Balancing Play and Formal Training in the Design of Serious Games

Rosa Mikeal Martey, Jennifer Stromer-Galley, Adrienne Shaw, Brian McKernan, Tobi Saulnier, Elizabeth Mclaren, Matt Rhodes, James Folkestad, Sarah M. Taylor, Kate Kenski, Ben Clegg, Tomek Strzalkowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This article discusses the design and development of two serious games intended to train people to reduce their reliance on cognitive biases in their decision-making in less than an hour each. In our development process, we found a tension between rich and flexible experimentation and exploration experiences and robust learning experiences that ensured the lesson content was easily understood and recalled. In line with game-based learning research, initial designs were oriented toward exploration and discovery. Analyses of interviews, playtesting, logs, and surveys revealed that many players were frustrated or confused by the interface and content of the more complex games, even when consistent differences between levels of visual detail or narrative complexity were not present. We conclude that teaching complex topics such as cognitive biases to the widest range of learners required reducing the games’ playful and exploratory elements and balancing formal training content with simpler visuals and text.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-291
Number of pages23
JournalGames and Culture
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2017


  • challenge
  • educational games
  • engagement
  • multimedia learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Human-Computer Interaction


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