Serious by Design? A study on serious game designers and their perspectives on serious games

Konstantin Mitgutsch


The hopeful and, at times, unsubstantiated rhetoric surrounding the potentials of serious games has reached a new level in recent years: It is claimed that "Gaming can make a better world". Even though first studies on the impacts of games for social change were conducted in the last decade knowledge on their effectiveness is still lacking. But while the serious game advocates and their critics dispute the possible potentials and obvious limits, we know little about what the makers of these serious games think about their creations. The following study intends to give leading serious games designers a voice to express their perspectives - a perspective that might surprise both advocates and critics of serious games.
In this paper, results of a qualitative study on 15 leading serious game designers and their perspectives on serious games will be outlined and discussed. The study demonstrates that serious game designers have well-established, critical and reflective perspectives on what their games can and cannot do. It is also reveals that the line between artistic expression and instructional design is a thin one and that the "serious" interpretation of games does not always meet the designers intentions. Finally, the study gives insights into the potentials and limits of serious games and future potentials for their development.