July, 2014

Comparing Gamification, Serious Games and Simulations

Companies are constantly expanding their boundaries in new and innovative ways.  In fact, some of the cutting-edge concepts that we see today were not even imaginable just a few years ago. Corporations and educational institutions are using gamification, serious games and simulations to change the way we learn.

Defining Modern Gamification

The term gamification refers to the process of adding game-like concepts and abilities to various applications in order to make them more enjoyable for the user.  When properly implemented, it will engage the user and motivate them to take additional actions, which can range from learning new skills to completing a purchase.  Gamification has literally taken the business world by storm and it is used heavily in advertising, recruitment, education, sales and almost every facet of modern communication.


A great example of successful gamification is Khan Academy and their online learning system.  As the above video explains, students are incentivized through numerous concepts that they would normally find in video games, such as custom avatars, reward badges and point systems for completing tasks.

Defining a Serious Game

A serious game incorporates the same types of gamification elements into a traditional video game that’s designed specifically for learning, marketing or a number of other educational purposes.  By combining a traditional style of gameplay with very specific learning objectives, users can become fully immersed in an interactive video game that educates while it entertains.  Serious games are now used within almost every industry in the world today, and some of the top supporters are governments, school systems and large corporations.


Since the educational aspect is the main criteria for being categorized as a serious game, there is absolutely no telling how this technology will evolve for future generations.  While our team at Designing Digitally, Inc. prides ourselves on making some of the best 3D Serious Game titles on the market today, we also love to see the evolution of gaming just as much as you do.

Defining a Simulation

Gamification | Serious Games | Simulations

A simulation, on the other hand, will mimic a real-life challenge that a
student may eventually have to face within the workplace.
These training modules are often ultra-realistic as well, and it allows the user to gain valuable field experience within the safety of a training facility.  For example, just imagine the pressure it would create if a surgeon or a bomb squad technician could only learn by completing hands-on work in the field with everything on the line- that’s why these titles tend to be as realistic as possible from every imaginable angle.


Since most serious games also take on real-life types of challenges, they can sometimes have a very similar feel to simulations in some aspects.  The difference is that simulations do not rely on traditional gaming concepts to engage the user.  Take our USAFA Trivia game, for example; it contains both a simulation-type scavenger hunt and several non-realistic challenges (trivia kiosks) all in one.

So at the end of the day, words and definitions cannot fully define serious games, simulations and gamification.  The true definitions will always lie in the eyes of the creator, and how far they are willing to push technology in order to expand into new genres.

For more information on gamification, contact us today!


Measuring Success with Serious Game Metrics

While there is little doubt that Serious Games are a great learning tool for a variety of today’s industries, there is always ample room for improvement moving forward.  This is why keeping a close eye on the metrics of your simulation training is always essential; from both an educational and an ROI standpoint.  After all, if the main goal is to educate within an evolving workforce, the software has to be able to evolve as well.  This can only happen if you are actively seeking ways to improve the software so that it better connects with your target audience.

Measuring the Actual Student

Donald Kirkpatrick created a framework in 1959 to evaluate any type of training program, and those methods still stand true today.  They are designed to gauge-

  • How the student reacts to the material that is presented and what feedback they have afterwards
  • The amount of actual learning that takes place and how it affects performance capabilities
  • How the training modifies behavior within the workforce or towards learning in general
  • The direct effects on the business (productivity, profitability, etc.) as a result of the training

In other words, Kirkpatrick said it was vital for businesses to not merely gauge the quality of the study material, but every aspect of how trainees interact with it.  This is especially true with serious games since a large portion of these metrics can be monitored in real time in the Learning Management System.

Measuring the Serious Game

As one could guess, not all serious games are created equal.  At Designing Digitally, we’ve learned the metrics behind the technology itself can be very revealing and can take Kirkpatrick’s formula to an entirely different level.  For example-Serious Game Metrics

  • Completion ratios show how effective the learning curve is
  • The time spent on each level/mission measures proper balance
  • The number of attempts made can help judge overall engagement
  • Even the point where the student quits shares telling statistics

While the most important game-generated metrics would vary by industry, they all are powerful tools to learn how employees interact with the software, how quickly they learn from it, and when the software is not optimized for learning. Never underestimate these metrics.

Measuring the Cost Effectiveness

Finally, all of the other measurements we’ve discussed should be used to determine the cost effectiveness of the training simulation in question.  After all, it makes little sense to invest heavily in a software application and then just assume that the return on investment is favorable; especially larger corporations where the cost of training hours alone could be enormous.

Even though it is a challenge to determine the true cost effectiveness of any type of training, employers should look in three distinct areas to see if the training is a value-

  • An increase in office productivity
  • An increase in sales/service due to better techniques
  • An increase in communication (both internally and externally)
  • An increase in customer retention rates due to better service
  • An increase in overall profits

For more information on how to measure your success with serious games, please feel free to contact us at Designing Digitally, Inc. at 866-316-9126.