Accurate Complex Systems Design: Integrating Serious Games with Petri Nets

Kirsten Sinclair, Daniel Livingstone


Difficulty understanding the large number of interactions involved in complex systems makes their successful engineering a problem. Petri Nets are one graphical modelling technique used to describe and check proposed designs of complex systems thoroughly. While automatic analysis capabilities of Petri Nets are useful, their visual form is less so, particularly for communicating the design they represent. In engineering projects, this can lead to a gap in communications between people with different areas of expertise, negatively impacting achieving accurate designs.

In contrast, although capable of representing a variety of real and imaginary objects effectively, behaviour of serious games can only be analysed manually through interactive simulation. This paper examines combining the complementary strengths of Petri Nets and serious games. The novel contribution of this work is a serious game prototype of a complex system design that has been checked thoroughly. Underpinned by Petri Net analysis, the serious game can be used as a high-level interface to communicate and refine the design.

Improvement of a complex system design is demonstrated by applying the integration to a proof-of-concept case study.  



Serious Games; Modelling; Systems Engineering; Analysis

Full Text:



Karban, R., Weilkiens, T., Hauber, R., Zamparelli, M., Diekmann, R., & Hein, A, “Cookbook for MBSE with SysML”, MBSE Initiative – SE2 Challenge Team, 2011, available online at:

Jorgensen, R., “Defining Operational Concepts using SysML: System Definition from the Human Perspective”, INCOSE International Symposium, Vol. 21, pp. 3005-3138, 2011.

AbuSharekh, A., Kansal, S., Zaidi, A.K., & Levis, A.H., “Modelling Time in DoDAF Compliant Executable Architectures”, Proceedings of the 2007 Conference on Systems Engineering Research, pp. 1-10, 2007.

Westergaard, M., “A Game-theoretic Approach to Behavioural Visualisation”, Electronic Notes in Theoretical Computer Science, Vol. 208, pp. 113-129, 2008.

IDATE Consulting and Research, “Serious Games: A 10 Billion Euro Market in 2015”, 2010, available online at:

Dow, S., Mehta, M., Harmon, E., MacIntyre, B., & Mateas, M., “Presence and Engagement in an Interactive Drama”, Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 1475-1484, 2007.

Hollander, A., Rose, H., Kollin, J., & Moss, W., “Attack of the S. Mutans!: A Stereoscopic-3D Multiplayer Direct-Manipulation Behaviour-Modification Serious Game for Improving Oral Health in Pre-teens”, Proceedings of the Stereoscopic Displays and Applications XXII, Vol. 7863, February 2011.

Lee, M.J.C., “Evasive Sidestepping as a Visual-Perceptual-Motor Skill: Implications for Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury Prevention”, PhD Thesis, University of Western Australia, 2011, available online at:

Winn, B., & Heeter, C., “Resolving Conflicts in Educational Game Design Through Playtesting”, Innovate 3, 2006, available online at:

Jensen, K., “Coloured Petri Nets. Basic Concepts, Analysis Methods and Practical Use, Vol. 1, Second Edition, Springer-Verlag, 1997.

Jensen, K., “Coloured Petri Nets. Basic Concepts, Analysis Methods and Practical Use, Vol. 2, Second Edition, Springer-Verlag, 1997.

Jensen, K., Kristensen, L.M., & Wells, L., “Coloured Petri Nets and CPN Tools for Modelling and Validation of Concurrent Systems”, International Journal on Software Tools for Technology Transfer, Springer-Verlag, pp. 213-254, 2007.

CPN Tools, Home Page, 2015, available online at:

Sinclair, K., “The Impact of Petri Nets on System-of-Systems Engineering”, PhD Thesis, University of Durham, 2009.

Lu, Z., & Levis, A.H., “A Coloured Petri Net Model of Distributed Tactical Decision Making”, Proceedings of 1991 IEEE International Conference on Decision Aiding for Complex Systems, Vol. 3, pp. 2035-2040, 1991.

O’Neill, E., Lewis, D., & Conlan, O., “A Simulation-Based Approach to Highly Iterative Prototyping of Ubiquitous Computing Systems”, Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Simulation Tools and Techniques, SIMUTools’09, pp. 1-10, 2009.

Bylund, M., & Espinoza, F., “Using Quake III Arena to Simulate Sensors and Actuators when Evaluating and Testing Mobile Services”, CHI2001, pp. 241-243, 2001.

Brown, R.A., Eichhorn, D., & Herter, J., “Virtual World Process Perspective Visualisation”, The Fourth International Conference on Information, Process, and Knowledge Management, eKNOW 2012, pp. 2-7, 2012.

Nishikawa, H., Yamamoto, S., Tamai, M., Nishigaki, K., Tomoya, K., Shibata, N., Yasumoto, K., & Minoru, I., “UbiREAL: Realistic Smartspace Simulator for Systematic Testing”, Proceedings of the 8th International Conference, UbiComp 2006, pp. 459-476, 2006.

Rosendo, M., Buriol, T., deGeus, K., Scheer, S., & Felsky, C., “Towards the Development of a 3D Serious Game for Training in Power Network Maintenance”, Third International Conference on Games and Virtual Worlds for Serious Applications, 2011, available online at:

Wang, B., Haijiang, L., Rezgui, Y., Bradley, A., & Ong, H.N., “BIM Based Virtual Especifnvironment for Fire Emergency Evacuation”, The Scientific World Journal, Vol. 2014, Article ID 589016, 2014.

Torres, R.S., Biscaro, H.H., de Araujo, L.V., & Nunes, F.L.S., “ViMeTGame: A Serious Game for Virtual Medical Training of Breast Biopsy”, SBC Journal on 3D Interactive Systems, Vol. 3, No.3, pp. 12-22, 2012.

Chan, L.K.Y, & Lau, H.Y.K., “An Interactive Virtual Reality-Based e-Education System”, Proceedings of the XIV World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT2004), pp. 1-10, 2004.

Scacchi, W., Brown, C., & Nies, K., “Investigating the Use of Computer Games and Virtual Worlds for Decentralised Command and Control”, Final Report, Grant #N00244-10-1-0064, University of California, Irvine, 2011.

Carvalho, R.V., van den Heuvel, J., Kleijn, J., & Verbeek, F.J., “Coupling of Petri Net Models of the Mycobacterial Infection Process and Innate Immune Response”, Computation 2015, Vol. 3, pp. 150-176, 2015.

Guo, H., “Workflow Resource Pattern Simulation and Visualisation”, PhD Thesis, Queensland University of Technology, 2014, available online at:

Gomes, T., Abade, T., Harrison, M.D., Silva, J.L., & Campos, J.C., “Developing Serious Games with the APEX Framework”, Proceedings of the Workshop on Ubiquitous Games and Gamification for Promoting Behaviour Change and Wellbeing, pp. 37-40, 2013.

Silva, J.L., Ribeiro, O.R., Fernandes, J.M., Campos, J.C., & Harrison, M.D., “The APEX Framework: Prototyping of Ubiquitous Computing Environments Based on Petri Nets”, In R. Bernhaupt et al (Eds.), HCSE 2010, Vol. 6409, pp. 6-21, 2010.

Unity3D, Home Page, 2015, available online at:

Gallasch, G., & Kristensen, L.M., “Comms/CPN: A Communication Infrastructure for External Communication with Design/CPN”, In K. Jensen (Ed.), 3rd Workshop and Tutorial on Practical Use of Coloured Petri Nets and the CPN Tools, pp. 75-91, 2001.

Lim, T., Carvalho, M.B., Bellotti, F., Arnab, S., de Freitas, S., Louchart, S., Suttie, N., Berta, R., & De Gloria, A., “The LM-GM framework for Serious Games Analysis”, 2013, available online at:

SCRAN, Home Page, 2015, available online at:



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Serious Games Society

Creative Commons LicenseThe International Journal of Serious Games (IJSG) by Serious Games Society is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.