A brief note on Serious Games for Training

Games have a vast history and have been an integral part of societies for a long time. All around the world, games are a popular means of recreation. Games exist in various forms; board games, sports, table top games, etc. With the advent of computers, another form of games, virtual games, are now used widely. The non-confrontational, yet realistic environs of gaming provide for a space where multiple ideas can co-exist, participants can learn from each other, experiment the consequences of their actions and learn from it. These, along with the immense popularity and appeal of gaming have been leveraged to help in training and education.


Clark Abt, in his seminal work, Serious Games (1970) defines them as games that have an “educational purpose and not intended to be played primarily for amusement”. However, using games for training is not something new. Serious games have been used for a while in the field of warfare to explore, plan, test and train military strategies and operations. War-gaming as it has been referred to in published literature has provided an ideal test bed for gaming methods as an exploration space. There are multiple other instances of serious games being used to train personnel:

  1. Institutions like Dubai Police, Lockheed Martin, ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems use the CryTek 3 Game engine to develop serious games for training.
  2. OLIVE (Online Interactive Virtual Environment) by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), has been used to develop multiple virtual games for training.
  3. Supervisor is a simulation built in close cooperation by Shell and Delft University of Technology. It is a serious game in which the player plays the role of a supervisor on a drilling site and is expected to handle hazardous situations, watch over personnel and take care of health safety and environment requirements.
  4. The e-adventure game engine has been used to develop various check list based training games.
  5. SafeWork SA is South Australia’s occupational health, safety and welfare (OHS) agency. They use both virtual games and table top exercises to train and educate students.
  6. Virtual Reality Technologies develop virtual reality based training to train coal miners.
  7. 3DiTeams is a first-person, multi-player virtual game developed by Virtual Heroes in collaboration with Duke University Medical Center. It is used for medical education and team training.

Players tend to experiment and explore more  in a game environment. Often, not following safety procedures and protocols results a very costly error, in the form of loss to human life, monetary losses and environmental losses. In a game, the players experience such losses in a realistic manner, thus sensitising them to the consequences of their actions, however small. Here are some examples where serious gaming based training has improved the adherence to protocols, performance and decision making capabilities of personnel:

  1. The Rosser Top Gun Laparoscopic Skills and Suturing Program, or Top Gun, is a training program for surgical residents in laparoscopy. Surgeons who played video games in excess of 3 hours per week showed 37% fewer errors and 27% faster completion, thus indicating a clear correlation between video game skill and surgical skill.
  2. The Office of Naval Research and Raytheon BBN Technologies have collaborated with University of Southern California to test, evaluate, and provide quantified research findings about the effectiveness of game-based training.  Damage Control Trainer (DCT), a 3D first-person game was tested with the US Navy recruits in November, 2008. Decision making errors were reduced by 50%, communication errors were reduced by up to 80%, and situational awareness and navigation skills were improved by 50%.
  3. Mining accidents are a common phenomenon and have for long been using virtual environments to train people in safety procedures. On an average ten haul truck accidents lead to fatalities, a virtual training environment was designed to investigate and train the drivers. After training, the control group had only drivers making non-fatal errors. Filigenzi et al. describe the results from the training simulation in this paper.

At Fields of View, we are working on designing and developing games for awareness, training, and planning. You can read more about how we use games here, and more about our games and the various other projects here.