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       Totem's top 10 serious games    Who doesn’t love a list?!  The team here at Totem Learning have been discussing our all-time favourite Games for Learning, or Serious Games (not to be confused with Gamification). It’s a really interesting subject we want to share with you all!  It was very difficult narrowing down our favourite games to just ten. How can you compare a game like ‘Americas Army’, an army simulation game boasting prestigious awards such as “Guinness World Record for ‘Most Downloaded War Game’ 2009” and the eagerly awaited, ‘Code Spells’ which teaches Coding in an immersive magical landscape? They deal with two very different subjects and have different goals. But after lots of ‘umm’s and ‘aah’s we have collated a list together (with no real order) to share with you accompanied with the promise to explore all the genre has to offer in greater depth in the coming weeks.     Re-Mission     A third person shooter developed by HopeLab with direct input from medical staff and young cancer sufferers. It teaches children in remission about their treatments and the importance of their follow up care in a unique and informative way. It’s been a huge success! Achieving its goal with such success a sequel has even been released boasting even further successes such as winning ‘the Parents’ Choice Gold Award’.       












            Free Rice     An incredibly worthwhile game that everybody should play as often as they can. This game educates players on various subjects while simultaneously helping those most vulnerable.  It has accomplished so much since its release, late 2007; over 98,117,454,870 grains of rice have been donated to those in need through this simple multiple choice game.     






       Food Force    A contender for the most downloaded game in the Serious Game genre and a sequel co-developed with Konami; this game teaches the importance of food nutrition.     






           Nightmare: Malaria     Educating players on malaria while simultaneously working towards the end of the, completely preventable, disease; this game is challenging, both in gameplay and emotionally, with an impressively beautiful art style.       












          September 12th      A simple, yet profound game! Straight to the point; Shoot or Don’t. Very few games have achieved the level of impact this game has and none to our knowledge in such a short time frame. If you make the choice to ‘play’ the game you quickly realise how impulsive action only brings you further away from your goal.     






        DragonBox     Secretly teaching children Algebra! DragonBox proudly boasts teaching 83% of children the basics of algebra in under an hour of game play. What results! This game had to make the list. If you check out the reviews on the Play Store adults are raving about the game. There’s been some obvious competition between parents and children to play the app too!     






        The Leadership Game     Shameless Promotion! Our leadership game has been used by all sorts of people in managerial professions, including Football Management teams and CEO’s. It is currently undergoing a complete upgrade with some really interesting and innovative mechanics accompanied by beautiful graphics being included in the new release.       


















          Typing of the Dead       
        Fighting off Zombies while learning to type; an inspired combination! Lovers of the zombie genre will find endless hours of entertainment playing this touch-typing game.     






        Grace’s Diary     Gorgeous graphics, simple gameplay, abusive relationships- this game deals with this sensitive issue effectively, providing players with the necessary skills to recognise abusive relationships (whether their own or a friends') and information on how best approach the situation.     






        The Business Game     More Shameless Promotion! But we believe in our products and we know their merit so no apologies from us! This simulation game teaches great business and enterprising skills regardless of age or experience. The aim is to turn a profit and run a successful business, adjusting constantly to the market for three virtual years. Players will have to be adaptable and forward thinking to beat the game, it’s a real challenge! You can always message us for a free trial and try it for yourself; but be warned the Yellow Robin Reliant!     






     There are so many exceptional games in this innovative and ever-progressing genre; this list is just a taster! Serious Games are used to educate on so many issues it would be folly to think this list is conclusive. It is just a scratch on the surface! In the coming weeks, we will be going into the different applications Serious Games have been used for and feature the top ten of those categories.   In the meantime let us know your favourites! We would love to hear your views too, tweet us @teamtotem or use #TL10


Who doesn’t love a list!

The team here at Totem Learning have been discussing our all-time favourite Games for Learning, or Serious Games. It’s a really interesting subject we want to share with you all! 

       Ten reasons why you should switch to serious games



Our at a glance top 10 of why you need to switch to serious games for your learning and development. This infographic taken from a previous blog post by Helen Routledge, shows you some of the research into why games based learning has such huge and far reaching benefits for organisational training.


       The benefits of serious games     1.        They are engaging  This is probably the most common argument you might hear if you are looking into Serious Games. Everyone in the industry screams this out of the top of their lungs, but that’s because it’s true. You may think Serious Games will only appeal to the young, to the gamers, but actually cleverly designed solutions should appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds regardless of whether they have played games before or not.  And here’s why! A well-crafted Serious Game will give the user something to care about; an objective that they want to achieve. An objective that is relevant to the business or situation that user currently finds themselves in. A Serious Games designer will tap into the motivations of the user and make them central to the story.  Games also present information as nested problems, they will give the user an objective but the user has to actively get involved with the scenario to work out how to achieve the objective.  Serious Games also utilise interesting characters and reward loops to keep you pushing forward. Users will start to buy in to the scenario and become emotionally invested in seeing it through.   2.        They are a ‘safe environment’  Do most learners have a place they can go and practice their skills in a realistic environment? Unfortunately unless you are a pilot or a nuclear technician the answer will most likely be no.  Most businesses won’t have a simulated business with real people and market data just there for their staff to practice on. Serious Games can be the missing link between knowledge and practical application on the job.  Therefore Serious Games can allow users to practice the skills or methodologies they have read about or go ‘off-piste’ with their own strategy and actually see the consequences of their actions without any impact to the business. In fact this practice in a virtual environment will benefit the business greatly by reducing the number of mistakes your staff will make in the real world.    3.        They work according to the laws of learning  Serious Games are designed to hook us in and appeal to our brain; their designs are mapped to how we intrinsically learn. As the main purpose of a Serious Game is to develop new knowledge, skills and to ultimately produce a behaviour change they have to align with how we learn.  We base our designs around the Laws of Learning which can be seen illustrated in the infographic below. This is quite a complicated subject so let’s examine one of the basic premises of learning. Looking back in time, we hear throughout every culture on earth, the process of telling stories to pass knowledge down to new generations. Stories create emotional connections which increase the likelihood of retention. In today’s society we use stories for leisure, books, movies and games, and they all appeal to us through clever use of narrative, characterisation and the epic challenge, but they are rarely present when it comes to learning.  Now the difference between reading an educational book or watching an educational movie and playing an educational game is that you, the player, the protagonist takes control, all the action revolves around you. You make the choices, the consequences happen to you and because the choices are wrapped up in a story in which you want to succeed you create an even stronger emotional connection to those actions. We even exhibit physiological responses when we fail in games, it feels so real sometimes that our brains can’t tell the difference on the most basic biological level.  Because you are placed at the centre of the action, you learn at your own pace. You don’t have to keep up with 25 others who have other jobs they have to get back to. You evaluate your actions in your own time. You can fail as many times as is necessary to grasp the solution.  This ability to learn at your own rate is down to the use of pacing in the design of these interventions. When designing an e-learning course for example there is a specific amount of content, a set number of screens, a set number of words per screen, some audio, animation  and if you’re lucky multiple choice questions to add some variety. However in a serious game the content is indistinguishable from the actions and choices you have to make, therefore you will only progress and succeed once you have mastered the knowledge. The content is paced in a careful way to ensure you understand, not just remember, but truly understand before continuing. Because you understand, new information stands out to you; you are able to pull on information stored in your long term memory and not just your working memory to solve problems.   4.        They are re-usable   A Serious Game should not be judged on how many learners complete the game but on how learners re-use the application. Serious Games by their very nature are designed to be played several times. They are generally non-linear and allow a learner to explore different paths and different consequences. This results in learners building a well-rounded view of a situation or problem.  From the games we host ourselves we know users play our games on average 4.3 times. This replay is reinforcing learning and through the use of scoring we can see that learners are getting better the more they play.  Serious Games can also be very flexible; you can use them in many ways. You can apply a context to the learning experience and ask your learners to focus on different learning objectives or to play in a certain way with a certain mind-set for example. Or you can apply the same application to different stages of the learning lifecycle, as a precursor to a course and as a refresher 6 months down the line for example.   5.        You can roll specialist knowledge out to a wider audience  Serious games are great for taking complex topics like six sigma for example, that have traditionally been part of an intensive classroom course (which could be expensive to roll out to a whole organisation) and turning it into a case study game so that the learning can be accessed by a wider audience. Yes they train to a lower level but at least they will begin to understand the same lessons that your senior management are learning ensuring your organisation from top to bottom are speaking the same language.   6.        They are cost effective  Cost effectiveness of Serious Games is reached because of some of the reasons I’ve already discussed. Firstly they can be re-used many times per learner and across the organisation in different contexts and they can take complex content and reach a wider audience ensuring your message is heard by everyone in the organisation.  OK so there may be an up front development cost but if a Serious Game is built correctly they can be modified and tweaked for years to ensure they are kept up to date.   7.        You can capture data!  Because you’re making lots (and I mean lots!) of decisions in a game, and those decisions are very telling about your thought process, you can capture the journey to a particular point as well as that final end result.  Imagine if you received all of that data from everyone in your leadership team, your middle managers or your entire organisation. You could map the strengths and weaknesses of your organisation and create and informed strategy for how to address them or go down to the level of the individual learner and begin to create a truly personalised learning plan based on their actual performance (which can be measured through situational judgement games for example).   8.        They are expected  Serious Games and Interactive learning applications are reaching a stage where new hires will expect them. Companies who use these approaches are often seen as progressive in terms of their learning and development and will attract the top talent. These methodologies will also help retain talent by ensuring your in house learning and development is enjoyable and your employees want to keep learning.  9.       They complement other forms of learning  As I mentioned in number 2, games can be the missing link in your learning and development tool kit – you need a knowledge piece, you still need on the job training , reinforces etc., and Serious Games compliment these other forms of learning brilliantly.  A new study by MIT has revealed that your attention levels are lower in a lecture than when you are asleep and the new generation of workers as well as those already in your organisation are looking for new ways to learn. A single method or non-interactive method of learning delivery just doesn’t cut it anymore. More than likely they’ve already started learning outside of work, using MOOC’s or YouTube.  Serious Games are just one aspect you should consider as part of your digital learning strategy.   10.    Because they work!  Recent research by Sitzmann and Ely titled “A Meta-Analytic Examination of the Effectiveness of Computer-Based Simulation Games” By the University of Colorado Denver Business School (Oct 2010), looked at the instructional effectiveness of Computer Based Simulation Games relative to a comparison group, on a comprehensive set of training outcomes, particularly focusing on the post-training outcomes. Data was collected from 6,476 participants ranging from students (undergraduate and graduate), employees through to military personnel. Sitzmann found that self-efficacy; declarative knowledge, procedural knowledge and retention results suggest that training outcomes are superior for trainees taught with simulation games relative to the comparison group.  Overall, declarative knowledge was 11% higher for trainees taught with simulation games than a comparison group; procedural knowledge was 14% higher; retention was 9% higher; retention was 9% higher; and self-efficacy was 20% higher. (Ely and Sitzmann findings, 2010)     If you want to talk more about my top 10 or to suggest others I’ve missed tweet me on @helenroutledge



This is probably the most common argument you might hear if you are looking into Serious Games. Everyone in the industry screams this out of the top of their lungs, but that’s because it’s true. You may think Serious Games will only appeal to the young, to the gamers, but actually cleverly designed solutions should appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds regardless of whether they have played games before or not.


And here’s why! ...