Research Article: Success factors for serious games to enhance learning: a systematic review

Recently, I was doing some work for a peer-reviewed article and came across this interesting piece. Good guildelines for creating serious learning games.


There is no doubt that an abundance of factors exists that makes learning with serious games successful. Research articles reporting on these factors, however, tend to focus on select serious game elements and do not combine all salient factors for successful learning with serious games. Addressing this gap is a necessity for the success of serious games and may even alleviate long-standing debates about pedagogy over enjoyment, how much realism is enough or whether artificial intelligence is worth the cost. This article examines existing academic literature from 2000 to 2015, extracting shared serious game success factors that have had an encouraging impact on gameful learning experiences. As such, we subsequently aim to withdraw the field from a perpetual spiral of doesmy-game-work research toward more worthwhile whydoes-my-game-not-work research. Qualitative content analysis through the constant comparison method (CCM) analyzed a total of 63 articles from a variety of recognized electronic libraries and databases. Through this analysis, we reveal five central serious game themes: backstory and production; realism; artificial intelligence and adaptivity; interaction; and feedback and debriefing, all of which require deliberate intertwining with pedagogical content to ensure successful learning. This review unravels each of the five themes into their constituent factors and consequently presents the factors as practical guidelines that serious games producers should strive to include in their game productions. Applying these recommendations whenever serious games are considered will provide a foundation for effective gameful learning experiences.



  • It seems that players/learners want to have fun before they value the subsequent learning-benefit serious games can offer them. Serious games producers must not impede this hunger for fun, but rather use it to stealthily engage the player with the required learning material.
  • Serious games need to have replay value rather than be a once-off learning endeavor
  • The game-task skills should mirror the intended learning impact.
  • It seems that no matter how captivating the game, learners will not step away from a game with the desire to learn more about the subject matter. So, the designer must maintain situational interest and count on the in-game experience to drive the learning.
  • Game tasks should become gradually more difficult in order for a player’s cycle of mastery to be continuously challenged.
  • Immediate in-game feedback, an intuitive game interface with minimalist control mechanics and an uncomplicated heads-up display are recommended to keep the player/learner focused on the learning at hand.
  • Create an emotional connection with the player through personalized responses and gameplay modes maintained by progress-tracking mechanisms. These mechanisms can assist post-game debriefing activities and place the in-game learning experience into a greater perspective. The authors of the paper  recommend utilizing progress-tracking reports of in-game learning activities.





Ravyse, W., Seugnet Blignaut, A., Leendertz, V., & Woolner, A. (2017). Success factors for serious games to enhance learning: a systematic review. Virtual Reality21(1), 31–58.


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