Design of Serious Games

  • Philip MildnerEmail author
  • Florian ‘Floyd’ Mueller


This chapter covers the topic of creating the design of a serious game. It first presents background information on games in general, and how they create engagement in particular—essential for serious games. The actual design process is similar to designing entertainment games; however, it differs when it comes to integrating the serious content itself. This chapter emphasizes these differences. It also presents solution strategies for how to create serious games. Beginning with an initial game idea, the steps of defining constraints for the game and adding suitable game mechanics are described. Finally, ideas are presented for how to organize the development process in a holistic approach, with a tight coupling of both the gaming and serious aspects.


Domain Expert Target Audience Game Development Extrinsic Motivation Participatory Design 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Recommended Literature

  1. Salen K, Zimmerman E (2004) Rules of play: Game design fundamentals. MIT Press—Covers game design with a lot of background and theoretical information; a good introduction for readers interested in the core mechanics of games Google Scholar
  2. Fullerton T (2014) Game design workshop: A play-centric approach to creating innovative games, 3rd edition. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL—Presents the topic of game design with exercises, examples, and interviews from actual game designers. With this practical scope, it is especially suited for learning the basics of the creative aspects of game design Google Scholar
  3. Schell J (2008) The art of game design: A book of lenses. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers Inc., San Francisco, CA, USA—Builds up the game design process by working along so-called lenses, or small units of the process, and gives the reader many possibilities to reflect on the covered topics to get started with game development Google Scholar
  4. Adams E (2010) Fundamentals of game design, second edition. Pearson Education, Berkeley, CA, USA—Covers the topic of game design from a very technical perspective; suited for readers that want to start designing a specific game Google Scholar
  5. Prensky M (2007) Digital game-based learning. Paragon House—A book specifically for learning games, describing theoretical foundations and different application fields. It is a useful resource when creating educational games Google Scholar
  6. Rabin S (2009) Introduction to game development, 2nd edition. Course Technology PTR, Boston, MA, USA—Covers the entire game development process and thus provides a good overview beyond the scope of game design itself; helps to keep the big picture in mind Google Scholar
  7. Michael DR, Chen S (2006) Serious games: Games that educate, train and inform. Thomson Course Technology—Gives a broad overview of the field of serious games and is a good introductory lecture for readers new to the field Google Scholar


  1. Abeele VV, De Schutter B, Geurts L, Desmet S, Wauters J, Husson J, Van den Audenaeren L, Van Broeckhoven F, Annema, JH, Geerts DP (2012) A player-centered, iterative, interdisciplinary and integrated framework for serious game design and development. In: Serious games: the challenge, Springer, pp 82–86Google Scholar
  2. Adams E (2010) Fundamentals of game design, 2nd edn. Pearson Education, Berkeley, CA, USAGoogle Scholar
  3. Antle A (2004) Supporting children’s emotional expression and exploration in online environments. In: Proceedings conference on interaction design and children: building a community, ACM, pp 97–104Google Scholar
  4. Apter MJ (1991) A structural phenomenology of play. In: Kerr JH, Apter MJ (eds) Adult play: a reversal theory approach. Swets and Zeitlinger, Amsterdam, pp 18–20Google Scholar
  5. Bartle R (1996) Hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades: players who suit MUDs. J MUD Res 1(1):19Google Scholar
  6. Bisson C, Luckner J (1996) Fun in learning: the pedagogical role of fun in adventure education. J Exp Educ 19(2):108–112Google Scholar
  7. Blindscape (2015) Accessed 17 Feb 2016
  8. Blumberg FC, Almonte DE, Anthony JS, Hashimoto N (2013) Serious games: what are they? What do they do? Why should we play them? In: Dill KE (ed) The Oxford handbook of media psychology. Oxford University Press, pp 334–351Google Scholar
  9. Brandt E (2006) Designing exploratory design games: a framework for participation in participatory design? Proceedings ninth conference on participatory design: expanding boundaries in design, vol 1. ACM, pp 57–66Google Scholar
  10. Breuer JS, Bente G (2010) Why so serious? On the relation of serious games and learning. Eludamos J Comput Game Cult 4(1):7–24Google Scholar
  11. Caillois R, Barash M (1961) Man, play and games. University of Illinois PressGoogle Scholar
  12. Campbell J (1968) The hero with a thousand faces. University Press, Princeton, NJ, USAGoogle Scholar
  13. Charsky D (2010) From edutainment to serious games: a change in the use of game characteristics. Games Culture 5(2):177–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chatham A, Schouten BA, Toprak C, Mueller F, Deen M, Bernhaupt R, Khot R, Pijnappel S (2013) Game Jam. In: CHI’13 extended abstracts on human factors in computing systems. ACM, pp 3175–3178Google Scholar
  15. Christel M, Trybus J, Shah SD, Chang BH, Dave R, Pavani A, Sawant, OD, Song J, Inglis J, Kairamkonda SS, Karrs C, Ke X, Kron E, Lu X (2015) Bringing biome exploration into the classroom through interactive tablet experiences. serious games. In: Huddersfield, UK, Göbel S, Ma M, Hauge J B, Oliveira M F, Wiemeyer J and Wendel V (eds) 1st joint internat conf on serious games JCSG (2015) Springer LNCS, vol 9090. Springer, Heidelberg/New YorkGoogle Scholar
  16. Csikszentmihalyi M (1991) Flow: the psychology of optimal experience. Harper & Row, New York, USAGoogle Scholar
  17. Deen M, Tieben R (2012). Swimitate Swimgames. Accessed 17 Feb 2016
  18. Deen M, Cercos R, Chatman A, Naseem A, Bernhaupt R, Fowler A, Schouten B, Mueller F (2014) Game jam: [4 research]. CHI ’14 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI EA ’14). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 25–28Google Scholar
  19. Dow SP, Glassco A, Kass J, Schwarz M, Schwartz DL, Klemmer SR (2010) Parallel prototyping leads to better design results, more divergence, and increased self-efficacy. ACM Trans Comput Human Interac 17(4):18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Druin A (2002) The role of children in the design of new technology. Behav Inf Technol 21(1):1–25Google Scholar
  21. Fullerton T (2014) Game design workshop: a playcentric approach to creating innovative games, 3rd edn. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, USAGoogle Scholar
  22. Garris R, Ahlers R, Driskell JE (2002) Games, motivation, and learning: a research and practice model. Simulation and gaming 33(4):441–467CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Goddard W, Byrne R, Mueller F (2014) Playful game jams: guidelines for designed outcomes. In: Proceedinigs 2014 conference on interactive entertainment, ACM, Newcastle, NSW, Australia, pp 1–10Google Scholar
  24. Hourcade JP (2008) Interaction design and children. Found Trends Human-Comput Interac 1(4):277–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Huizinga J (1955) Homo ludens: a study of the play element in culture. Beacon paperbacks, Beacon Press, Boston, MA, USAGoogle Scholar
  26. Hunicke R, LeBlanc M, Zubek R (2004) MDA: a formal approach to game design and game research. In: Workshop on challenges in game AI, association for the advancement of artificial intelligence. Miami, FL, USAGoogle Scholar
  27. Isbister K, Flanagan M, Hash C (2010) Designing games for learning: insights from conversations with designers. In: Proceedings SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems. ACM, pp 2041–2044Google Scholar
  28. Khaled R, Ingram G (2012) Tales from the front of a large-scale serious games project. Proc ACM SIGCHI, ACM, New York, USA, pp 69–78Google Scholar
  29. Khaled R, Vanden Abeele V, Van Mechelen M, Vasalou A (2014) Participatory design for serious game design: truth and lies. In: Proceedings first ACM SIGCHI annual symposium on computer-human interaction in play. ACM, pp 457–460Google Scholar
  30. Kensing F, Madsen KH (1992) Generating visions: future workshops and metaphorical design. L. Erlbaum Associates IncGoogle Scholar
  31. Malone TW (1980) What makes things fun to learn? Heuristics for designing instructional computer games. In: Proceedings 3rd ACM SIGSMALL symposium and the first SIGPC symposium on small systems. ACM, pp 162–169Google Scholar
  32. Malone TW (1981) Toward a theory of intrinsically motivating instruction. Cog Sci 5(4):333–369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mildner P (2014) Word domination. Accessed 17 Feb 2016Google Scholar
  34. Mildner P, Campbell C, Effelsberg W (2014) Word domination: bringing together fun and education in an authoring-based 3D shooter game. In: Göbel S, Wiemeyer J (eds) Games for training, education, health and sports, lecture notes in computer science, vol 8395. Springer, Heidelberg/NewYork, pp 59–70Google Scholar
  35. Millington I, Funge JD (2009) Artificial intelligence for games, 2nd edn morgan kaufmann series in interactive 3D technology. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers/Elsevier, Burlington, MA, USAGoogle Scholar
  36. Oculus (2015) The oculus rift. Accessed 17 Feb 2016
  37. Prensky M (2007) Digital game-based learning. Paragon House, St Paul, MN, USAGoogle Scholar
  38. Preston J (2014) Serious game development: Case study of the 2013 CDC games for health game jam. In: Proceedings 1st internat workshop on serious games. ACM Internat Conf on Multimedia, Orlando, FL, USAGoogle Scholar
  39. Rabin S (2009) Introduction to game development, 2nd edn. Course Technology PTR, Boston, MA, USAGoogle Scholar
  40. Salen K, Zimmerman E (2004) Rules of play: game design fundamentals. MIT Press, Boston, MA, USAGoogle Scholar
  41. Schell J (2008) The art of game design: a book of lenses. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers Inc, San Francisco, CA, USAGoogle Scholar
  42. Spinuzzi C (2005) The methodology of participatory design. Tech Commun 52(2):163–174Google Scholar
  43. Squire KD, Barab SA (2004) Replaying history: learning world history through playing civilization III. Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USAGoogle Scholar
  44. SteamVR (2015) Steam VR. Accessed 17 Feb 2016
  45. Tinwell A (2015) The uncanny valley in games and animation. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, USAGoogle Scholar
  46. Wendel V, Gutjahr M, Göbel S, Steinmetz R (2013) Designing collaborative multi-player serious games. Educ Inf Technol 18(2):287–308CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Yee N (2006) Motivations for play in online games. Cyber Psychol Behav 6(9):772–775MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MannheimMannheimGermany
  2. 2.RMIT UniversityMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations