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Serious Gaming

Erasmus University Rotterdam via Coursera


Have you ever wondered how playing games can help us to train people, deal with societal challenges or raise awareness of contemporary social issues?

In this MOOC you will learn the ins and outs of games that are designed with exactly those purposes in mind: serious games. We will define serious games and discuss the different types that have been developed. We will explain why people like to play them and what impact they may have. State of the art theories from game studies, philosophy and media psychology will be used to help you understand how serious games work and how they appeal to players. The potential impact of gaming is addressed in detail by discussing persuasive games, which aim at changing the player's attitude. Throughout the MOOC, theoretical insights will be illustrated with playful animations and case studies of serious games that are developed by world-class companies in the city of Rotterdam.

This MOOC is particularly interesting for you when you are a student considering to study digital media such as serious games, a professional interested in the opportunities these games may create for your organization, or a game developer who wants to know more about the impact serious games can have. Note that this MOOC will not teach you how to design a serious game.

Watch the teaser for this MOOC here:

Are you ready to broaden your vision on serious games? Join this course and be inspired!


  • Let the games begin: What are serious games?
    • Get ready to immerse yourself! This is the first week of the serious gaming course of Erasmus University Rotterdam. Although probably all of you have some personal experience with playing entertainment games – serious games are less known. To be able to study the subject, we first need to understand what serious games are. Therefore, we start this course by defining serious games and showing you what characteristics they have. Also, you might wonder if there is a clear difference between entertainment games and serious games; can entertainment games teach? Can serious games entertain? You will get an answer to these questions. Before we officially start, you might want to get an overview of the course and what you can expect the coming weeks. To make it easier for you to schedule your own learning path, we recommend that you watch the video: What can you expect of this course?
  • Introduction to game theory
    • Now that we know what serious games are, we take you a level deeper. In this module we will provide you with two perspectives on games: the cultural perspective and the psychological perspective. The cultural perspective shows us how play and culture are connected. Humans are playful, and play serves a social function in our society. The psychological perspective explains in more depth why we keep on playing a game, even though we sometimes lose or get stuck in a level. You will learn about what is so motivating about games. We will not only discuss theories, but also give you a practical example of a serious game that encourages commuters to leave their car at home more often.
  • Different types of serious games
    • From a brain training game to a game that simulates working in the emergency room in the hospital; throughout this MOOC, you will learn that serious games are applicable in various situations. In this module, we will introduce you to a taxonomy of serious games; a classification of the different kinds of serious games. Gamification is the lightest form of serious games - game elements are used in a non-game context. Simulations are the most immersive and 'serious' type of serious games. Players can actually practice a certain skill in a game.

      In this module, you will not only get explanation, you can also take a look at three case studies.
  • Persuasive Gaming
    • So far you have learned what serious games are, how they are different from entertainment games and other media products, and you have seen a range of domains where serious games can be used. This module, we will dive into the way serious games work. How can a game influence the attitude of a player? You will be introduced to persuasive games. Rhetoric and psychological theories will help you to understand how the process of persuasion works. And we will analyze in practice how persuasive games can help us to feel empathy for poverty-stricken teenagers, what it feels like to have autism or understand the impact of gun violence.
  • The Impact of Serious Games
    • By now you probably wonder to what extent serious games actually reach their desired outcome. This seems to be the million-dollar-question, because when an organization invests serious money in a serious game, they would like to be sure it works. But the answer is not that simple. To know more about impact, you need to know more about what it means, its complexities and understand what we already know about the impact of serious games. You will need this knowledge to be able to assess claims on certain impacts serious games can have. This module, we do not have a separate case-study, but we invited three serious games researchers to a round table in the studio, in which they will tell you about their own case studies and research projects. Put on your lab coat!
  • The Futures of Serious Games
    • This is the final module of this course. Now you know and understand many aspects of serious games, and are aware of state-of-the-art research concerning the persuasiveness and impact of serious games, it is interesting to look forward. Although we do not own a crystal ball, we will explore some possible futures of serious games. Will we be playing games in virtual reality, or will we guide our game characters with our brains? We will discuss two technological developments in more detail; virtual reality and augmented reality. But before we look forward, this module will also provide you with a brief overview of all the things we have discussed so far. At the end, you will find the final quiz to test your knowledge gained throughout this course. Good luck!

Taught by

Jeroen Jansz and Mijke Slot


4.7 rating, based on 3 Class Central reviews

4.5 rating at Coursera based on 295 ratings

Start your review of Serious Gaming

  • Profile image for Pilar Reyes
    Pilar Reyes

    Pilar Reyes completed this course, spending 3 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.

    Excellent course. Students have the opportunity to learn about the main features of serious games (definition, how they work, kinds of serious games and other topics). Videos are engaging because learners are encouraged to participate not only by answering questions about content, but also to answer short surveys or give their opinions, etc. Also, learners are invited to try some games in order to get familiar with these kind of games. The suggested readings are very interesting (I read most of them). Teachers are nice and enthusiastic. Finally, I liked the course because I had enough time to review concepts and also to play the games. In short, I learned without feeling overwhelmed.
  • Profile image for Auke Maat
    Auke Maat

    Auke Maat completed this course, spending 3 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.

    A good course to give insight into serious gaming. Some thinking involved in the different aspects that are covered. Very good coverage of the basics.
  • Profile image for Monica Guimaraes
    Monica Guimaraes

    Monica Guimaraes completed this course.

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