Designing games to teach Soft Skills (Part 1/4- Introduction)

How training methodologies can be adopted by a wide range of professionals and purposes to enhance traditional training practice, boost participants’ learning experience, heighten participants’ self-awareness and self-confidence and facilitate knowledge.


Designing Games to Teach Soft Skills and Learning Soft Skills by Playing Video Games



The report will serve as a useful guide, based on practical examples, of how training methodologies can be adopted by a wide range of professionals and for a wide range of purposes, such as to enhance traditional training practice, boost participants’ learning experience, heighten participants’ self-awareness and self-confidence, facilitate knowledge and promote skills, and competencies and personal, as well as group, development.  Due to Copyright issues, the book [1] was synthesis of only European projects, coordinated by the authors, aiming at applying well known psycho-pedagogical training models to online, technology-enhanced learning contexts in a broad range of applications and target groups. In this report, we expanded the book’s view point and presented and related projects with soft skills, which are more common and more famous among the people. We also suggested games one can play to improve certain soft skills.


1. Introduction

1.1 Soft Skills

Soft skills, according to the book [1] is defined as “personal attributes that contribute to better express how people know and manage themselves, as well as their relationships with others”.

Wikipedia [2] defines the term soft skill as “a combination of interpersonal people skills, social skills, communication skills, character traits, attitudes, career attributes, social intelligence and emotional intelligence quotients among others that enable people to effectively navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well, and achieve their goals with complementing hard skills”.

The Collins English Dictionary [3] defines the term soft skills as "desirable qualities for certain forms of employment that do not depend on acquired knowledge: they include common sense, the ability to deal with people, and a positive flexible attitude."

In literature, it is difficult to find a universal definition of soft skills or an all- encompassing definition that provides a succinct insight. It is a broad concept that subsumes many dimensions of the personal sphere development that involves a combination of emotional, behavioral and cognitive components. Soft skills are related to interpersonal and intrapersonal areas; therefore, there is a relational dimension involved.

Soft skills are important to students, as they are linked to job performances and career development; they are crucial for employees who need to manage their interactions and emotions in order to interact effectively with customers and get engaged with the workplace missions; for management and leadership skills, as they lead teams towards common and shared goals, accomplish organizational missions and support organizations in their future directions and visions.

Soft skills, also commonly referred as “people skills”, are recognized as personal attributes or a cluster of personal traits that optimize and enable positivity and enhance people’s interactions and relationships with each other. Conversely, the concept of hard skills relates to technical, professional knowledge and abilities, usually referring to a skill that has been learnt through training and educational programs, and to the ability or capability of an individual to perform a specific task within a specific area or domain. Hard skills and soft skills are never meant to compete with each other, but should ideally be complementary.


1.2 Soft Skills and Games

Games provide a virtual environment to the player to be completely immersed in it. Players can learn a lot by just playing a game. Some of the soft skills which can be learned through games, include:

Communication and Active listening: There are multiple games where dialog choices are major gameplay aspect. Non- playing characters (NPCs) gives the player hints and clues through dialogs (with or without subtitles), which makes gamers excellent listeners. Different dialog choices in games may result in different endings, so gamers are very careful about communication.

Habit: Game designers use number of techniques to keep people entertained and coming back for more (Adrenaline, Dopamine, Zeigarnik Effect). They force you to solve puzzles, explore and search for hidden paths and most important never give up! which are all good habits.

Willpower and Drive: No matter what game you play or in what level you are in, there is always a ‘try again’ or ‘retry’ option. Retrying the level with as many mistakes as possible makes player more prone to try new things and ‘not give up’ even in difficult times.

Self-esteem, Self-confidence and Motivation: For retention, games greet and encourage players before and after every level. Many designers also include NPCs (in form of crowd or supporting characters) to support and encourage player to keep going.

Positive attitude and Growth mind set: Gamers, being prone to so many different difficulty levels have positive mindset when it comes to problem solving. They welcome challenges, look for opportunities, love to explore new things, think everything is possible and keep learning till the end.

Excellence: Most of the online games revolve around players competing with each other (e-sports). To excel at particular character of the game, players keep on practicing, researching about character, doing mock matches, they prioritize their goals, keep positive attitude and never give up.

Planning and Goal setting: Most of the games have a list of short- and long-term goals. Each player reads these goals and decides no-, low- and high- value task. He/she can now, according to his/her will, will decide which adventure to go on next. Lower level player may not able to defeat high-value mission, so he/she completes low-value missions to gain experience and then succeeds the high-value missions.

Decision making, Constructive thinking and Resource management: While playing strategy games, player has to build its ‘base’ and ‘army’ strong enough to defend and attack. Player learns decision making by choosing a troop from various options depending upon in-game resources (gold, silver, stone, wood, food, money, etc.). Player is also responsible for assigning troops at different location for different tasks which challenges to think critically.

Empathy, Trust and Emotional bonding: Video games have become a popular medium to induce empathy because they place the user in the scene. According to Ryan Green, "When someone talks about a video game, they use the pronoun 'I'. It gives you a platform to create immersion and engagement - a new level of empathy". Character’s pains become player’s pain and player gets connected with playing and non-playing characters.

Managing time: Worst part of playing games is that it is very time consuming. Gamers with good social life have a great balance between personal and professional life. Though at first, gamers tend to be addictive to games but in long-term people learn to manage time.

Leadership: Games with multiplayer feature increases team work, commitment and responsibility in a player. They respect the task their team has put and work together to achieve it. Multiplayer also increases leadership qualities as the players are managing real peoples and not just the non-playing characters.

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Advantage in Game Based Learning--->

Part 3: Examples-->

Part 4: Personal Suggestions and Conclusion-->


[1] Dell'Aquila, Elena, Davide Marocco, Michela Ponticorvo, Andrea Di Ferdinando, Massimiliano Schembri, and Orazio Miglino. Educational Games for Soft-skills Training in Digital Environments: New Perspectives. Switzerland: Springer, 2017.

[2] Soft skills. (2017, June 15). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 19:03, June 21, 2017, from

[3] Collins English Dictionary. Glasgow: HarperCollins, 2006.

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