Guidelines for an effective design of serious games


  • Chiara Eva Catalano CNR IMATI-Genova
  • Angelo Marco Luccini CEDEP Paris (France)
  • Michela Mortara CNR IMATI-Genova



game design, learning impact, best practice


There is an increasing awareness about the potential of serious games for education and training in many disciplines. However, research still witnesses a lack of methodologies, guidelines and best practices on how to develop effective serious games and how to integrate them in the actual learning and training processes. The process of integration heavily depends on providing and spreading evidence of the effectiveness of serious games. In this paper we present an overview on the factors that make serious games effective in the perspective of maximizing the learning impact. Such recommendations are the result of an extensive survey of the current proposition of serious games in different application domains.


[1] Boyle, E. A., Connolly, T. M. & Hainey, T., “The role of psychology in understanding the impact of computer games”, Entertainment Computing, vol. 2, pp. 69-74, 2011.
[2] Mortara, M., Catalano, C. E., Bellotti, F., Fiucci, G., Houry-Panchetti, M. & Petridis, P., “Learning cultural heritage by serious games”, Journal of Cultural Heritage,, in press.
[3] Good, T. L. & Brophy, J. E., “Educational psychology: A realistic approach”. (4th ed.).White Plains, NY: Longman.
[4] Bloom, S., Engelhart, M. D., Furst, E. J., Hill, W. H. & Krathwohl, D. R., “Taxonomy of educational objectives: the classification of educational goals”, Handbook I: Cognitive Domain New York, Longmans, Green, 1956.
[5] Kirkpatrick, D. L., “Evaluating Training Programs: The Four Levels”. 2nd Edition, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc, San Francisco, 1998.
[6] Bartlett, F. C., “Remembering: A Study in Experimental and Social Psychology”. Cambridge University Press.
[7] Devries, B. & Zan B., "When children make rules", Educational Leadership, 61 (1), pp. 64–67, 2003.
[8] Kolb, D., “Experiential Learning”, Englewood Cliffs, Prentice Hall, pp.20-38, 1984.
[9] Angehrn, A. A., & Maxwell, K., “EagleRacing: Addressing Corporate Collaboration Challenges Through an Online Simulation Game”, Innovate, Journal of Online Education, Vol. 5, Issue 6, Aug/Sept 2009,
[10] Gagné, R., “The Conditions of Learning”. (4th ed.), New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1985.
[11] Gagné, R., Briggs, L., & Wager, W., “Principles of Instructional Design”, (4th ed.), Boston, Wadsworth Publishing, 1992.
[12] Nonaka, I., “A dynamic theory of organizational knowledge creation”, Organization Science, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 14-37, 1994.
[13] Nonaka, I, Toyama, R., & Konno, N., “SECI, Ba, and leadership: a unified model of dynamic knowledge creation”, Long Range Planning, 33, pp. 5- 34, 2000.
[14] WhatADay,
[15] Synergy,
[16] Popescu, M., Romero, M. & Usart, M., “Using Serious Games in adult education- serious business for serious people - the MetaVals game case study”, In Proceedings of ICVL 2012 - 7th International Conference on Virtual Learning, Special Award "ICVL 2012", (
[17] TARGET, EU Collaborative project, FP7, Grant Agreement N° 231717 (
[18] Innov8,
[19] Corriere, J.D., “Shortfall: An Educational Game on Environmental Issues in Supply Chain Management”, M.S. Thesis, Mechanical & Industrial Engineering, North-eastern University, Boston, MA. 2003.
[20] Plantville,
[21] Tesei, A., Barbieri, A., Roceanu I., & Beligan, D., “Evaluation of “Cultural Awareness – Afghanistan Pre-deployment”: a User Study”, In Proceedings of the GALA Conference, Paris (France), 23-25 October 2013.
[22] Boarders Ahoy!,
[23] Siqur,
[24] RescueSim,
[25] Froschauer, J., Merkl, D., Arends, M. & Goldfarb, D., “Art History Concepts at Play with ThIATRO”, ACM Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage, Special Issue on Serious Games for Cultural Heritage, Vol. 6, Issue 2, 2013.
[26] Frochauer, J., Seidel, I., Gartner, M., Berger, H. & Merkl, D., “Design and evaluation of a serious game for immersive cultural training”, In Proceeding of the 16th International Conference on Virtual Systems and Multimedia (VSMM 2010), pp. 253– 260, 2010.
[27] Mortara, M.M., Catalano, C.E., Fiucci, G. & Derntl, M., “Evaluating the Effectiveness of Serious Games for Cultural Awareness: the Icura User Study”, In Proceedings of the GALA Conference, Paris (France), 23-25 October 2013.
[28] Signets of Power, .
[29] Playing History,
[30] MediaEvo,
[31] Elude,
[32] Aylett, R., Vala, M., Sequeira, P. & Paiva, A., “FearNot! an emergent narrative approach to virtual dramas for anti-bullying education”, in Proceedings of the International Conference on Virtual Storytelling, Saint Malo, France,2007.
[33] Kim, J., Hill, R.W., Durlach, P., Chad Lane, H., Forbell, E., Core, M., Marsella, S., Pynadath, D. & Hart, J., “BiLAT: A Game-Based Environment for Practicing Negotiation in a Cultural Context”, International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education, vol. 19, pp. 289-308, 2009.
[34] MeTycoon,
[35] Dalgarno, B. & Hedberg, J., “3D learning environments in tertiary education”, In Proceedings of the 18th Conference of the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education. Ascilite, pp. 253-262, 2001.
[36] Rogers, C. & Freiberg, H.J., “Freedom to Learn” (3rd ed.), New York: Merrill, 1993.
[37] Mayer, I., Bekebrede, G., Warmelink, H. & Zhou, Q., “A Brief Methodology for Researching and Evaluating Serious Games and Game-Based Learning”, in Connolly, T., Hainey, T., Boyle, E., Baxter, G. & Moreno-Ger, P. (Eds.) Psychology, Pedagogy, and Assessment in Serious Games (pp. 357-393). Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference
[38] Oliver, M., “An introduction to the evaluation of learning technology”, Educational Technology & Society, 3 (4), 20-30.
[39] Ehrmann, S., “Studying teaching, learning and technology: a tool kit from the Flashlight programme”, Active Learning, 9, 36-39.
[40] Jones, A., Scanlon, E., Tosunoglu, C., Ross, S., Butcher, P., Murphy, P. & Greenberg, J., “Evaluating CAL at the Open University: 15 Years On”, Computers in Education, 26 (1-3), 5-15.
[41] Squires, D. & McDougall, A., “Choosing and using educational software: A teachers' guide”, London: The Falmer Press.
[42] De Freitas, S. & Oliver, M., “How can exploratory learning with games and simulations within the curriculum be most effectively evaluated?”, Computers & Education, 46, 3, 249–264.
[43] Amory, A., “Game object model version II: a theoretical framework for educational game development”, Educational Technology Research and Development, 2006, Volume 55, Number 1, Page 51.
[44] Gunter, G. A., Kenny, R. F. & Vick, E. H., “Taking educational games seriously: using the RETAIN model to design endogenous fantasy into standalone educational games”, Educational Technology Research and Development December 2008, Volume 56, Issue 5-6, pp 511-537.
[45] Wason, P. C., “Reasoning about a rule”, Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, vol. 20, pp. 273-281, 1968.
[46] Bellotti, F., Kapralos, B., Lee, K., Moreno-Ger, P. & Berta, R., “Assessment in and of Serious Games: An Overview”, Advances in Human-Computer Interaction, Volume 2013, DOI:
[47] Carrington, P., Scott, J. & Wasserman, S., “Models and Methods in Social Network Analysis”, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (MA), 2005.




How to Cite

Catalano, C. E., Luccini, A. M., & Mortara, M. (2014). Guidelines for an effective design of serious games. International Journal of Serious Games, 1(1).