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Can Serious Games be Fun

Games made for educational purposes or to support an idea (serious games), can be seen as boring in many cases compared to many AAA titles. There are many differences between the two, but there are players that can find enjoyment into serious games.

Tyler T King, Blogger

June 27, 2022

6 Min Read


When one thinks of serious games, they think it is not exciting or not entertaining like most games in the AAA industry. Most people would be correct by the assumption. Serious games are games used to train or increase the learning of a certain subject. They offer content that is supposed to develop more than entertainment and more of a learning experience. These games are the same way we view other forms of entertainment like books and film. Some books give instructions on how to train an individual to do a task or prefer a manual of instructions. Movies use documentaries for the audience to gain knowledge. Serious games are in the same concept as it teaches oneself through interaction with the environment. Simulations can be a form of serious games that add more the element of interactivity. There are more seen as imitations of reality and mostly used for training-oriented experience. Simulations are more applicable for training for real-life circumstances. Serious games can be entertaining, and they could use concepts from entertainment games to create a fun learning experience.

Difference Between Serious and Entertainment Games

Before accessing how to make serious games fun, let’s compare serious games and games that aim more for the entertainment side. For instance, they have a level of interactivity that is not found in other mediums. Although games aim to be slightly abstract from reality, both serious games and entertainment-based games have that element that makes audiences want to engage in a game. Unlike books and movies, serious games and entertainment games allow hands-on experience. It allows the person to transport themselves in a different world that can be interactable.

Another key comparison between serious and entertainment-based games is the user interface and feedback. Games have an interface where it could be notifications about a certain event or listing tasks for the player. For serious games, they tend to be more friendly in this area as they often let know if the player is doing something wrong and ways of improvement. Games that are based on entertainment do the same as they enact players to think of other strategies after going through a failed trial.

Both serious and entertainment games, they both bring emotion to the players. While games with entertainment have evoked versions of excitement, serious games can bring the same level of excitement. When playing a serious game about financial literacy, one can gain excitement from getting rid of debt or paying off bills. These are two different forms of entertainment, but they can enact the same types of emotion.

What Can Make Serious Games Fun?

Before going into making serious games fun, one must know the kind of fun that will be displayed to the target audience. It goes into the fundamentals of game design. Robin Hunicke mentions, “In describing the aesthetics of a game, we want to move away from words like fun and gameplay towards a more directed vocabulary (Hunicke, LeBlanc, & Zubek, 2004).” This statement points toward describing the type of fun rather than using the word. There are eight kinds of fun in game design: sensation, fantasy, narrative, challenge, fellowship, discovery, expression, and submission. If one uses these different definitions of fun, then it starts the process of making a serious game fun.

Moreover, serious games can be entertaining in some ways. Although it is seen as more of a learning experience, learning through a game can make for a fun learning experience. One of the ways to make a serious game fun is to have engaging gameplay. The way one could make engaging gameplay is by going into gamification. It allows game designers to develop tasks by adding game elements like a win or lose scenario or time-based objectives. Landers suggests, “Varying learner attitudes and behaviors can create substantial differences in learning, although the degree to which these attitudes and behaviors are impactful varies by construct (Landers, 2015).” The concept could be implemented to create various behaviors during gameplay and enact more motivation into the subject.

Another way to make a serious game fun is the challenge. Serious games can be easy or hard depending on the gameplay, but players often want a challenge in their games. It’s a way to bring excitement to players when game designers bring such gameplay as beating a high score or difficulty of a goal. Lomas states, “While software design portrays “ease of use” as an essential quality, game design is based on the idea that players seek to challenge (Lomas, Patel, Forlizzi, & Koedinger, 2013).” The reason the player decides to pick up a game is to have a challenge out of it. It doesn’t mean that the game has to be difficult to be fun and have some nuance to each goal that isn’t too simple. Challenge is a way to push for more learning results in the process.

In comparison, a fun way to make the serious game engaging is by adding narrative or story elements. Serious games can use narrative designs to make the player more immersed in their game setting. A lot of entertaining games use stories to motivate the player. Growth Engineering mentions, “When creating a serious game, the game’s story can be used to reinforce the company’s values and add a level of learning (What Are Serious Games? 2016).” Story elements can make a serious game more engaging and bring the player to want to learn about the subject. In many story games in entertainment, the stories create curiosity among players to further their experience. If serious games can add some story elements, it can make for a fun learning experience.

Also, there’s a method that can be followed when developing serious games called Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment (DDA). It’s a way of implementing mechanics without the player even realizing it. Tremblay states, “Following the system assessment, the system chooses the data that reflects the player’s state of flow (Tremblay, Bouchard, & Bouzuane, 2010).” DDA functions to keep the flow of the game when the player is going through challenges. For example, when a player answers a question incorrectly, a display might pop up to lean the player in the right direction. DDA can make for a rewarding experience when accessing the player’s skill and applying it through challenges.


Overall, serious games can be fun but still have their learning objectives. From entertainment to serious games, they both have interesting game mechanics, have user interface and feedback, and cause emotion within the player. If serious games use methods of gamification, challenge, story elements, and DDA then it could make for a fun learning experience for the audience. Serious games are supposed to be used as a learning tool or way to gain information, but there can be elements of fun that can make for a fun experience.

Works Cited

Hunicke, R., LeBlanc, M., & Zubek, R. (2004). MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research. Retrieved from AAAI: https://www.aaai.org/Papers/Wo...

Landers, R. N. (2015). Developing a Theory of Gamified Learning: Linking Serious Games and the Gamification of Learning. Retrieved from Research Gate: https://www.researchgate.net/p...

Lomas, D., Patel, K., Forlizzi, J. L., & Koedinger, K. R. (2013, April). Optimizing Challenge in an Educational Game Using. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/v...

Tremblay, J., Bouchard, B., & Bouzuane, A. (2010). ADAPTIVE GAME MECHANICS FOR LEARNING PURPOSES: making serious games playable and fun. Retrieved from Semantic Scholar: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.o...

What Are Serious Games? (2016, March 1). Retrieved from Growth Engineering: https://www.growthengineering....

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