You are here: Home News GALA Blog

Serious Games



Call for papers

Literature news


General news

A Case for Ethics Education supported by Serious Games

E-mail Print PDF

Why is ethics important?

To answer this apparently simple question we must first attempt at understanding the concept of ethics. Based on Wikipedia’s definition I summarize it as the systematization of recommendations (through cultures and habits) of what is right or wrong with the ulterior aim to guide humans on the best way to live both their personal and social lives.

However, only by applying this definition closer to our daily lives can we formulate an answer. The reality is that we as individuals or as part of institutions make many daily decisions that should carry ethical considerations.

As individuals we may easily find examples of ethical dilemmas between honesty and personal gain. Let’s not forget the impact that honest/dishonest behaviors may have on trust, and then the impact that trust may have, ranging from friendship to social structures, international relations and financing [1]. As for institutional impact, we may easily find them in recent history [2]. For instance, take the last financial crisis and the dilemma between financing restrictions experienced in several European countries and healthcare accessibility [3]. Another example in many businesses relates to the need to cut expenses and the conditions they provide for their workers [4] or the selection of materials/processes used for manufacturing and their cost versus environmental impact [5].

As we can see, our societies and we ourselves are nowadays frequently faced with several decisions that should contain many ethical considerations. However, the failure to address these considerations where they are due has frequently led us to situations of weakened social relations and continued harm to our environment and several populations worldwide [2][6][7]. The importance of promoting change with regard to ethical capabilities is, from my perspective, a very important issue in all aspects of our lives.

How can (serious) games help?

Ethics can be taught not only as a philosophical subject but also in applied domains such as ethics for healthcare, politics or business. A fundamental process for teaching ethics relates to empowering learners with ethical analysis competences by exposing them to ethical dilemmas and discussing them in the frames of the ethics theories to be taught. Based on this, serious games can facilitate the presentation of ethically challenging scenarios and promote ethical behavior by providing learners with elements of thought helpful to address and rationalize the presented ethical issues. One should note that this is substantially different from exposing the user to a moral message in which the moral thought is already formulated. Instead, ethical problems should emerge according to contextual game interactions and discussed accordingly.

Despite questions raised previously [8] regarding the ability to teach ethics with games, the fact is that games may at least be used as a valuable teaching tool to present ethical dilemmas in an engaging way and foster the discussion of the underlying ethical challenges. A good example of this is Tobias Staaby, a Norwegian high school teacher who teaches an ethics class using well known games like “The Walking Dead”, “Journey”, “The Last of Us” and “GTA V” [9]. It seems that these games are “a good catalyst for discussions about ethical theories or ethical dilemmas” [10] and according to Staaby it has been a very effective tool because students become very motivated and engaged in the subject, which results in better learning.

What we see in this case is that existing commercial games are re-purposed based on the situations and decisions they present the players to stem analysis and discussion of the ethical issues behind them. However, we can do better. With serious games we are not limited to a range of topics and situations existing in those games but we can actually create the adequate situations for teaching ethics in any domain we intend. Furthermore, and beyond these commercial games, we can include curricular content in game as guidance and supporting material. Despite a current gap [11] in the development of games for ethics and (a possibly more serious gap in) their uptake for effectively teaching ethics, there are already some good examples:

-        Global Conflicts: The series allows students to explore and learn about different conflicts throughout the world and the underlying themes of democracy, human rights, globalization, terrorism, climate and poverty. The game series is easy to use for teachers and is developed with close attention to curriculum requirements and ease of use in classroom teaching [12]. One of especial interest is the Sweatshops title that, among other issues, exposes Bangladesh child labor in hazardous conditions as an underlying condition for having cheap goods in the Western countries.

-        Business Ethics Challenge: it is game that enables employees in sales situations to learn about ethics in business by balancing sales targets and company reputation in decisions. The game was developed as part of the Novo Nordisk approach to business ethics and responsible business practices.

Now what?

The goal of this post is to share my view over the importance of upholding ethical behavior and their positive effects in our societies and how we have barely explored the potential of using serious games to better teach ethics. Despite its typical abstract context, considering the range of topics it covers and the possibility or hypothesis of teaching ethics with games, I believe that serious games may offer a significant help in teaching ethics by presenting people with ethical dilemma situations that originate the discussion of the ethical problems, helping develop ethical analysis capabilities.

When compared to already existing games, serious games have the disadvantage that they require investment in game design to ensure similar levels of engagement. However, they have the advantages of better framing and integrating specific class subjects/material and, in this way, providing class specific ethical dilemmas as case studies.

In the end on key barriers to the adoption of serious games for educating in ethics is the knowledge about the importance of ethics and how these games may help. In order to generate such awareness and subsequent uptake, we must advocate for ethical behavior and disseminate the motivating factors for ethics education and serious games as a possibly valuable teaching tool to help achieve it.

[1] Social Trust and Human Communities

[2] After the Financial Crisis: The Ethics and Economics Debate Revisited

[3] Impacts of the crisis on access to healthcare services in the EU

[4] Bangladesh’s garment industry to improve working conditions in partnership with UN

[5] 20 products that could use an eco-friendly facelift

[6] Survey Says 'Wall Street Is Facing An Ethical Crisis'

[7] Three Ethical Dimensions of the Financial Crisis

[8] Can one really teach Ethics with games?

[9] Tobias Staaby @ CounterPlay

[10] Norwegian high school teacher uses The Walking Dead to teach ethics

[11] Serious Games for Personal and Social Learning & Ethics: Status and Trends

[12] Global Conflicts Teaching Material


Games and gamification for learning workshop

E-mail Print PDF

Coventry University, UK organised a conference devoted to teaching and learning from 26th- 27th June 2014 providing a forum for the sharing and development of best practice in Global Higher Education and opportunities for wider collaboration, development and networking. The event targeted the community at Coventry University promoting innovation in teaching and learning practices.

One of the interactive workshop sessions was a session dedicated to Games and Gamification for Learning. The session was led by the newly set up Disruptive Media Learning Lab (Dr Sylvester Arnab) in partnership with the Serious Games Institute (Dr Craig Stewart) and Playgen Ltd (Kam Star). The session discussed the potential of using games and gamification in supporting teaching and learning aiming to trigger debates and thoughts on the application of game technology and approach within the participants’ existing practices. The participants were from various backgrounds and disciplines, including researchers, lecturers, teachers, head of departments, learning technologists, business support officers, managers and Course Directors, with disciplines covering engineering, computing, midwifery, language, entrepreneurship, healthcare, life sciences, business, art and design, media studies and architecture.

The interactive workshop includes a play-session (using Playgen’s AddingPlay Game Design cards[1]), where participants were able to design game-based solutions to address the challenges within the context of higher education, specifically teaching and learning practices. Sessions on both days (26th and 27th) went very well with a total of 41 participants taking away new perspectives and ideas on potential solutions to challenges within their own practices.  


The word cloud of the key challenges identified by the participants is as illustrated below.

Workshop wordle

The challenges can be grouped into pre (orientation), during and post university. Learners should be given opportunities to know what to expect and be aware of the right courses to take to reflect their interests and career aspiration before entering university. The expectation of what a university life is like is also an important issue that was identified. The groups suggested that a quest-like gamification to help students oriented would be desirable.

Motivation, engagement, attendance and critical thinking are the four key highlights for challenges at the university. Peer rating, support and empowerment has been identified as one of the potential game mechanics involving using tokens for rewarding quality, criticality and usability of peer feedback, comments, interaction and discussions within a formal course setting, which could be translated into module points or marks.

Post-university challenges involve employability. Identifying the right career choice and direction is key to optimising the potential of the students, which has a similar aim as the pre-university expectation of what courses to undertake. The students should be supported throughout their university experience to make an informed choices on modules and courses that would equip them, promoting employability.

This exercise has been very beneficial for the workshop team and the participants and more of this kind of interactive discourse will be organised in the near future.

Coventry University’s Disruptive Media Learning Lab is designed as a cross-University experimental unit that will provide support for new and on-going pedagogic development in new and disruptive technological spaces. The Lab draws upon areas from which the University has established a track record of innovation, e.g, the Serious Games Institute, which has pioneered the use of games science in educational content delivery and the Media Department’s teaching and learning ‘experiments’ with Open Media Classes.

Contact Dr Sylvester Arnab, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for more information.

Tweet: @sarnab75    @disrupt_learn

Last Updated ( Monday, 14 July 2014 14:54 )

Most Excellent Game

E-mail Print PDF

Measuring the effectiveness of a Serious Game, Gamification or any other Applied Game must form a critical component of any production. Whether the research is carried out from a scientific perspective, to show financial return on investment or to simply help to identify what worked and didn’t and why.

Unfortunately most developers and even some researchers are not well equipped for considering the key questions that could be asked. And learning the full scope of questions which could be asked is a big part of what’s missing from a developer’s toolkit. This then leads to the same narrowly defined set of questions, such as did they learn what they needed to learn - which seems harmless but has no depth. This is clearly insufficient, as causality is often focused primarily on a few dimensions of the game to the ignorance of all other possible elements.

As a network of excellence in games and learning, GALA has a responsibility to spread scientific excellence in the space of applied games and gamification. And whilst a considerable amount of material has been developed in the past 4 years to facilitate this, the concern for me as part of PlayGen an applied gaming R&D studio, and a GALA partner, is the accessibility and immediate usability of this scientific know-how by our designers, developers and in conversations with clients and partners.

Enter ‘Most Excellent Game’. A toolkit designed to facilitates the process of developing research and evaluation questions for games.

Given that the majority of game developers are not scientifically trained in the art and science of crafting evaluation questions and research hypotheses to pursue when measuring the impact of their creations - a toolkit using a set of cards and game boards provides a simplified method for solving this.


The Cards :  There are roughly 60 cards in 5 suites ; Context, Participant, Quality, Game Play and Impact, these are then divided into sub groups including :


Context : The Team, Organisational Policy, Game Domain

Participant : Personality, Professional Involvement, Background, As a Game, As a Learner

Quality : Artefacts, Satisfaction, Learning

Gameplay : Emotional Response, Player Behaviour, Game Elements

Impact : Learning Goals and Learning Outcomes



How it’s played : The ‘game’ is played using a deck of cards on two boards, each board representing one part. Part 1 is about identifying the most relevant elements that are of interest to the developer, researcher, client, end-user - or indeed any stakeholder’s point of view that is deemed the most relevant. Part 2 is concerned with concocting the research hypotheses.


The toolkit builds on the substantial works produced by GALA partners within and outside the project. It will be ready to use shortly, watch this space.


Last Updated ( Monday, 14 July 2014 14:55 )

The PPSM card game - Exploring Serious Games Mechanics via a Card Game

E-mail Print PDF

This year, GALA is organising a series of Serious Game Mechanics (SGMs) workshops in order to disseminate, collect and validate current developing knowledge in the area of SGMs. This work is a collaboration between Gala partners (HWU BiBA, SGI, UNIGE, OUNL, COVUNI, MAN and CNR).

One aspect of these workshops is a card-based game developed in order to engage participants in actively thinking about the design and impact of a Serious Game Mechanic when used in context. The PPSM (Purpose, Process and Structure Methodology) card game activity has been conducted at both Gamedays (Darmstadt) and GALA (Bucharest) conferences and education at Heriot-Watt University (UK) with game design students. In this post, we discuss the card game design and the rationale behind its design. 

The aim of the PPSM card game is really to provide participants with Serious Game design elements such as generic game mechanics along with pedagogy-related concepts and statements. The overall purpose of the game is for participants to consider a wide range of activities with regards to specific topics in order to creatively describe existing or novel Serious Game Mechanics. As we mentioned in a previous blog, Context is essential in determining what is or isn’t a Serious Game Mechanic. A simple game mechanic can act as a serious game component by providing content or context to an educational activity in one situation or just act as a simple game mechanic with no other purpose than to entertain in another situation. 

The PPSM card game was designed so as to explore the diversity of participants' understanding of game-based learning and their ability to be creative in finding educational solutions by facilitating dialogue in a fun and creative way. Like any other game, the PPSM card-game has rules (see below): 



PPSM Card Game (Rules)


Game Participants

(2–7 players per group)

The aim for this game is for the players or groups of players to match game-play techniques and learning approaches towards answering a simple statement.


Setting up the Game

Each group of players will be provided with a set of Game-play cards (Orange) and Learning Cards (Green). The players will then be provided with statement cards (Blue) one at a time. Each player is dealt 3 Orange cards and 3 Green cards. 1 Blue card is assigned to the group and 1 White blank example card is also provided to the group.


Aim of the Game

It is to the players to combine the Orange and Green cards available to them in order to collectively complete the statement in the best possible way. Once a statement is completed, the group will hand-in the cards (Blue, Orange and Green) to the panel experts along with a fictional example (on a White blank card).

On delivery of a statement card, the experts will issue the group with another Blue card and replace Orange and Green cards to compensate for the ones already submitted.



The expert panel will be made of experts in instructional design, serious game research, pedagogy and serious game design. On reception of a statement, the expert panel will read and discuss the pedagogic or ludic values of the solution proposed by the statement and its accompanying example. On the basis of this discussion, the panel will decide to allocate 0 – 3 – 6 or 9 points for each statement.

Allocated points will be fed through to the groups during the game.





The cards have been designed so as to reflect common game mechanics (SCVNGR - and well-known pedagogical approaches (Gagne, GEL Learning Paradigms, the CRESST model of learning and Gee’s learning principles for good games). 


Gameplay exampleTeaching ExampleStatement Example




The card game has also been used in education at Heriot-Watt University for introducing the notions of Serious Games Mechanics to Computer Science and Game Design students in 4th year. The exercise takes between 1 and 1.5 hour per set of 10 statement card. 


Last Updated ( Monday, 14 July 2014 14:56 )

Last Call for Papers - European Conference in the Applications of Enabling Technologies (ECAET)

E-mail Print PDF

Last call for papers for European Conference in the Applications of Enabling Technologies (ECAET), 20-21 November 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.

The ECAET is an international refereed conference dedicated to the advancement of the theory and practices in the use of Web2.0 technologies in education, leisure and business. The ECAET promotes collaborative excellence between academics and professionals from a range of disciplines providing an opportunity for researchers from various fields with cross-disciplinary interests to bridge the knowledge gap, promote research esteem and the evolution of the usage and uptake of technology. ECAET 2014 invites research papers that encompass conceptual analysis, design implementation and performance evaluation. All the accepted papers will appear in the proceedings and modified versions of selected papers will be published in special issues of peer reviewed journals.

There is a strand covering Serious Games with paper deadline of 11 July 2014.

We will be launching 2 new 3D Serious Games that have been developed for Scottish Government bodies around health and social services integration.

The full call can be found at:


Impressions from the GALA 2014 Conference

E-mail Print PDF

The 2014 edition of GALA conference was held last week from July, 2nd till 4th in the beautiful city of Bucharest. This edition was organized by Carol I National Defense University and the University of Genoa with the active sponsorship of the GALA European Network of Excellent and the Serious Games Society. Besides being a very joyful event from the cultural point of view since we enjoyed of the Rumanian hospitality and very well organized cultural and gastronomical tours. It was a good opportunity to meet different actors concerned with the design, implementation and deployment of games as active support to the learning processes in different contexts.

One of the most interesting contributions, from my personal point of view and considering its possible impact on the SG industry, was: “A Conceptual Model towards the Scaffolding of Learning Experience” by Sylvester Arnab, Pablo Moreno-Ger, Theo Lim, Petros Lameras, Maurice Hendrix, Kristian Kiili and Jannicke Baalsrud Hauge. It was presented during the Technological session on Thursday July 3rd by Sylvester Arnad on behalf of the authoring team.

The presentation introduced us to a conceptual model resulting of the research and development activities of a group of GALA partners. Such conceptual model is composed of an ecosystem and architecture, which supports the deployment of game-based learning and teaching experiences within formal settings.

The ecosystem, based on a participatory design approach, aims at supporting capturing and reasoning of large scale educational data for engaging sources and better understanding of learner’s knowledge, evaluate their progress and providing actionable feedback to all relevant stakeholders (learners, teachers, parents, school administrative personnel and state/regional educational bodies representatives).

Meanwhile the architecture provides the technical components to facilitate the achievement of the ecosystem goals, through the interaction and collaboration of the following three main technical infrastructures:

Learning analytics systems and models (implemented as the GLEANER framework [1] to track learners/players activities, analyse their in-game activities and provide some personalized feedback and actionable steps).

Mapping pedagogical patterns to game mechanics (to facilitate the reasoning of in-game interactions related to learning, implemented through the Learning-Game Mechanics mapping LM-GM framework [2]).

The User modelling and adaptive modeling components, the first one includes cognitive models, prior knowledge and learning preferences to describe learner characteristics, meanwhile the second one provides information about adapting contents, mechanics dynamics and aesthetics in order to facilitate the learner’s personalization of contents and interactions and to adapt the learning experience to his/her different abilities and preferences.

The availability of such conceptual framework represents a step forward in the provision of flexible and intelligent frameworks capable of optimizing the learning environment resources with wider applicability, better interoperability. It also facilitates a better understanding of the learners’ current knowledge, preferences and assessment of their learning, provision of personalization and support in the achievement of their learning goals. Moreover this type of framework helps to gather tangible evidences about game-based leaning processes’ effectiveness that can help on broader uptake of game-based innovative learning solutions.

All details about this presentation and other contributions to the 2014 GALA Conference can be found at

[1] Serrano-Laguna, Á., Marchiori E. J. et al. A framework to improve evaluation in educational games. In Proceedings of the IEEE Engineering Education Conference (EDUCON), Marrakesh, Morocco, April, 2011

[2] Lim, T., Louchart, S., Suttie, N., Ritchie, J.M., Aylett, R.S., Stănescu, I.A., Roceanu, I., Martinez-Ortiz, I., Moreno-Ger, P. (2012) In Press. Strategies for Effective Digital Games Development and Implementation. Youngkyun Baek & Nicola Whitton, (Eds) Cases on Digital Game-Based Learning: Methods, Models, and Strategies, IGI Global, 168-198. DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2848-9.ch010.

Last Updated ( Monday, 07 July 2014 13:21 )
  • «
  •  Start 
  •  Prev 
  •  1 
  •  2 
  •  3 
  •  4 
  •  5 
  •  6 
  •  7 
  •  8 
  •  9 
  •  10 
  •  Next 
  •  End 
  • »
Page 1 of 23
feed-image GALA feed