The Future of Game-based Learning



The Future of



The Challenge

You know when Forbes is writing about something it’s

a big deal.

In early October 2015 the revered business bible

published an article entitled ‘Using Gamification

To Unlock Your Employees’ Innovation Potential’,

reinforcing the notion once again that ‘white noise’

around games in learning is building to a crescendo.

But what is the signal behind the noise? Is this

another fashionable hot topic for the training

cognoscenti to gossip about, soon to go the way of

Google Glass or ‘the LMS is dead’? Or is there a real,

underlying trend that is going to impact on us all and

perhaps transform eLearning for ‘Generation Y’?

Throughout the history of eLearning, and before that,

computer-based training (CBT), companies have used

terms like ‘engaging’, ‘interactive’, ‘bring to life’, ‘fun’

and ‘immersive’ as a means to describe their content.

And while in many cases they may have been playing

fast and loose with the Trade Descriptions Act -

wouldn’t we all like our learning to live up to those

descriptions? - by their very nature these are all basic

principles of successful games too.

But if demand for games-based learning is there,

what about supply?

Games development is a highly skilled specialism

in its own right; an eLearning company cannot just

decide to produce learning games of the quality and

level of engagement people expect from a digital

game today, using existing resources.

And if they could, can they do so while ensuring

the desired learning outcomes are enhanced not


The expanding versatility and flexibility of learning

technologies within LMSs and online academies also

increasingly enables seamless integration for games,

whether with a company’s current LMS or through a

game provider’s own LMS.

So could LMSs potentially end up as educational

games consoles in the future or is this beginning to

happen already?

Primary purpose of game

learning and behavioural

outcomes (Connolly et al 2012) *

*based on sample size of 61 learning/serious game instances.

Primary Learning Outcomes %

Knowledge acquisition

Perceptual and cognitive skills

Affective and motivational outcomes

Motor skills

Behaviour change

Social/soft skills

The Research

In early 2015 Unicorn secured a strategic investment

in the award-winning games studio, Amuzo. This

year, with their support, Unicorn commissioned

the Bournemouth University Faculty of Media and

Communication to conduct a ‘Serious Games Market


Our aim was to report on the competitive landscape

in, predominantly, the UK serious games market and

conduct a review of the academic literature on the

subject to assess the perceived benefits and results of

learning through serious games.

This White Paper looks at this research in the context

of the prospects that gaming and gamification

present within the learning world. It is not intended

to provide definitive answers or a magic formula for

companies wanting to branch into games, rather

deliver an insight into the real-life, on-the-ground

challenges and opportunities the eLearning industry

faces in combining fun with learning substance.








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Summary Of The Benefits Of Game-based Learning

Difference in Terms

(Adapted from Trybus, 2014).

Highly engaging

















Just for


Sociable experience


Application to real world environment

Serious Game/


Immediate feedback in response to mistakes

Low physical risk


Seamless integration with LMS

Standardised measurements allowing comparisons

Spot the difference

Types of Game Thinking and

Primary Design Goals


There is a lot of debate and some confusion about terminology in the industry among gurus and

commentators. So before we look at the ‘whys’ we should probably nail down the ‘whats’.

One influential blog author produced these useful definitions.


Serious Games

Gameful Design - the use of game thinking in user experience. It is a game-like approach to

aesthetics and usability, rather than the addition of game elements. Some may also call it playful

design and it is arguably what has been applied to eLearning most predominantly in the past.

• Gamification - the application of gaming metaphors/principles in non-game contexts to influence

behaviour, improve motivation and enhance engagement.

• Serious Games/Simulations - a game with purpose, not created to be solely entertainment. It has all

the elements of a real game, will look and feel like a real game, but has a defined purpose, outcome

or message.

Games - all of the above, but played just for entertainment.

No Gameplay

Gameful Design




Source: Marczewski, M. 2013. “What’s the difference between

Gamification and Serious Games?” (

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The Future of Game-based learning


State of the





A Markets and

Markets report


serious games

market value

Synopsis Of The

Bournemouth University

‘Serious Games

Market Assessment’

An important aspect of the BU report was reviewing

literature on the effectiveness of games for learning.

The report concluded there are considerable benefits

of learning through games when compared to other

forms of learning and training, and there is a large,

fast-growing market for serious games for

business applications.

Education and the corporate sectors account for

around a third of the market and are two of the

largest, fastest-growing sectors.

Businesses are using learning games for:

• organisation efficiency improvement

• sales training

• recruitment and new hire applications

• specific skill training

• compliance training.

Most content is now being delivered over

mobile platforms.

between 2015

and 2020


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compound annual

growth rates (CAGR)

with projected


$ 5.5

18% billion

More recently US-based

Ambient Insight made

these five-year projections

21.9% 16.8%





2014 – 2019 CAGR

by 2020

Demand will be driven by:

would reach


• high return on investment

• increased need for user engagement across


• growing use of mobile platforms for

educational games.

Growth may be limited by:

• improper game design

• lack of serious games awareness

• assessment tools shortage (Markets and

Markets, 2015).


For many years serious games were mainly used in military, healthcare and construction

sectors, typically as simulations to provide ‘hands-on’ training. But when Connolly et al (2012)

carried out a systematic literature review of empirical evidence on computer games and

serious games, they identified many more sectors.

C lick here to watch Learning

by Design video

Summary of subject/discipline areas addressed (Some papers may address more than one

subject discipline)

.. ...

Entertaining Health Social issues Science Business Engineering Language




Designing Serious Games

Prof. James Paul Gee has written widely on the

subject and how the principles used even in pure

entertainment games have important implications

for learning design. Gee suggests consumers

should be seen as co-producers, where their

actions help craft the game they play. Therefore

each game will be specific to the individual,

and the more they put in, the more they will get

out. Games should allow users to take risks and

explore new things, and be customisable to suit

the individual needs and skills of the player, and

adapt in real time as the player learns.

Geography Military/War Other History Computing

It is important for games to be

fun, polished, and content needs to

be learned deep in the game not

bolted on.

Isbister et al, 2010

What benefits do serious

games bring?

Only in the last 10-15 years have scholars

discussed and looked into how video games

can be used positively in education. Shaffer et al

(2005) claimed serious games would transform the

education landscape for the better, while Tuzun

et al (2008) found students made significant gains

and were more motivated when they participated

in game-based learning.

Serious games are more relevant to businesses

than ever as many employees entering work are

part of ‘Generation Y’ who have grown up around

technology and are fluent in communication

technologies (Prensky). We will look at the benefits

in more detail over the page.

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The Future of Game-based learning



Games can make learning fun (Westera, 2015).


Games typically allow users to share their score

with others and see it displayed on leaderboards,

making it competitive, which is a natural driver

of human behaviour (Squire and Jenkins, (2003).

This can support groups of learners, even when

geographically distributed, and develop team-based

skills, leadership, coordination and communications

skills (de Freitas, 2006).

Learning by doing


Release endorphins

Have fun

Games provide a learning environment where players

discover new rules by interacting and exploring the

game, rather than memorizing them, leading to

knowledge acquisition (Squire, 2011), and

self-motivation (Kiili, 2005), becoming more active in

their own learning (Michael and Chen, 2006).

Monitoring progress

With active engagement, serious games lead to discovery, observation, trial and error and problem solving,

important aspects of learning (Dickey, 2005).



Players focused on


earning rewards

Learning becomes

second thought

Retain more


’Real’ learning stored

in long-term memory

Video games promote ‘flow’, when there is a perceived balance between the challenge and skills required - the

player knows what to do (has goals) and how successful they are (immediate feedback) (Csikszentmihalyi, 1991).


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The effects of corporate training applications must be

measurable; the distinction must be made between

‘performance’ and ‘learning outcomes’. Game play

often focuses on performance, measuring skills that

have already been mastered while discouraging trial

and error, but may not measure depth of knowledge

gained. Assessment can be quantitative and

qualitative and should allow learners to get feedback

on the consequences of their actions.

Risk free

Simulation allows learners to experience something too

costly, risky, or ethically unacceptable in real-life (Corti,

2006). But this approach assumes players can see the

similarities/context and may need support transferring

the knowledge (Crookall, 2010). Many papers have

emphasised how games should be used to enhance

training, not replace it (Science Daily, 2010).

University of Colorado

Denver Business School

study (Science Daily, 2010):

In contrast to individuals in comparison groups,

those trained via video games had…

11% higher




14% higher



9% higher


The study also found when employees can

access games whenever they like they can

engage with the games at their leisure to master

the skills and obtain better learning outcomes as

a result.


Connolly, T. M., Boyle, E. A., MacArthur, E., Hainey, T. and Boyle, J. M.,

2012. A systematic literature review of empirical evidence on computer

games and serious games. Computers and Education, 59 (2), 661-686

Corti, K., 2006. Games based Learning; A serious business application.

PIXELearning. Available from:

compsci777s2c/lectures/Ian/serious% 20games%20business%20


Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1991). Flow: The psychology of optimal

experience. New York: Harper Perennial

Crookall, D., 2010. Serious Games, Debriefing, and Simulation/Gaming

as a Discipline. Simulation & Gaming, 41 (6) 898 –920

De Freitas, S., 2006. Learning in Immersive worlds: A review of gamebased

learning. London: JISC. Available from: http://videogamelc.bgsu.

Dickey, M.D., 2005. Engaging by design: How engagement strategies

in popular computer and video games can inform instructional design.

Educational Technology, Research and Development, 53 (2), 67-83

Gee, J. P., 2003. What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning

and Literacy. New York: Palgrave/McMillan

Gee, J. P., 2005. Good video games and good learning. Available from:

Isbister, K., Flanagan, M., & Hash, C. (2010). Designing games for

learning: insights from conversations with designers. In Proceedings of

the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp.

2041-2044). ACM.

Kiili, K., 2005. Digital game-based learning: Towards an experiential

gaming model. The Internet and Higher Education, 8, 13–24.

Markets and Markets, 2015. Serious Games Market. Available from:


Michael, D. & Chen, S., 2006. Serious games: Games that educate,

train, and inform. Boston, MA.: Thomson Course Technology.

Pappas, C., 2014. The Science And The Benefits of Gamification In

eLearning.eLearning Industry. Available from: http://elearningindustry.


Prensky, M., 2001. Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon,

9 (5), 1–6

Science Daily, 2010. Video games can be highly effective training

tools, study shows: Employees learn more, forget less, master more

skills. Science Daily. Available from:


Shaffer, D. W., Halverson, R., Squire, K. R., and Gee, J. P., 2005. Video

Games and the Future of Learning. WCER Working Paper No. 2005-4.

Available from: [Accessed

09 August 2015]

Trybus, R., 2014. Game-Based Learning: What it is, Why it Works, and

Where it’s Going. New Media. Available from: http://www.newmedia.

org/game-based- learning--what-it-is-why-it-works-and-where-its-going.


Tüzün, H., Yılmaz-Soylu, M., Karakuş, T., İnal, Y., and Kızılkaya, G.,

2009. The effects of computer games on primary school students’

achievement and motivation in geography learning. Computers &

Education, 52 (1), 68-77.

Westera, A., 2015. Games are motivating, aren’t they? Disputing the

arguments for digital game-based learning. Serious Games Society, 2

(2), 3- 17.

Further data sources

ELearning Industry

Serious Games Market

International Journal of Game-Based Learning (IJGBL)


International Journal of Learning Games http://journal.

White papers

Ambient Insight “The 2014-2019 Global Market for Game-based



Axonify - Axonify and Gamification: The simple way to make learning

fun, everyday


Games Learning Society

Gamified UK

Game On! Learning

Future Lab


Totem Learning:

TIS (Tata Interactive Systems) – Gamification in Learning http://www.

TIS (Tata Interactive Systems) - Business Transformation - the value

added by a Serious Game

Serious Games International provide a selection of white papers http://

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The Future of Game-based learning


The Generation








Since partnering with

Unicorn, Amuzo have

developed a game-based

solution for delivering sales and product training,

compliance training, recruitment and on-boarding,

plus other tailored, bespoke projects for the corporate

sector. MD Mike Hawkyard examines how games

harness the power of play to engage, educate

and inspire.

Why Gen Y?

There is an evident element of ‘fear of the unknown’

surrounding the subject of learning through games

and gamification. However, there are over 12 million

reasons why mobile serious games are the solution

to building upon and enhancing the effectiveness,

productivity and confidence of your workforce. Those

reasons are collectively known as ‘Generation Y’.

By 2018, over half the UK working population will

be part of Generation Y - the collective, also known

as ‘Millennials’, who are categorised as being born

between 1980 and the early 1990s.

A recent PWC study revealed, above all, Millennials

value training and development as a career benefit,

even over cash bonuses, greater holiday allowance

and higher wages.

How do we engage Gen Y?

Current training materials often present a mundane

task that requires little to no thought to complete and

offer a lack of motivation to tackle apart from the fact

it is required.

Understanding the expectations of Gen Y will help to

deliver effective methods of motivation; encouraging

enthusiasm, igniting productivity and naturally

inspiring staff to perform beyond the bare minimum

of what is asked.


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Training and development

Flexible working hours

Cash bonuses


Free private healthcare

6% 6% 5% 4% 4%

3% 3%

2% 2% 2%


Pension scheme or other

rerement funding

Greater holiday allowance

Financial assistance

with housing

However, although this demographic will soon

account for the largest percentage of the working

population, the majority of existing workplace training

is not specifically designed to target them.

Company car

Assistance in clearing debts

incurred while studying

Maternity/Paternity benefits

Subsidised travel costs

Free child care

Access to low interest

loans/borrowing opons

Time off to do

community/charity work

I’d prefer no benefits

and higher wages

Millennials are the very first generation to have been

brought up immersed in a world of digital; they

are tech-savvy, constantly connected and accustomed

to instant information being at their fingertips.

A 2015 Comscore study revealed some stunning data

on Gen Y mobile use:

• Over 91% of Millennials own a smartphone

• 82% of time on smart devices is spent using apps

• 96% have at least one social network account

This is a generation empowered by technology.

Presenting Millennials with uninspired training

methods will unarguably leave them feeling the

same way.

Generation Y aren’t simply the recruits and

employees of today, but also of the future, so creating

a connection with this core audience through mobile

and social engagement is key.

Maximising engagement

The ability of games to provide an immersive and

engaging environment is key to their effectiveness in

delivering learning and development content. This

analysis shows how games compare to other types of

digital media in their ability to immerse and engage.

Our approach is based on Kearsley and

Shneiderman’s Engagement Theory (1999), which

provides a structure for technology-based teaching

and learning.

Through the use of technology, Gen Y have become

an independent and self-reliant generation. This

theory is one that champions experiential learning

and self-direction.

1. Point of Engagement

Upon entering the game, the content must:

offer a challenge with measurable success

• have aesthetic and sensory appeal

• be a subject or activity of interest (includes novelty)

• allow the user to try again.

2. Period of Engagement

During gameplay the user will:

• gain new or enhanced skills and knowledge

• receive regular feedback (praise) on progression

• interact and have direct control over their learning.

3. Encouraging re-engagement

By revisiting the game, the player will improve their

knowledge retention. Mechanics to encourage repeat

visits include:

• A guaranteed reward for returning

The potential completion of additional sub goals

• Rewards offered at random - the opportunity to

‘be lucky’ during a user’s next experience is most

likely to encourage them to return as opposed to

sequential rewards

• A social challenge, to compete with others

4. Calls to action

• After each game the player is prompted to act

The more they play, the more obvious the action


The next step in their education is immediately

accessible in just one click

Summing up

The most important thing we recommend about

serious games for Gen Y is not what to put in them,

but how to deliver them on a smart device.







Listen to



Social Media


I don’t think about

anything else when I’m...

30% 16% 41%

28% 48% 25%

18% 34% 22%

10% 67% 5%

To effectively deliver working games, have a strong,

simple message e.g. ‘Workplace Learning for

Generation Y’, and be able to offer bespoke work, but

have a platform. This doesn’t mean being dependent

on an LMS but focussing on the smart device.

Don’t be a ‘normal’ eLearning company that does

games, be a games company!


I will oen be doing

something else whilst I’m...

8% 32% 11%


I find it difficult to do

anything else whilst I’m...

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The Future of Game-based learning



Designing A

Serious Game

Amuzo Lead Designer, Dan Mascall, worked on

Unicorn’s ‘Abbreviation Game’ (downloadable

from the Apple and Android app stores) which was

developed as an internal prototype to understand

some of the challenges we would encounter when

creating learning games. Here, he reveals all.

1. Where do you start?

The key questions we ask are:

• Who do you want to tell?

• How do you want to tell them?

• What do you want them to do?

The initial brief typically answers these, indicating

target audience, key message and KPIs. We then

research the content and take reference from

similar games and gameplay mechanics that would

complement the goals. We suggest alternative

directions if we feel confident a different solution

would work better to get results.

2. How do you make a learning

game effective?

Through repetition and the desire to progress,

players learn and experiment with new information

to overcome increasing difficulties. Social mechanics

and achievement milestones drive players to learn

more and complete goals. Players must have fun first

before challenged to think deeper or follow a call to

action. The Abbreviation Game is designed to help

people memorise sets of abbreviations. It’s a

fast-paced racing app game with a quiz-based

challenge at the end of each session to bridge the

gap between an abbreviation and its meaning.

3. How long does it take and

what’s the process?

A significant factor is how many people are involved

with signing off designs. New IP takes longer to

lock down character designs, style guides and story

content. We all have great ideas and everyone can

contribute and comment during the ideas generation

process. After the initial concept phase, ideas are

developed within the design team, presented to the

lead artists and coders, then written as a first draft.

The game takes shape as the Game Design

Document (GDD) is produced - this is constantly

referred back to and updated as a ‘live’ document.

Decisions around ongoing improvements or new

features are considered in relation to the Minimum

Viable Product (MVP), to ensure the project is

completed on time and in budget. All ideas that don’t

make the cut are stored so should the project end

ahead of time, get extra budget or have scope for

future updates, we can use them.

HISCOX – Hiscox Racer

Designed to improve the effectiveness of

Hiscox’s internal training methods, with a

particular focus on Generation Y, and to

actively encourage staff to revisit content, this

racing game, with an integrated CMS system,

provides a rewarding, competitive, easy to

access and high-quality mobile app that

engages learners, enabling Hiscox to increase

overall knowledge retention of training

materials amongst their staff.


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CII – Discover Risk

Aimed at increasing recruitment in, and

understanding of, the insurance sector amongst

16-22 year olds, the CII’s Discover Risk board

game, which puts players in an insurer’s shoes to

make decisions in a range of scenarios, has been

transformed into an entertaining, interactive,

digital mobile app highlighting the variety,

mental challenge, opportunity and remuneration

that working in insurance offers. Facebook

integration extends the audience of prospective

employees further through sharing.


The Bournemouth University report highlighted how

most content is now being delivered over mobile

platforms. There is no disputing that the extraordinary

rise of the smartphones, tablets and apps have added

an exciting dimension to learning.

Portable technologies have taken games out of the

bedrooms of teenagers and into all our hands. Billions

of us now regularly experience how immersive and

engaging well-designed games can be.

The tools that enable serious games to be built are

far easier to use and much more economically viable,

as is the availability of the platforms to run them.

It creates far more effective results to focus learning

on the practical application of knowledge and skills

that can be achieved through games rather than on

dry facts in ‘click next’ linear courses. This applies to

health and safety, money laundering and insurance

underwriting as much as it does to plumbing or

electrical engineering.

The increasing demand for ‘snackable’ chunks of

learning that can be digested little and often, for a

more pervasive learning experience that supports the

goal of continuous learning, marries perfectly with

playing a game on an app on the train.

However, the skill set required to create games for

digital devices is very different from that of traditional

eLearning, and so often is the cost.

Most video games are developed with budgets we

in eLearning can only dream of, yet it is these games

that set the precedent and expectation of a minimum

quality anyone, even an inexperienced gamer, would

tolerate when playing.

This leaves eLearning companies with three options:

1. Further explore gamification – primarily platform

functionality. Applying gamification principles,

combined with high instructional design standards

and taking advantage of evolving platform

technologies to enhance user engagement all

present opportunities in the games field.

2. Recruit in-house game developers to produce

serious games alongside instructional and graphic

design teams.

3. Invest in existing games companies who already

have the experience, expertise and access to

markets that eLearning companies would take

years, if ever, to attain.

In the fast-paced, high-stress corporate environment,

it is inevitable that fun takes a back seat. Corporate

learning is not primarily about entertainment, so it is

a fine balance to introduce a spirit of fun without it

becoming distracting rather than an asset.

Serious games work as a powerful teaching tool

because they encourage the persistence required

for effective learning. Games have the rare ability

to translate failure into a positive - you will fail in a

game, yet this is considered a reason to try again.

Many games features such as point systems, rewards

and leaderboards can be replicated in an educational

context to account for different people’s motivations.

They don’t have to be fully immersive 3D

environments with the production standards and

budgets of Call of Duty. There is a fertile middle

ground, where the best principles of engagement

from the world of gaming can be applied in a

way that complements and enhances the learning

experience without breaking budgets.

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The Future of Game-based learning




0800 055 6586

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99 Holdenhurst Road

Bournemouth BH8 8DY

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80 Coleman Street

London EC2R 5BJ

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