There have been many articles and papers addressing the design of serious games to be effective at teaching, both from a more academic perspective and from designers’ experiences. Serious About Games has been more interested in exploring how local studios can build consistent revenue streams from serious games – with working use cases a critical factor in securing repeat business, of course.
With the Serious About Games case studies, we wanted to give insight into the business case for serious games as well as what it takes to produce and deploy them effectively. Our approach was to interview a studio and their client for a flagship serious games product, looking at what motivated the client to commission a serious game (as opposed to other media / approaches), how the process was managed, and lessons learned by both parties.
We came up with some very simple principles that seemed to be common across games that were practically and financially successful, and pitfalls common to those that have struggled to meet their objectives.
CHARACTERISTICS OF SUCCESSFUL AND SUSTAINABLE SERIOUS GAMES:
– The problem to be solved is the right one to be tackled by a game: e.g. the player needs to have an immersive experience in order to test competencies
– Clear objectives, usually simple, were set together with the client
– The objective of the game aligns with a core business function or competitive advantage of the client, who will use and maintain it
– A measurable return on investment for the client
– Targeted players are motivated and/or primed to participate through the context in which they encounter the game
– There was excellent communication and resourcing between stakeholders from design to deployment
– Fuzzy objectives – what are you trying to measure (and why), what behaviour are you trying to change?
– Too broad a target market with resultant problems with levelling in the game – too easy for some and too difficult for others, affecting retention
– Not understanding where and how users will access the game: e.g. data use, means of distribution, context of play – “a game not played is not a game”
– Not allocating enough resources to marketing – especially without a “captive” audience
– Insufficient user testing during development
– The game has misaligned incentives – e.g. takes too long to play for perceived returns – or is disconnected from the value chain – what are next steps or rewards for the player?