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  • ellie0205

Fun and games in healthcare education

I love games and creating educational games, but when pitching new game ideas, I've encountered reservations. These reservations seem to stem from two main concerns. Firstly, the term 'game' often evokes thoughts of childhood, non-serious content, and joy. In healthcare education, the idea of joy often clashes with the seriousness of the subject matter. Our most recent projects around cancer, depression and the menopause are not seen to be joyful and developing a game to educate on these topics can be seen as insensitive. Secondly, games are often associated with competition. The prevalence of points, badges, and leaderboards in online learning can make healthcare professionals rightly hesitant at affixing gamification to serious topics.

"Serious games," "applied games," or even "simulation games" are designed with a primary purpose beyond pure entertainment, focusing on training, education, and skill development. Unlike gamification, which involves integrating game-like elements to motivate and engage learners, serious games are full-fledged games with educational objectives woven into their core mechanics and narratives. However, the stigma associated with the word "game" can still cause some issues. In this blog, I will make the case for games in healthcare education, share some examples of games we have created, and discuss ways of designing serious games.

Games for change

Can one interested to learning more about serious game should check out the Games for Change website:

I have picked out a couple of games that I really like that showcase some of the ways in which games can create lived experiences and develop empathy:

"Change: A Homeless Survival Experience" is one of those games where the structure of the game variables, such as money, mood, and level of hygiene, brings the experience to life. The odds are stacked against you, and turning a lived experience into metrics reveals this struggle in a way that wouldn't be visible otherwise. Furthermore, by playing the character, you tangibly experience the person's challenges, sharing the struggle to balance life's metrics.

"Before I Forget" is a beautiful game about living with dementia. It focuses less on game metrics and more on a non-linear narrative. Again, you are playing as the person, which I think is a really effective strategy for eliciting empathy. Through interaction with the space, you piece together the story, which effectively showcases the fragmentation of thoughts experienced by someone with dementia.

Both of these games are quite substantial and likely can't be completed within the 30-40 minutes typically allotted for training sessions. Additionally, they might be too costly to commission. There are also considerations for designing games for users who may have very little experience with computer games. However, I believe there is much to learn from these more commercial solutions in the serious games market that can be applied to smaller projects.

ListenIn: Supporting older people with depression

EL Learning Design has developed a few different types of games, but the most sizable is "ListenIn." This game was designed for the Older Adults Mental Health Team as part of a project to help healthcare professionals spot the signs of depression in older people. ListenIn is an interactive story game where you play the role of a befriender, exploring the stories of three different characters as you build trust and understand their individual stories.

There were a few design considerations. Importantly, the entire gameplay was kept under 20 minutes while ensuring that the experience was immersive enough to convey individual stories and develop empathy. Another consideration was ensuring that learners with limited experience playing these types of games could navigate the game easily. Lastly, creating the characters and dialogue was crucial. We worked with our stakeholder group and expert advisory group and spoke to care home residents to ensure the cases were appropriate and the dialogue suited the learning objectives.


As educational theorist David Kolb explains, experiential learning involves a cyclical process where learners go through concrete experiences, reflect on these experiences, conceptualise abstractly, and then actively experiment based on their new understanding (Kolb, 1984). Serious games serve as catalysts for this cycle, offering a secure environment for experimentation and introspection. Through this, learners can internalise and apply learning objectives with greater efficacy. As we evolve as a company, I hope that EL Learning Design to expand its repertoire of serious games. Moreover by challenging the misconceptions surrounding gaming, more learners can harness immersive experiences that surpass the confines of traditional text or video-based e-learning.

If you work the NHS to access the full training here:

For more details about this project visit:

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