mastery of a game’s learning objectives,” (Derryberry, Anne 2007).

2.      Narrative Context/Storyline Serious games should have reasonable, comprehensive, and interesting stories (Klimmt, Christopher, Ch. 16).  Serious games should be entertaining, (Derryberry, Anne 2007).

3.      Serious games allows transference of new skills to the real world.  (Derryberry, Anne, 2007).

4.      Purpose “Serious games are designed with the intention of improving some specific aspect of learning, players come with this expectation,” (Derryberry, Anne 2007).  “In a nutshell, if a serious game has no impact on the player in a real life context, it misses its pivotal purpose.  For this reason, the game’s purpose acts as the driving force that shapes the dynamic and the coherence of the game system as a whole,” (Mitgutsch, K and Alvarado, N).

5.      Rules (Including clear goals?)

6.      Well-ordered, challenging problems Serious games should order problems so that they build in difficulty and build based on the skill set the student or player has built up over the course of play. (Gee, Good Video Games and Good Learning).

Please feel free to comment or offer suggestions, as I said this is just a start.


Derryberry, Anne. (2007). Serious Games: online games for learning. Retrieved Online January 23, 2014 from https://www.adobe.com/resources/elearning/pdfs/serious_games_wp.pdf

Mitgutsch, Konstantin and Alvarado, Narda. Purposeful by Design? A Serious Game Design Assessment  Framework. Retrieved online January 23, 2014 from                  http://hubscher.org/roland/courses/hf765/readings/p121-mitgutsch.pdf

Klimmt, Christopher. Serious Games: Mechanisms and Effects. Serious Games and Social Change Why They (Should) Work, Ch. 16.  Retrieved online January 23, 2014 from http://books.google.com/books?id=eGORAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA272&lpg=PA272&dq=crucial+components+of+serious+games&source=bl&ots=1tams3LkXB&sig=ryfqE1m0LhZuzffXACvymkYDqrQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=rl_jUvWPPNHmoASvyYDgDw&ved=0CGgQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=crucial%20components%20of%20serious%20games&f=false


James Paul Gee

Good Video Games and Good Learning



Reflection on Week 1: What Serious Games Exist for People Ages 13+?

During this week I have learned  a great deal about serious games.  After I read Brandi’s blog I really started thinking about educational games and serious games.  Are they the same or different?  Brandi mentioned that educational games and serious games are one-in-the-same, while this may be true in some cases I guess I don’t feel it is always true.  I did comment on Brandi’s page and offered some ideas as to when educational games are or are not considered serious.  Additionally Nicole commented on my initial post about how games, when used effectively, can support students in our classroom.  Many online activities and games are just that, merely games.  In other words, not all educational games are serious in nature.  Not all games require students to think criticially, nor do all games require the player to make decisions that might affect others or be applicable to real life.  I think as I move ahead with this idea of serious gaming I want to make sure that I am really looking for serious games.  I find myself questioning one of the games I put in the Wiki.  I am not certain RoboLab Online can be made into a serious game?  Maybe it can and I just do not see the connection.  I left it on the Wiki page because I noticed we are supposed to be looking at each others and discussing whether or not each entry is in fact a serious game.  So I thought what better way to answer my questions than to just put it out there.

Also during the course of the past few days, I came across the Game for Change Website as I viewed other peoples blogs (Leslie and Megan, I believe).  I contributed to Leslie’s blog and thanked her for the sources she included in her blog.  After reading some of their information I researched the Games for Change 2013 Winners.  As I was doing this I came across the Games for Change 2013 Game of the Year called Quandary.  While this game is intended for a slightly younger audience than what we are targeting in class, 8-14 years, I really felt like this was an excellent example of a serious game.  My daughter and I spent quite a bit of time playing the demo.

Quandry was chosen as the Games for Change 2013 Game of the Year award. Quandry is a free game for children ages 8-14. In the game players are put in charge of a colony. The players job is to help solve problems within the community based on facts, opinions, and solutions. Though this is a futuristic game, many of the problems students are faced with are translatable to everyday situations students may encounter. Quandry guides players as they learn how to approach ethical decision-making.

Overall, I have learned that serious games involve improving  yourself or your community around you in some way, or so it seems.  I like the idea behind serious games and feel like as I learn more about it I will be even more compelled to use them in my classroom.

What Serious Games Exist for People Ages 13+?

As I began my search for serious games this week I first had to spend some time learning more about what serious games are.  The name “serious games” led me to believe that serious games are games focused on something serious or thought provoking.  Upon researching serious games I discovered that serious games are “computer or video games designed for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment,” (Ludus).  Serious games are often used in education, scientific exploration, health care, city planning, engineering, politics, and emergency management (Ludus).

As I continued to research serious games I kept coming across simulations, which I did not think were actually considered serious games.  According to Ludus, though, simulations can be linked to serious games.  “Simulations are representations of real or hypothetical processes, mechanisms or systems.  Simulations have been used in many different fields such as sales, health care and the military.  Games are different than simulations due to “randomness of potential situations and embedded prizes,” (Ludus).

Serious Games:

One serious game I came across during my research was ROBOLAB-on-line at


Students are given tasks, then they design programs and test programs.  ROBOLAB requires a subscription however there is a demonstration video to try.  When I tried it I was given a task to move a Lego vehicle 180 degrees and then 360 degrees.  I actually had my 11 year old help me out.  Certainly ROBOLAB can be used with students younger than 13, still I think older children would be interested in it as well.


Another serious game I came across during my research was PeaceMaker, this game can be accessed at: http://www.peacemakergame.com/press.php

In PeaceMaker you can explore your world, play the news, take control as the leader in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, give speeches, and solve problems.  This game is rated PG-13 for violence in some of the news clips.  This game is free and can be downloaded on Mac or PC’s.


A third serious game I came across is called Transcription Hero-Arcade Version for Mac and Windows. This is an educational game where the player gets to be a RNA Polymerase traveling down the rails of DNA, transcribing genes without causing mutations.  This game can be accessed by signing up for Spongelab.  Spongelab has many different serious games and simulations among other things.  Spongelab can be accessed at: www.spongelab.com

Once you set up a free account and log into Spongelab you can access the games by choosing ‘Explore’.  Then look at Games and Simulations.  There are some that require downloading while others can be played online.  Most of the games and simulations are for older students.    


Thoughts on serious games


The idea of spending any amount of time “gaming” does not in any way appeal to me.  However, I am not against the idea of using gaming to further our students understanding of different concepts.  I know my children enjoy playing video games, though my husband and I rarely allow them much time to play them.  Until recently I had not thought about using games such as Minecraft to help students solve problems.  I am excited to learn more about serious games and how I can use them to help my students learn.  According to Laura Kane, “Studies have shown that gaming improves cognitive abilities, spatial attention and information retention,” (July 2012).  Further, Jensen said, “Games are a medium that this generation of learners really understands,” she said. “I think (that’s) the primary reason we’re developing games for education,” (as cited by Kane, 2012).

Works Cited

Kane, Laura. (July 26, 2012). Toronto’s ‘serious games’ help kids learn while they play.

Chapter 1: What a Serious Game is? Definitions and theoretical frame work for Serious       Games. Ludus. South East Europe. Retrieved online January 17 from http://www.serious-gaming.info/@api/deki/files/57/=Chapter_1.pdf