Where’s The Fun in Serious Games? Key to Developing an Effective and Engaging Game with Planned Positive Impact

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At 11:30am on 4/19/2017, I attended Where’s The Fun in Serious Games? Key to Developing an Effective and Engaging Game with Planned Positive Impact, presented by Bradley Tanner, at the 2017 East Coast Gaming conference in Raleigh, NC


Not a big fan of lectures, and more on interation and personal engagement.
Is this going to be the most fun thing they’ll do today? Do you seriously think it will compete? Gmaification in the classroom works- passing out chocolate to those who agree. “I think you’re laying” he states. “I think you just want the chocolate.”

Even if you raised your hand, did it change your real attitude? in short, extrinsic rewards hold little value. the reward must be intrinsic to the activity.

WHo wants to go back to scheduled classes, tests and homework? We want to be dynamic and doing fun things and living in the moment.

He created a program called Clinical Tools using modern computers to create modern training. Lately, they’ve moved into training with games.

Ask Yourself:

How can I make education more interesting?
How can I use games to keep people involved?
How do I reward people for gaining knowledge or a skill?

The answer is “Training and education first”

Can we reward questions during the lecture and reward participation and correct answers and way to highlight leaders?

Gamification is an interesting idea, but it eventually put the game first and the education second. If you can engage and educate first, you’re on the right path.

The Challenge

Who’s ever played a contemporary game? Raise your hand if its only on smartphone
Who has learned something and explored something tangible
Who belongs to an institution that uses games
In the non-gamer world, some people aren’t enthusiastic about it.

Games have a positive impact. So how can you PLAN to have a postivie impact.

the first myth is that fun is bad. Fun should be built in to the process. I find few people saying “I wish I was in a lecture”. This is not a puritanical day. We can have fun and learn at the same time.

the second myth is that games aren’t having a positive impact. Games don’t isolate us, rot our brain or keep you sedentary anymore. The rise of movement and exploration games and connecting socially in games dispells most of this. It doesn’t rob your creativity, enforce competition, passive, etc. Gamers know that failing or losing is OK. There are some things such as modeling and hand-eye can be best taught in gaming.

If your game is Planned,much of the positive impact of a game is pulled from having a good game.

we can go deeper

What could a game “teach”. what could make a fun, challenging, engaging game confer skills or knowledge outside of what value a game provides?

Can it teach something students don’t know? Can you teach laparoscopy vai a tool to:
hold back attackers (move things out of the way)? Stop attacks (cauterize arteries)? build bridges (close bowel loops)?

Long term games have a big market. Short term games teach short skills. In an example called “papers please” you match documents and tell who’s appropriate and who’s not. At first its about what’s proper, and shortly it becomes about different stratas of societies and communist societies.

Most people can remember about 3 things from what they’ve seen. Television is like a lecture, and after a 30 minute show, most people did not learn enough or even remember what they’ve seen

Planned Positive Behavior Examples

With Food Blast / Opioid Blast, players learn to tell unhealthy materials and destroy or reject unhealthy choices and seek out healthy choices or healthy opportunities in order to do better. By engaging people and modeling their behaviors, a planned positive impact can be achieved.

With BrainPilot, keeping positive things have downstream effects and blocking bad things also have positive effects. THis teaches how the data is assembled and data is used.

WIth a visual novel or roleplaying game, people learn coping mechanisms for med students. in BurntOut, students learn to explore challenges and responsibilities with managed care and guide them through coping strategies to move them through the longer term resiliency methods that seem to work or may work for them.

In Grocery Hnt, assess food choices, make accept/reject decisions to build a winning strategy for healthy food choices. Players learn to read the labels and find out what is the best to eat. there’s plenty of data outlining what’s good to eat and labels.


I was a little disappointed here. The speaker was funny, and I think his start was good. As it moved into the presentation, there were repeated asks for input on how to improve the ideas they were working on. What I would have rather seen, was a clear delineation of ways in which we as educators and trainers could approach our own projects.

Question: Since this was touted as a way to “Develop an engaging game with a planned positive impact”, how should we do this?

Begin by understanding your audience. Based on the understanding you have. Set a goal for the audience, approach them in a way they would be receptive to (such as get them to put on a vr headset if its a VR game). Further, create a game mechanic in which you are building the positive behavior you are trying to bring to bear (such as pushing away negative things). And then build out your game so that they are constantly using the mechanic to reinforce the behavior.