Serious games


Serious games

There’s a buzz building around serious games and for good reason. They can help you engage, inspire, and motivate your people, even if they work remotely and have negative preconceptions about online training. What is a serious game and how can you apply it in your L&D program? What is the reason why they are such a powerful tool for behavioural change and positive reinforcement? Let’s explore the world of serious games.

Serious games fitting into your L&D strategy

Serious gaming experiences must meet a few requirements. First and foremost, they’re geared more toward professional development than entertainment. That said, fun is still a major factor to consider. “Enemies” are replaced by on-the-job challenges, like difficult customers, conflicts between colleagues and complex tasks.

Serious game development is ideal for performance management and support because it provides discreet feedback. Employees can identify personal areas for improvement as they progress through the game. They also have the chance to spot negative habits or limiting beliefs that are holding them back in the workplace. Such as racing through the task, only to realize that they’ve made crucial errors in the process.

One of the most convincing reasons to use successful serious games in your strategy is to encourage practical application. Employees get hands-on experience remotely. But they’re also able to test different approaches in a risk-free setting. For instance, try conflict resolution techniques to appease the unhappy customer. Serious gaming even lets them master new work equipment and software so that they can troubleshoot issues on the job.

Effective serious games are all about making mistakes and learning from them.

Employees can take calculated risks that may not pay off. But they still get something from the experience. They can evaluate their own performance and see where they went wrong and how to improve.

The psychology behind

There’s actually a science behind online training games that makes them popular for employee development. It’s all based on our human characteristics. Most of us seize every opportunity to immerse ourselves in fantastical worlds and battle it out with other players. Games give us the chance to escape the real world for a while and test our courage. While serious gaming might be based in reality, it still triggers human traits. This makes it a powerful tool for professional development. Which game elements trigger human habits?

  • Built-in feedback
  • Most of us look for direction. Even go-getters like to receive feedback that helps them focus on personal pain points as well as identify hidden strengths. It’s even better when this feedback is discreet and happens organically. For instance, employees might not progress to the next level or fail to achieve the best-case scenario. Online training games fulfil this need by giving staffers autonomy so that they can reflect on their performance. In addition, they experience the positive or negative repercussions of their actions in a safe setting.
  • Intrinsic motivation
    Intrinsic motivation is often fuelled by our internal drive to be better and achieve our full potential. Successful serious games push employees to continually improve and compete against their past selves. For example, they get a higher score or fix negative behaviours they discovered the last time around. It may only be a game, but it’s a catalyst for change thanks to the fact that’s enjoyable, entertaining and personally rewarding.
  • Goal achievement
    People enjoy the process of setting goals and achieving them. That’s why many of us create New Year’s resolutions—even if the success rate isn’t stellar. We want to better ourselves and goals are the stepping-stones to personal fulfilment. Successful serious games involve mini-aims that give us that same thrill. Employees are able to set their sights on the finish line and avoid all the obstacles along the way. However, when they achieve the best possible outcome it’s not just an in-game victory as they learn something about themselves or develop crucial skills they can apply on the job.
  • Sense of accomplishment
    Accomplishing what you set out to do is another psychological principle behind serious gaming. Staffers are able to give themselves a pat on the back when they complete the activity and reflect on their performance. This is why it’s so crucial to make challenging games that push them slightly out of their comfort zone. A serious gaming victory makes it all worthwhile because they’ve closed a skill or performance gap.
  • Self-esteem
  • Even small victories in-game make employees feel more self-assured. They know that they’ve accomplished something. This is why so many of us play video games. Defeating the final boss or solving a puzzle proves that we have what it takes. That we can handle any challenge that comes our way and learn from the experience. The same rule applies to serious gaming. For instance, the customer service employee is able to appease an angry customer. They’ve used all their skills and expertise to handle a difficult situation. So, their self-esteem rises since they know they can handle similar challenges in the workplace.

Online Training Games for remote talent development

Serious games aren’t the answer to everything. However, serious game development is often a cost-effective strategy for remote talent development. Employees expect to see PDF manuals and long presentations when they log into the LMS. Successful serious games catch them off guard and prompt them to actively participate. They engage in online training because games are immersive, interactive and entertaining, even if they cover dull compliance topics. They are more likely to complete the activity and bridge emerging gaps because it’s an online training in disguise.

Serious training games bring hidden gaps out into the open. But they also help target common performance issues based on the employee’s role or department. For instance, your sales employees have trouble closing the deal. You trace it back to ineffective persuasion, negotiation skills and lack of product know-how. Thus, you can use serious gaming experiences to focus on these pain points autonomously.

A major home-working setback is distractions. Employees need to focus on the task and get the job done, but external forces pull them away. The same goes for their online training. Fortunately, successful serious games encourage them to let everything else fade away and concentrate on the in-game scenario. They can absorb the information more effectively because it’s a multi-sensory experience, from the tactile game controls to the immersive visuals and sounds.


Since the applications are different, you can also expect to achieve different outcomes. Successful serious games are great catalysts for change. Employees play the game and discover hidden pain points or test new approaches. But gamification is often a long-term strategy that keeps employees on the right track as well as highlights emerging performance issues they need to address to improve workplace proficiency.

Successful serious games in online training raise the bar when it comes to employee engagement and motivation. They can even help you reduce employee turnover and boost knowledge retention. But only if you include all the right ingredients and consider the psychological factors involved.

Marieke Dijkshoorn

Marieke Dijkshoorn

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