Serious games under the microscope


In recent years the development of serious games has attracted considerable interest among companies not only at the international level but also here in Flanders. Serious games primarily aim at achieving certain educational goals and thus not solely have an entertainment purpose. On policy levels, interest in the educational and societal potential of digital games is growing, which is associated with a larger demand of research in this field.

The growing number of publications concerning effectiveness of serious games in combination with the diversity of methods used in these studies, has led to inconsistent results. As a consequence it has become almost impossible to make generalizing statements about the impact of serious games. Equally for making comparisons across studies or statements about its validity based on the research methods.

A standard procedure for measuring the effectiveness of serious games would create a clearer image of the real impact of serious games in diverse contexts and in this way, stimulate the game industry.

Research design

This PhD project aims to develop a standard procedure to measure the effectiveness of serious games in terms of cognitive learning outcomes.

In the context of serious games, effectiveness consists of two elements: effectiveness in terms of educational goals and intrinsic motivation to play the game. This standard procedure will be structured according to the following elements:

  1. Preparation of the study (criteria concerning recruitment respondents, game, etc.)
  2. Research design (respondents’ task, measures used, etc.)
  3. Statistical analyses
  4. Reporting

A first version of the procedure will be developed at the end of the first year of the PhD. A requirements analysis, consisting of a systematic literature review and expert interview, will provide the basis for this first attempt.

In a second phase, the procedure will be validated by means of three empirical studies.

In a third phase, this project will aim at achieving an international character, by presenting an adjusted version of the procedure to ITU-T, the department of the International Telecommunication Union that aims at the development of standards with regard to ICT.

Duration of the project

The project runs from 01/01/2013 - 31/12/2016.

Staff involved

  • Prof. dr. Jan Van Looy
  • Anissa All

Financed by


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