Serious game development process: our two cents

by Kadri Haljas @ 11.08.2017

Serious game development process: our two cents

This post is an easy read on some of the things we have learned about the development of serious games.

Serious games development is a challenging process and not only because as a process, the development of a serious game is rather more complex than that of games for entertainment purposes. But especially because from time to time you find yourself not fitting in. I mean that you are standing in between two sectors where gaming industry people think that you are just creating another app (that is first of all on a too difficult topic) and domain experts (depending on the field these include for example doctors and nurses in healthcare sector and teachers in educational sector) that it is just another game (although a purposeful one). In our case, we have one foot in the healthcare sector as our solution supports the goals of treatment for children. Our other foot is deeply in the gaming business as we are using game environment as a tool to reach out to children. That leaves us with zero additional feet but at least we still have our hands that help us to juggle between two sectors that are incredibly different. Not surprisingly, this is actually an advantage – you can take the best from both sides.

First, and foremost, take advantage of the knowledge around you. Learn about the domain from domain experts and learn more about gaming from the entertainment and engagement perspective from game industry experts. You will surely find everyone helpful, don’t ever isolate yourself and your idea, feedback is the key.

It is easy for me to say that take advantage of the knowledge, interact and constantly learn more, whereas at the same time it is incredibly time consuming. It is a balancing question in later stages but when you are in early stages, then I recommend you to fully commit to gaining as much of the knowledge as you can, you will highly benefit from it afterwards. Of course learning from your own mistakes is the best teacher but sometimes inventing the wheel is more time consuming than learning from the people who invented it in the first place. These people will help you to move forward, I promise.

In the startup world we are all very good in saying that we use iterative agile methods in cooperation with different stakeholders, am I right? The key is to commit to it. Constant feedback from stakeholders needs to always been taken into account which brings us back to the whole process being time consuming. But you know what, don’t expect to get quickly done with your serious game development. It is highly demanding, time consuming and complicated process. It’s not like you are able to have a quick idea for a simple game, something like a Flappy Bird in the serious games field. The need for a serious game needs to come from stakeholders and the game design has to always follow the overarching goals of the game. Take your time in all areas throughout the process. Creating the game concept requires game design expertise and domain expertise together with the input from experts and customers and the implementation of the actual game requires a full team. Active participation and input of domain experts in game development is crucial to success. A collaboration with professionals from an early design stage is necessary to ensure that the content is valid. Users need to be involved, especially to improve usability. Some research for those interested!

On the other hand, always keep the scope under control. Be realistic with what you can accomplish and set deadlines and goals to meet your production timeline. Sometimes the input from all of the experts can be overwhelming so always be realistic with what you can do.

Over and out!