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                             Imaginetic · Lessons Learned Simulations and Training
Serious Games: Humanitarian User Research

                                                                                                                                                                                              p. iii
                                                                                                                            that games are poor standalone learning tools,
                                                                                                                            and work better when used in coordination with
                                                                                                                            a variety of teaching methodologies.


                                                                                                                            The research which informs this report took place
                                                                                                                            across six face-to-face workshops, conducted by
                                                                      This report and the research which informs it are     an experienced facilitator in January 2020. Three
                                                                      intended to explore the potential applicability of    workshops were held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 21-
                                                                      serious games and games-based learning to the         23 January, and three were held in Amman, Jordan,
                                                                      humanitarian sector, particularly in the context      from 27-29 January. Each workshop was run with
                                                                      of localization. Serious games are increasingly       between 4 and 17 self-selected participants.
                                                                      being adopted as training tools in other fields,      Participants played through a selection of digital
                                                                      but have seen slow adoption in the humanitarian       and tabletop games, after which facilitated
                                                                      sector (Brynen and Milante, 2013).                    debriefings took place. Participants were surveyed
                                                                                                                            before, during and after the workshops. See
                                                                      Why should humanitarian training teams employ         Section “2.1 Research Overview and Design” for
                                                                      learning games? Students are more likely to           a complete breakdown.
                                                                      learn when they are interested in what they are
                                                                      learning (Garris et al., 2002). Serious games are                                         Key Findings
                                                                      demonstrably effective learning tools. Games
                                               E XEC UT IVE SUMMARY   have been found to be particularly effective in:        ◆   People demonstrated an ability to learn
                                                                      promoting skill acquisition, knowledge retention,           from games in the humanitarian context.
                                                                      attitudinal change, supporting understanding                Participants were able to recall lessons
                                                                      of new concepts and ideas, shaping behaviour,               even long after the fact, up to 45 days after
                                                                      and improving context-based problem solving                 the workshops. Participants reported that
                                                                      (Klabber, 2003; Mateas, 2003; Prensky, 2001; Ricci,         engagement with games impacted their
                                                                      Salas, & Cannon-Bowers, 1996). The capacity to              behaviour at work, their approach to work,
                                                                      safely fail in serious games is a key component             and their relationships with beneficiaries
                                                                      of their value as a learning tool. Failure has              even 45 days after the workshops.
                                                                      been identified as an integral part of learning             ▷ See section “3.3 Effectiveness of Games-
                                                                      (Anderson et al. 2018).                                         Based Learning in Humanitarian Work”

                                                                      Through “real life” problem solving, serious games
                                                                      have the capacity to help humanitarian students
                                                                      more deeply understand and critically engage
                                                                      with important issues. Experiential Learning
                                                                      Theory and Situated Learning Theory help explain
                                                                      why this is the case. According to Experiential
                                                                      Learning Theory (ELT), individuals learn most
                                                                      from direct experience, active participation, and

                                                                                                                                                                                  Serious Games: Humanitarian User Research
                                                                      visible feedback on the consequences of their
                                                                      actions. Situated Learning Theory (SLT) likewise
                                                                      suggests that people learn better when placed
                                                                      in authentic contexts to perform actions that
                                                                      parallel real world tasks, interacting with others
                                                                      and applying knowledge. Games apply these
                                                                      theories by creating experiences that reflect real-
                                                                      life challenges, like how to manage employees
                                                                      with different personalities, and allowing the
                                                                      learner the opportunity to play through different
                                                                      situations. However, available research suggests
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Serious Games: Humanitarian User Research

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          p. v
                                             ◆   Participants were eager to learn with             ◆   Language ability was a serious determinant     ◆   The additional time required for learning       ◆   Only use a game when appropriate:
                                                 games. Even participants who were not                 of learning. Learning games are often              games was cited by many participants as a           Learning games are more expensive and
                                                 familiar with learning games were excited             only available in English, and often rely          potential challenge for implementation in           time consuming to develop than traditional
                                                 to try. Pre-existing “game literacy” was not          on detailed and complex instructions               their offices. Wherever possible, learning          learning tools. They should be employed
                                                 a determining factor in the effectiveness             which must be well understood. Wherever            games should be short and concise to                thoughtfully to promote specific learning
                                                 of learning games.                                    possible games should be translated into           minimize operational overhead.                      outcomes.
                                                 ▷ See section “3.2 Perception of Games-               the language of the audience.                      ▷ See section 3.4.3: Potential barriers to
                                                      Based Learning in Humanitarian Work”             ▷ See section 3.4.2: Potential barriers to             learning: Time investment                   ◆   Get to the point quickly: The longer
                                                                                                           learning: Language                                                                                 it takes a learner to unlock a learning
                                             ◆   People felt that games were better teaching                                                          ◆   Skepticism of terms such as “games” and             outcome, the more likely it is for a learner
                                                 tools than PowerPoint lectures. 84.5% of                                                                 “gaming” among managers was cited by                to abandon the game before achieving
                                                 participants felt that learning games were                                                               participants as a potential barrier for             the designer’s purpose. This is especially
                                                 more effective than PowerPoint slides                                                                    implementation of learning games in                 relevant in contexts where participants
                                                 or lectures when learning the relevant                                                                   existing training programs.                         are expected to engage with digital games
                                                 subject matter.                                                                                          ▷ See section 3.4.5: Potential barriers to          independently.
                                                 ▷ See section “3.3.5 “Game Literacy” is Not                                                                  learning: Buy-in from Management
                                                     as Important to Games-Based Learning                                                                                                                 ◆   Pay attention to the user interface (UI)
                                                     as Expected”                                                                                                 Digital games vs tabletop games             and user experience (UX): Learning is
                                                                                                                                                                                                              directly impacted by both user interface,
                                             ◆   Interest in games and self-reported                                                                This research included both digital and tabletop          or UI (how the player interacts with the
                                                 learning from serious games was not                                                                learning games. Both were found to have                   game) and user experience, or UX (what
                                                 gendered: men and women were equally                                                               strengths, weaknesses, and trade-offs.                    the game makes the player think or feel).
                                                 excited, engaged, and learning. Age proved
                                                 to be a minor determinant of enthusiasm                                                            Digital games are harder to design well, more         ◆   KISSS Principle – Keep it Simple in Scope
                                                 and engagement.                                                                                    expensive to produce and revise, but easier to            and Small: Learning games are more
                                                 ▷ See section 3.1: An Overview of Participant                                                      distribute and require less facilitation. Digital         effective when they are small in scope, clear
                                                     Demographics                                                                                   games can be easily played repeatedly, on                 in intent, and aim to teach a limited number
                                                                                                                                                    demand and when convenient. They are best                 of learning outcomes. Unnecessarily large
                                             ◆   Debriefing, contextualization, and skilled                                                         for shorter, simpler lessons that benefit from            projects or unintentionally complicated
                                                 facilitation are essential to the learning                                                         repetition.                                               games can confuse learners.
                                                 process. Learning games should be
                                                 accompanied by other teaching material.                                                            Tabletop games are faster to design and               ◆   Teaching the Reality rather than
                                                 The presence of a skilled facilitator                                                              revise, and can be corrected “on the fly” by an           Teaching the Ideal: Humanitarian
                                                 was       important to supporting learning.                                                        experienced facilitator. However, they are harder         learning games need to be attentive
                                                 In particular, a structured debriefing                                                             to distribute and facilitate. Tabletop games are          and responsive to real-life experiences
                                                 session was essential. For digital games,                                                          better for immersive one-time experiences that            and data, rather than designed around
                                                 further study of how a debrief might                                                               focus on social interaction and complex problems.         convenient assumptions. Learning games
                                                 be delivered through a learning app is                                                                    ▷ See section 5, “Digital games vs tabletop        should explore how mistakes and errors
                                                 recommended.                                                                                                  games” for a detailed comparison.              are made, rather than avoid difficult issues.
                                                 ▷ See section 3.3.6: Briefing,
                                                     Contextualization, and Skilled Facilitation                                                                         Best Practices in Learning       ◆   Walk Before Running: Designing learning
                                                     are Essential to the Learning Process                                                                                            Game Design             games is time consuming and difficult, and

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Serious Games: Humanitarian User Research
                                                                                                                                                                                                              applying them in humanitarian contexts
                                                           Potential Barriers to Learning                                                           In the course of this project, the research team          is a new innovation. Starting with small,
                                                                                                                                                    collected several “good practices” for learning           achievable projects will help build skill and
                                             ◆   Technological restrictions were a serious                                                          game design. These suggestions do not represent a         minimize the cost of occasional errors.
                                                 limitation for learners. Digital learning                                                          consensus among all learning game designers, nor
                                                 games should be explicitly designed with                                                           should this list be considered exhaustive. However,
                                                 older technology and limited access to the                                                         these suggestions were supported by our research.
                                                 internet in mind.                                                                                         ▷ See Section 6: Best Practices in
                                                 ▷ See section 3.4.1: Potential Barriers to                                                                    Humanitarian Learning Games for a
                                                     Learning: Technological Challenges                                                                        full discussion.
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 Serious Games: Humanitarian User Research

                                             1. Literature Review                                                   6

                                                   1.1    What Are Games & What Kind of Games Exist?                6

                                                   1.2    Why Games?                                               10

                                                   1.3    Effects of Game Design on Game-Based Learning            13

                                                   1.4    Serious Games in Humanitarian Contexts                   15

                                                   1.5    Goals and Structure of Serious Humanitarian Games        17

                                             2. Research Methodology                                               23

                                                   2.1    Research Overview and Design                             23

                                             3. Research Outcomes                                                  27

                                                   3.1    An Overview of Participant Demographics                  29

                                                   3.2    Perception of Games-Based Learning in Humanitarian Work30

                                               3.3        Effectiveness of Games-Based Learning
                                             		           in Humanitarian Work                                     35

                                                   3.4    Potential Barriers to Learning                           44

                                             4. The McGill Workshop                                                50

                                             5. Digital Games vs Tabletop Games                                    51

                                             6. Best Practices in Humanitarian Learning Games                      53

                                             6.1   Why are we Using a Game?                                        53

                                             6.2   “Get to the Point”:                                             54

                                             6.3   The Genre and Structure of the Game
                                                   Must Reinforce the Learning Goals                               55

                                                                                                                         Serious Games: Humanitarian User research
                                             6.4   The Importance of the User Interface (UI)
                                                   and User Experience (UX)                                        55

                                             6.5   The New “KISSS” Principle: Keep it Simple in Scope and Small    58

                                             6.6   Teaching the Reality rather than Teaching the Ideal        	58

                                             6.7   Walk Before Running                                             59
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  Serious Games: Humanitarian User Research

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          p. ix
                                                                                                                                               Figure 21: Worldwide Distribution of Android Versions (Active Users)                     44

                                              Appendix A: Game Features & Types                                                          61   Figure 22: Android Version Use in Workshop Countries                                     45

                                              Appendix B: Summary of Games Considered and Included in the Study                          63   Figure 23: In What Language do You Play Games?                                           46

                                              Appendix C: Training, Gaming and COVID-19                                                  64   Figure 24: Enjoyment by Primary Natural Play Language                                    46

                                              Appendix D: References                                                                     65   Figure 25: Impressions of Games Based Learning vs PPT Lecture by Natural Play Language   47

                                              Appendix E: Further Reading                                                                67   Figure 26: Self Assessed Learning by Natural Play Language                               47

                                              Appendix F: About the Authors                                                              68   Figure 27: UI/UX Image                                                                   55

                                                                                                                                               Figure 28: UNOCHA Image: Humanitarian Icons                                              56
                                                                                           FIG URE S
                                              Figure 1: Demographics: Participant Nationality                                            26                                             TA BLES
                                              Figure 2: Participant Level of Education and gender Identity                               28   Table 1: Game Enjoyment by Gender Identity                                               30

                                              Figure 3: Participant Age Distribution                                                     29   Table 2: Average Enjoyment Over time                                                     30

                                              Figure 4: Participant Game Familiarity and Frequency of Play                               30   Table 3: Role of Games                                                                   31

                                              Figure 6: Would You Use a Similar Game in Your Personal Learning?                          32   Table 4: Serious Games Awareness                                                         32

                                              Figure 7: Engagement of Gameplay                                                           33

                                              Figure 8: Perceived Learning                                                               35

                                              Figure 9: Skill Score Over Time                                                            35

                                              Figure 10: Skills Practiced During Workshop                                                36

                                              Figure 11: Effectiveness of Interventions Over time                                        37

                                              Figure 12: Understanding of Beneficiaries                                                  37

                                              Figure 13: Will the Lesson Affect Work (Post debrief)                                      39

                                              Figure 14: Did the Workshop Influence Work (14 Day)                                        39

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Serious Games: Humanitarian User Research
                                              Figure 15: Did the Lessons Influence Work (45 Day)                                         39

                                              Figure 16: Did the Lessons Learned Change Attitude Toward Served Communities               40

                                              Figure 17: Enjoyment of Participants with No Prior Serious Games Experience                41

                                              Figure 18: Self Assessed Learning by Participants with No Prior Serious Games Experience   41

                                              Figure 19: How Important Was the Debriefing?                                               42
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                                              Figure 20: Local Internet Accessibility                                                    43
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                                                     AU THORS ’ REM A RKS
 Serious Games: Humanitarian User research

                                                                   “THE CREATION OF
                                                              SOMETHING NEW IS NOT
                                                               ACCOMPLISHED BY THE
                                                                INTELLECT BUT BY THE
                                                                     PLAY INSTINCT.”
                                                                          -CARL JUNG


                                             Learning through play is as natural as breathing.           learning. Herein, we explore just these issues,
                                             Across the living world, development depends on             examining prior research and conducting our own
                                             play. Children’s socialization skills are learned           study to inform the use of game-based learning
                                             through mimicry and play at a young age. In the             techniques, specifically in a humanitarian context.
                                             animal kingdom, cubs and pups instinctively play
                                             to learn the survival skills they will need in their                    Through direct, facilitated play workshops, we
                                             adult life. Play is essential to development.                           explore front-line, local humanitarian workers’
                                                                                                                     attitudes toward games-based learning, and
                                             Why, then, do we not play more?                                         compare them to their preconceived ideas about
                                                                                                                     the endeavour. Then with contact touchpoints
                                             I n c r e a s i n g l y , i n d u s t r i e s a n d s e c t o r s a r e two weeks and 45 days post workshop measure
                                             recognizing the powerful nature of learning lessons learned, and knowledge retained.
                                             through play in professional contexts, and the
                                             pedagogical potential of games-based learning. As we seek novel educational delivery systems to
                                             Professional gaming has been used in a military engage and challenge tomorrow’s humanitarian
                                             context for two centuries, and filtered through leaders to become their best possible selves, we
                                             myriad sectors by the end of the 20th century push them to develop the new ideas that will
                                             and into the 21st. As technology has become drive the sector forward. This crucible of creative,
                                             more accessible, and entertainment games insightful thought, if it is to be nurtured and
                                             more popular, the envelope is being pushed encouraged, needs an environment where ideas
                                             and learning games are coming to the forefront can thrive, be challenged and tested. Tomorrow’s
                                             of educational innovations, crossing even more leaders need a safe-to-fail ecosystem of thought
                                             boundaries.                                                             experimentation and creativity to evolve today’s
                                                                                                                     ideas into tomorrow’s solutions.
                                             More and more research is emerging, reinforcing
                                             the positive educational impact of games-based Tomorrow’s leaders need to play.

                                                                                                                                                                        Serious Games: Humanitarian User Research
                                                                                                             Tom Fisher & Matthew R. Stevens
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Serious Games: Humanitarian User research

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                                                   THE TEAM   01

                                                                                M AT T H E W R .                  THOMAS                        JOHANNA
                                                                    01            STEVENS           02             FISHER           03          REYNOLDS

                                              02              03   Co-Author                       Co-Author                       Researcher

                                                                                  BRIANNA                       C AT H E R I N E                STERLING
                                                                    04           P RO C E V I AT    05           BENEDICT           06          PERKINS

                                              04              05
                                                                   Researcher                      Researcher                      Researcher

                                              06              07

                                                                                                                                                           Serious Games: Humanitarian User Research
                                                                                                                A L E JA N D R A
                                                                                                    06           E S P I N O SA

                                                                                                   Researcher · Editor
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  Serious Games: Humanitarian User research

                                                                                                    employ Salen and Zimmerman’s definition as a
                                                           1. LI TERATU RE                          general guideline, while simultaneously including
                                                               REV I EW                             any activity which is commonly referred to and
                                                                                                    accepted to be a game, understanding that game,
                                                                                                    as a concept, is socially constructed.

                                                                                                    Games can differ in purpose, such as games for
                                              1.1 WHAT ARE GAMES &                                  leisure versus games for learning. Games can also
                                              WHAT KIND OF GAMES EXIST?                             differ in scale (gamification vs learning games
                                                                                                    vs simulations), physical properties (analog vs
                                              We are all familiar with the word “game”. The         digital), and structure. These distinctions between
                                              word brings to mind a variety of ideas and            different types of games are important because
                                              experiences, from competitive sports to boards        they can influence potentially divergent costs,
                                              and counters on a table, traditional past-times       experiences and learning outcomes. Ultimately,
                                              like backgammon and mancala to the latest digital     deciding which type of game will best serve an
                                              games. Some of us associate games with fun or         instructor’s goals is about understanding the
                                              excitement, others with boredom or confusion.         target audience, objectives, and constraining
                                              Our understanding of games is shaped by our           factors.
                                              personal experience and preferences, rather
                                              than formal definitions. These preconceptions
                                              often shape our receptiveness to the utility of       1.1.1   SCALE
                                              serious games for learning, analysis, and research.
                                              Unfortunately, these preconceptions are often                                             Gamification
                                              counterproductive; too much skepticism, and
                                              we miss out on the unique benefits that serious       Gamification is when game elements are applied
                                              games can bring. Too much enthusiasm, and             in non-game contexts. Common examples of
                                              we risk applying games in inappropriate ways          gamification in society include retailers’ points-
                                              because we think they are “cool” or “fun”. Defining   based rewards programs or organizations
                                              terms--as best we can--is a starting point to         providing publicly visible, socially desirable
                                              formalizing the study and application of serious      awards for achievements such as medals or online
                                              games to humanitarian work.                           “badges” to staff as motivation. In educational
                                                                                                    contexts, gamification is a teaching strategy that
                                              Much like other forms of media, games come in         uses “game-based mechanics, aesthetics, and
                                              a wide array of forms and types, with different       game thinking” to increase learner engagement,
                                              features and characteristics. Because of this,        motivation, learning, and problem solving
                                              researchers, educators, and other practitioners       (Kapp, 2012, p. 10). For instance, the concept of
                                              have thus far struggled to agree on a precise and     “unlockable content” is a game mechanism which
                                              universal definition of “games”. One possible         can be used in online learning modules to ensure
                                              definition, suggested by Salen and Zimmerman          learners have achieved a base-level understanding
                                              (2006), describes games as “system[s] in which        before they can move on to other content. The
                                              players engage in an artificial conflict, defined     value of gamification has been proven even
                                              by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome”     among highly-skilled adult learners in continuing

                                                                                                                                                          Serious Games: Humanitarian User Research
                                              (p.80). While broadly applied in the literature on    professional development scenarios (Woolwine
                                              games, this definition may extend to activities       et al. 2019). Gamification can be useful in that
                                              which are not considered a game such as trading       it can often be less costly to incorporate game
                                              stocks and debate; it also overlooks how games        elements in current training than to develop a
                                              might be cooperative. Others have defined games       simulation or a serious game. That being said,
                                              simply as a “structured form of play” (Flanagan       gamification as a learning tool is mainly used by
                                              2009; Yalowitz, 1995). However, this fails to
                                              capture the complexity of games as compared to
                                              puzzles or play-acting. Moreover, “play” implies
                                              that fun is a defining characteristic of games,
                                              which fails to encompass the serious games that
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                                              generate meaning without being “fun”. We opt to
Serious Games: Humanitarian User Research

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        p. 8
                                             professionals to enhance and regulate learning.         scale such as learning the rules of airport security       outcome such as a winner or loser, uncertainty, 1.1.2 ANALOG VS DIGITAL
                                             Because it is not a fully developed game, it does       (micro) to developing policy response to a global         immediate feedback and assistance.
                                             not come with some of its benefits such as an           pandemic (macro).                                                                                             Games can be presented via a variety of media.
                                             artificial environment under which players can                                                                    In humanitarian training, simulations are Today, the most common games are digital
                                             perform tasks by trial-and-error or engage in           In this report and research, we are primarily             commonly used to train and test staff skills. These (games played using an electronic device) and
                                             large, dynamic interactions between multiple            interested in the application of serious games to         include applied emergency response activities analog (games that exist in the physical world).
                                             people. Moreover, gamification as studied               learning, with a specific focus on humanitarian           such as search and rescue, safety procedures Digital games are delivered via a wide range of
                                             so far is generally competitive (ie. inherently         training in contexts of localization.                     in hazardous environments, or the deployment technological media, whether apps downloaded
                                             non-cooperative) with perceived “winners” and                                                                     of field medical equipment. Such simulations directly to mobile smartphones, web browser-
                                             “losers”. It may therefore be less appropriate for                                         Learning Games         mimic reality via elaborate artificial settings based applications, computer games, console
                                             training learners from organizational or ethnic                                                                   and interaction with actors playing the role of games (such as Playstation, Xbox, or Nintendo), or
                                             cultures which prize community, cooperation,            Although used interchangeably, serious games              injured persons, refugees, or kidnappers. The on other dedicated media. Analog games include
                                             and consensus.                                          can be differentiated from “learning games” in            chief benefit of simulations is that simulations role-playing and tabletop games (games which are
                                                                                                     that learning games aim to teach specific, often          enable participants to behave almost exactly typically played on a table such as board games
                                                                                Serious Games        singular learning outcomes. Examples include              as if they were “in the field” within a safe or card games) including Monopoly, Dungeons
                                                                                                     “Muddy Motor Racing” which communicates                   environment without dangerous implications. and Dragons, and Poker.
                                             “Serious” games differ from other games                 the imperfect driving conditions in many areas
                                             by emphasizing knowledge production or                  where humanitarian services are delivered and
                                             knowledge transfer over simple enjoyment and            challenges individuals to come up with ways to
                                             entertainment. While most games are valued for          safely and efficiently dig the car out of the mud;
                                             being “fun”, serious games focus on generation          and “Immigration Nation” where players learn
                                             of meaning beyond simple fun; this can include          about immigration laws and what makes someone
                                             education, analysis, the production of emotion,         eligible vs. ineligible to enter and live in the United
                                             the provoking of thought, etc. This is not to           States. Learning games are a subset of serious
                                             suggest that serious games and fun are mutually         games. Learning games often possess a clear
                                             exclusive, but that fun is not the primary goal         and linear structure in which gamers progress
                                             of the exercise. Serious games are often used           through the material after demonstrating a
                                             to educate, train, and inform the people who            sufficient level of understanding.
                                             play them.
                                                                                                     In this research, we often interchange the
                                             Serious games are often designed around a real-         term “serious game” and “learning game”,                  This is advantageous as “on-the-job learning” is            Is One More Effective Than the Other?
                                             world problem, emulating an aspect of the real          acknowledging that learning games are a subset            considered the best method to consolidate new
                                             world in an abstracted or simplified manner. Some       of serious games.                                         skills (Rumeser & Emsley, 2019), but can be very     There is contention within the literature on
                                             common applications might include projecting                                                                      dangerous in high-risk environments. Similarly,      games-based learning on differences between
                                             a policy response during a crisis, workshopping                                                 Simulations       it allows supervisors to identify individual staff   analog vs digital presentation in facilitation of
                                             supply-chain management for retailers or other                                                                    members’ weak areas of knowledge so that             learning. Kaufman & Flanagan (2013) tested the
                                             businesses, examining military strategy in conflict,    Simulations differ from serious games in that             further instruction may take place following         difference in impact of the same public health
                                             or stress-testing emergency preparedness plans.         the primary purpose of simulations is to provide          the simulation. However, simulations cannot          game in digital vs analog form. They found that
                                             Serious game designers take a real issue and            users with an experience that exactly models an           be tailored to varying levels of capability. Thus,   “that the digital version of the game, despite being
                                             recreate it in a game setting so that users may         aspect of reality such as a situation, scenario,          beginners may find themselves unable to              a nearly identical translation of the analog version,
                                             “play” through the problem. “Serious games meet         or environment. “A simulation is a dynamic and            complete basic tasks within the simulation while     proved significantly less effective at facilitating
                                             their objectives by including rules, constraints and    simplified model of reality and it is judged by           more advanced users might find little challenge      learning and belief change”. Cheng et al. (2015)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Serious Games: Humanitarian User Research
                                             activities that closely replicate the constraints of    its realism, by its correspondence to the system          and a low-rate of failure. This prevents them        similarly found that performance of reading
                                             the real-world tasks that are being trained” (Ariffin   which it represents” (Sauve et al. 2007). Serious         from progressing past a certain point and acts       comprehension (the desired learning outcome
                                             et al. 2013). However, a good serious game is           games, while similar, are often abstracted                as an obstacle to further learning. Moreover,        of their study) was significantly superior in the
                                             more than applying game characteristics such as         depictions of reality in which players reenact            simulations, especially the highly realistic         paper groups than the computer-based reading
                                             scores and a narrative to a real-world problem.         specific parts of an experience such as strategic         ones, can be extremely expensive to produce          groups. However, Cheng et al. (2015) also found
                                             “It is the addition of pedagogy (activities that        thinking, policy analysis, or procedure, without          and maintain. Although research suggests             that those with higher technological familiarity
                                             educate or instruct, thereby imparting knowledge        reproducing the experience as a whole, ie, in             fidelity levels and knowledge transfer are not       performed better - leading them to conclude that
                                             or skill) that makes games serious” (Susi et. al        physical space, with actual tools. Games maintain         necessarily positively correlated (Feinstein and     learning outcomes from digitally based media
                                             2007). Serious games are not a particular genre         essential attributes which separate them from             Cannon 2002; Norman et al., 2002), this finding      can be improved with sufficient training. It is our
                                             of game. Serious games may come in the form             a pure simulation, including: challenge, rules            in itself undermines the perceived superiority       opinion that the existing literature on digital vs.
                                             of a role-playing game, puzzle, strategy game,          that allow the determination of a quantifiable            of simulations as tools for experiential learning.   tabletop learning games favours tabletop gaming,
                                             etc. Serious games address issues of different                                                                                                                         but we stress that it is not conclusive, and in
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1.2     WHY GAMES?
 Serious Games: Humanitarian User Research

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  p. 10
                                             particular fails to take into account the quality
                                             of digital implementation and whether particular
                                             learning goals might favour different media. In
                                             addition, digital games impart other real-world                                                                                                                   1.2.1 LEARNING THEORIES
                                             benefits, such as quick global reach (where                                                                                                                       SUPPORTING THE USE OF GAMES
                                             technology allows) and reduced reliance on a
                                             facilitator. There is potential for reduced costs                                                                                                                 The increasing number and scale of complexity
                                             if a digital game is carefully implemented and                                                                                                                    of multi-stakeholder issues in the humanitarian
                                             properly scaled, but this is far from guaranteed;                                                                                                                 profession has given rise to new ways of thinking
                                             see the following section for more on financial                                                                                                                   about knowledge dissemination and the need for
                                             considerations.                                                                                                                                                   “a mutual learning loop framework that integrates
                                                                                                                                                                                                               different learning theories, such as experiential
                                                                              Financial Costs                                                                                                                  learning, adaptive management or transformative
                                                                                                                                                                                                               learning.” (Lavell et al, 2015, p.1013) Through
                                             There are different costs associated with the                                                                                                                     “real life” problem solving, serious games have
                                             development and distribution of digital versus                                                                                                                    the capacity to help humanitarian students more
                                             analog games. While digital games may be                                                                                                                          deeply understand and critically engage with
                                             produced cheaply, poor-quality can suffer in a                                                                                                                    important issues. Experiential Learning Theory
                                             multitude of ways: they may not be technologically                                                                                                                and Situated Learning Theory help explain why
                                             compatible, easy to learn, or even teach the                                                                                                                      this is the case.
                                             intended lessons. Conversely, learning games can
                                             be very expensive and time consuming to develop                                                                                                                   According to Experiential Learning Theory (ELT),
                                             well. A good quality digital game can be expensive                                                                                                                individuals learn most from direct experience,
                                             to produce based on the inclusion of higher quality                                                                                                               active participation, and visible feedback on
                                             graphics, multiple players, and additional levels                                                                                                                 the consequences of their actions. Experience
                                             and activities, notwithstanding the complexities                                                                                                                  provides the individual subjective meaning to
                                             of developing an AI model capable of handling         There is also a financial cost associated with       in a structured debriefing session. Because            abstract concepts and creates a concrete point
                                             the permutations, nuance, and complexities of a       playing digital versus analog games. A lack of       analog games are more typically (although not          of reference for testing the implications of ideas
                                             humanitarian aid environment. This cost and time      access to technology or applications necessary       necessarily) facilitated by an instructor, including   created during the learning process (Kolb, 2000).
                                             requirement means that digital learning games         to play a specific digital game (i.e. laptop,        framing lectures, briefings and debriefing,            Games foster experiential learning through
                                             tend to be generalized to be broadly applicable       smartphone, headphones, internet, a sufficient       learning outcomes can be much more carefully           features such as active participation where
                                             to a wide range of contexts.                          graphics processing unit, flashplayer, etc.) poses   shaped.                                                players not only perform actions but directly
                                                                                                   an obstacle to game play since there may be                                                                 experience the effects of their choices. Games are
                                             Analog games can be comparatively cheap and           significant economic costs associated with           Digital games, comparatively, may be played            active forms of learning, as opposed to passive
                                             quick to develop, and are simple to customize,        acquiring these components. For instance, games      alone. As such, they tend to offer a very              lectures or videos, which do not require much
                                             making them effective context-relevant learning       designed for newer/state-of-the-art mobile           predictable experience, easy for learners to           action from the learner, aside from watching,
                                             tools. For example, “print and play” games can        phones, for example, do not function on older        repeat if they are sufficiently motivated (as          listening, and possibly taking notes. Situated
                                             be transmitted electronically and easily printed      or cheaper hardware. Thus, a target audience         discussed previously in this report, repetition        Learning Theory (SLT) likewise supports game-
                                             and assembled in an office; all-in-one serious        who cannot afford the newest iPhone will not         can vastly boost retention of lessons). The option     based learning as it posits that people learn better
                                             game development kits help to quickly develop         be able to partake in the game play.                 to run digital games alone, however, means that        when placed in authentic contexts that parallel
                                             scenario-specific games for any context and                                                                participants are not able to learn from each other     real-world tasks, interacting with others rather
                                             in any field office setting. Analog games tend                                  Organizational Costs       during and after the game. To our knowledge,           than receiving knowledge that they are expected

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Serious Games: Humanitarian User Research
                                             to be more forgiving than digital games with                                                               there is no digital equivalent to an in-person         to apply later. Games apply this theory by creating
                                             respect to lower-quality game mechanics and           Analog games often require the simultaneous          debrief. In debriefing, lessons may be highlighted     experiences that reflect real-life job issues,
                                             components (Arnab et al., 2015), in part due to the   presence of multiple players and a dedicated         during peer discussion or with an experienced          like how to manage employees with different
                                             on-the-fly support of the facilitator. Component      facilitator, so independent or take-home learning    facilitator. Digital games are also less effective     personalities, and allowing the learner the
                                             costs for some analog games can prove to be a         is not usually an option. Analog games are thus      at modelling the dynamism of social or political       opportunity to play through different situations.
                                             barrier as well: while digital games are far more     associated with greater coordination efforts and     interactions in such a way that users can directly
                                             expensive to develop, their distribution can be       potential costs.                                     observe and learn from them. The US Army, for
                                             more cost effective--sometimes as simple as a                                                              example, has experienced this shortfall of digital
                                             download--when compared to the component              However, in-person multiplayer games allow           games. Games such as UrbanSim have been
                                             costs, manufacturing costs, and transport costs       participants to learn from one another, both by      created with much fanfare and large budgets,
                                             for some analog games.                                directly observing how other participants react      only to be shelved because they were found to
                                                                                                   to decisions or actions, and sharing experiences     be insufficient to meet training needs (Vogt, 2011)
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Serious Games: Humanitarian User Research

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      p. 12
                                             1.2.2 ENGAGEMENT: INTRINSIC                              involves many elements intrinsically related to         a sufficient understanding is displayed or the do well and why:
                                             VS. EXTRINSIC MOTIVATION                                 the lesson. These elements which engage players         emotional impact of losing the game reinforces
                                                                                                      include: capturing and maintaining their attention,     the learning outcomes better than traditional      ◆ Decision-making: Decision-making in
                                             People are more likely to learn when they are            provoking thought and enabling curiosity,               instruction methods and evaluations such as          complex and high-stress environments is
                                             interested in what they are learning (Garris et al.,     creating social connection, providing learners          videos and quizzes.                                  simulated by game mechanisms such as
                                             2002). This is because they become intrinsically         with an immediate sense of accomplishment and                                                                time pressure, competition, disruptors, and
                                             motivated to learn--they are excited to learn for        gratification, etc. Games’ unique characteristics        Creating a safe-to-fail environment is useful not   concentration of audio-visual stimuli. The
                                             the sake of the lesson. According to Garris et           are therefore particularly effective in harnessing      only in training and preparing staff members         numerous decision-making opportunities
                                             al., intrinsic motivation (i.e. the learner engages      individuals’ intrinsic motivations as compared          more effectively, but is useful in developing        presented in a single game enables players
                                             in an activity because it is enjoyable) is found         to other methods of teaching (Birk et al. 2016;         better practices and new innovations. Games          to practice and improve how they collect
                                             to be a stronger driver of performance than              Garris et al. 2002).                                    make failure into a productive experience by         and process information from their
                                             extrinsic motivation (i.e. the learner engages in                                                                allowing players to take risks and deviate from      surroundings.
                                             an activity to satisfy a desired outcome, such                                                                   regular procedure and try new things. The
                                             as grades or financial gain). Intrinsic motivation       1.2.3   ENVIRONMENT: A SAFE SPACE TO FAIL               ability to compare and contrast ideas, explore     ◆ Retention: Repeated engagement with
                                             encourages a higher degree of effort and longer-                                                                 different methods, and elaborate on established      interactive drill-and-practice games
                                             term performance (Pinder 2011) as compared               New employees inevitably make mistakes their            approaches all encourages “outside-the-box”          provides the repetition that may be needed
                                             to extrinsic motivation; this is because extrinsic       first time on the job, regardless of the extent of      thinking. This process of experimentation            for learners to memorize and retain certain
                                             motivators (rewards that are tied to expectations        preparatory training carried out in the classroom.      is critical to successful innovation. In the         types of content.
                                             of gain or fear of loss such as benefits, money,         In a humanitarian setting, these mistakes can           humanitarian setting where problems are complex
                                             stability, etc.) are motivating only to the extent       have severe human costs in addition to other            and continuously evolving, it is critical that     ◆ Problem-Solving: In-game challenges
                                             that an individual believes achieving the incentive      undesirable outcomes such as negative social            humanitarian practices effectively adapt with        require students to think critically in
                                             is useful and only up until the point that they          experiences and fiscal loss. Because error is           the issues. Games can provide the opportunity        order to solve them and games’ use of
                                             have attained the incentive. Individuals who are         inevitable, it is beneficial to stakeholders in         to test and develop new strategies to deliver,       competition and rewards act as incentives
                                             extrinsically motivated will thus be more likely         humanitarian work that prospective employees be         coordinate, and procure aid without posing harm      to encourage students to overcome game
                                             to put in the “bare minimum” in a bid to receive         able to make mistakes in an environment where           to relevant beneficiaries or stakeholders.           problems.
                                             their desired reward as quickly as possible. In a        the impact of their errors will be mitigated. Games
                                             humanitarian training setting, this may present          in this case are an ideal training tool because they                                                            ◆   Collaboration: Games in which there are
                                             itself as a trainee learning enough material to          are able to artificially recreate aspects of the real   1.2.4 EFFECTIVENESS: PROVEN TOOLS                           teams or it is necessary to collaborate with
                                             achieve the minimum score to pass an evaluation.         world, recreating to some degree the environment        FOR LEARNING AND ASSESSMENT                                 other players in order to succeed can foster
                                             Contrastingly, when individuals are intrinsically        in which employees will be working. Thus, when                                                                      and develop collaborative skills such as
                                             motivated, they are more likely to fully endorse         participating in a learning game, mistakes that         Serious games have been demonstrably effective              task coordination, clear communication,
                                             and participate in the task and will persist in          staff might otherwise have made while on the            learning tools. While this is not an exhaustive list,       and compromise.
                                             performing the task beyond the point at which            job can instead be made (and learned from) in           games are found to be particularly effective in:
                                             they are rewarded. This also increases the quality       advance. Moreover, the feedback from the game           promoting skill acquisition, knowledge retention,        ◆ Empathy: Role-play in games allows
                                             as well as quantity of what has been learned.            allows instructors and students alike to identify       attitudinal change, supporting understanding                 players to inhabit the lives and vicariously
                                                                                                      and correct gaps or errors in students' knowledge.      of new concepts and ideas, shaping behaviour,                experience the disadvantages or
                                             The method by which instruction is delivered has                                                                 and improving context-based problem solving                  persecution faced by other people or
                                             been shown to elicit student engagement during           The capacity to safely fail in serious games is a       (Klabber, 2003; Mateas, 2003; Prensky, 2001;                 groups. This can induce empathy by
                                             training (Garris et al. 2002). In recognition of this,   key component of their value as a learning tool.        Ricci, Salas, & Cannon-Bowers, 1996). Games are              challenging misconceptions; providing
                                             organizations from a wide variety of sectors are         Failure has been identified as an integral part         also considered an effective form of assessment              previously unrealized information; and
                                             increasingly incorporating serious games in their        of learning (Anderson et al. 2018). Sitkin (1992)       as they require application of knowledge (as                 arousing emotion through immersive
                                             training programs to help stimulate intrinsic            argued that “failure typically represents an            opposed to memorization and recital of facts)                experience, encouraging players to relate

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Serious Games: Humanitarian User Research
                                             engagement toward company education. The                 exception that does not conform to expectations         and provide real-time feedback (i.e. game                    to the group whose perspective they are
                                             rationale guiding this new method of instruction         and thus requires more active, deeper processing”       progress, losing, in-game scores, etc.) on how               embodying.
                                             is that the feelings of excitement, challenge, and       (p. 237). This is because when we encounter             well knowledge is applied and skills are enacted
                                             achievement which trainees experience while              experiences that do not fit our preconceptions          - allowing instructors to measure the level of an Although there is widespread consensus on
                                             playing a learning game will encourage an intrinsic      (i.e. trying something and failing), we are forced      individual student’s ability.                         the anecdotal benefits of serious games for
                                             motivation to learn, inspiring deeper engagement         to adapt our understanding to account for                                                                     learning, empirical research is limited. Conrad
                                             with the material. Characteristics of games              gaps in our knowledge. This process of critical         Attributes of games that contribute to learning (2010), Connolly et al. (2012), and Marcos et al.
                                             which make them engaging include competition,            reflection has a stronger psychological impact          include active participation, immediate feedback, (2016) highlight that there is insufficient research
                                             challenge, rewards, pleasing aesthetics, surprise,       than having gotten it right the first time. Games       dynamic interaction, cultural context, competition, evaluating the effectiveness of games in learning.
                                             etc. Part of the draw to learning games is the           in particular promote better learning from              the exchange of tacit and explicit knowledge, The majority of claims advocating games-based
                                             simple expectation that games are fun, however,          failure than other instructional methods. Game          novelty, anthropomorphism, and goal direction. learning are based on anecdotal evidence of
p. 11

                                             the sense of engagement that learners experience         mechanics such as having to replay a level until        Below is a list of learning outcomes that games their effectiveness and instructor judgement. The
 Serious Games: Humanitarian User Research

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     p. 14
                                             lack of evidence for the effectiveness of games                                                                        designs where education greatly supplants game            clarifying issues, and resolving any conflicts
                                             for training purposes is further compounded                ON GAME-BASED LEARNING                                      aspects, users often find the game unplayable. For        among participants. If an unseen design flaw in
                                             by the lack of a well-developed methodology                                                                            example, in their 2008 study, Virvou & Katsionis          a tabletop game begins to result in unrealistic
                                             for evaluating the effectiveness of games. The       For serious games to achieve their intentions,                    found that not liking the game or finding the             outcomes, an experienced facilitator can easily
                                             assessment of serious games is largely hindered      serious attention must be paid to game design.                    game unusable were fundamental stumbling                  “correct” the flow of the game via injects to re-
                                             by their complexity, the difficulty in measuring     Pre-existing empirical research indicates that                    blocks to learning. Issues related to likeability         establish a user experience which mirrors that of
                                             intangible variables (i.e. engagement), and a lack   serious games are only effective if they are                      and usability such as poor game aesthetics,               real life and demonstrates the desired learning
                                             of organization among a fragmented community         designed with specific instructional objectives in                monotonous tasks, etc. can be alienating to               outcomes.
                                             of various stakeholders. In our review, a significantmind and the features of the game encourage                       players and undermine the key factors supporting
                                             portion of the available studies evaluating the      the achievement of those objectives (Hodent,                      game-based learning such as engagement and
                                             effectiveness of games as learning tools used        2018). Features such as user interface design,                    motivation. Clearly it is necessary to strike a           1.3.3   EFFECTS OF PLAYER CHARACTERISTICS
                                             a simple research design which produced              teaching strategies, and the format and content                   balance between learning theory, game design,
                                             subjective and short-term results such as asking     of educational material influenced by the game                    and subject matter expertise.                      One of the most important considerations in
                                             participants if, in their opinion, they had learned  developers. The choices made by the game                                                                             game design is the makeup and complexion of
                                             something. Many studies lacked rigorous testing      designer will have implications for the degree of                                                                    the game’s target audience. Player characteristics,
                                             methods such as a control or another group           effectiveness of the game as a learning tool. Our                 1.3.2 DEBRIEFING & FACILITATION                    generational and cultural differences, and
                                             of comparison, pretests, and testing against         review of game design as it affects the educational                                                                  individual learning styles are just some of the
                                             their declared objective. Our assessment of          value of games finds that the major issues concern                A school of thought posits that learning from factors that can affect players’ receptivity to any
                                             the literature is corroborated by the findings of    the apparent difficulty in balancing pedagogy                     games is only effective - or at the very least, given serious game.
                                             Wangenheim & Shull (2009), Hayes (2005), and         and entertainment, inadequate debriefing and                      more effective - with instructor support and
                                             Bellotti et al. (2013).                              facilitation, and neglecting diverging player                     debriefing (Crookall 2014; Kolb, 2008; Kris, 2003;                            Familiarity with Games
                                                                                                  characteristics. Effective games for training                     Thatcher, 1990). It is unreasonable to assume
                                             Available research suggests that games are should be developed with their specific learning                            that no learning whatsoever occurs during the The effectiveness of games for educational
                                             poor standalone learning tools. Learning objectives and target audience in mind.                                       game itself. Rather, learning is strengthened purposes are affected by the playing audience’s
                                             outcomes are most significant when games are                                                                           and becomes more meaningful through the familiarity with games. In several studies,
                                             used to complement, not utterly replace, other                                                                         debriefing process. Debriefing is the process of participants who were considered inexperienced
                                             instructional methods (Sadler et al. 2015; Schmitz 1.3.1 EDUCATION VS ENJOYMENT                                        reflecting and discussing the game experience gamers did not learn as well as more experienced
                                             et al. 2015; Hayes 2005; Virvour et al. 2005).                                                                         to turn into learning. Participants often have g a m e r s ( R a v s y s e e t a l . , 2 0 1 6 ; V i r v o u a n d
                                             Randel et al. (1992) reviewed 67 studies comparing T h e b i g g e s t c h a l l e n g e o f s e r i o u s g a m e s   a limited picture of what happened; while Katsionis, 2008). There are several reasons for
                                             the instructional effectiveness of games versus development is the integration of learning content                     playing the game, participants predominantly this, including: a dislike of games in general,
                                             conventional classroom instruction. They found and pedagogy with core game mechanics. The                              observe only what their position allows them confusion leading to alienation, and an inability
                                             that 56% showed no difference and 32% found prevailing inability to achieve a cohesive balance                         to. Post-game debriefing and reflection sessions to play the game properly. However, studies have
                                             differences favouring games. Wangenheim & between enjoyment and education has limited                                  help elucidate the learning material and place found that clear and concise instructions, simple
                                             Shull (2009) reviewed some 21 studies in serious the effectiveness of games as learning tools. For                     the game-learning experience into a greater user interfaces, and lower game complexity
                                             games for software engineering training and instance, in designs where the game mode is                                context. Serious games which address complex, can resolve issues that arise from non-gamers
                                             found that a majority had a noticeable but a dominant, games can cause defective learning.                             multi stakeholder problems may trigger strong (Couceiro et al. 2013).
                                             minor impact on learning. Hays (2005) review In our review, we found that where games were                             emotional reactions, provoke conflicts between
                                             of 274 papers on instructional effectiveness of designed with an emphasis placed on being a “fun                       participants or misunderstandings. Finally,                 Generational & Cultural Differences
                                             games likewise found that games can be effective game”, learning outcomes were either found to                         debriefing ensures all participants exit the
                                             for learning specific subjects and skills such as be wrong or missing altogether. For example, in a                    session with the intended knowledge. It allows Generational and cultural differences can affect
                                             math and collaboration, the majority of studies history simulation-game The Oregon Trail, Caftori                      instructors to identify missed, weak, or false willingness and understanding (technological
                                             found no significant difference between games (1994) found that the educational objectives of                          learning outcomes based on the participants’ literacy) in terms of learning through games.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Serious Games: Humanitarian User Research
                                             and conventional teaching.                           the games were missed by students because the                     self-reflection on what they have learned Older and younger workers “do not respond the
                                                                                                  incorporated game design elements, such as                        from the game. At times, participants may not same way to training” (Grossman, 2008, p. 43)
                                             One of the key limitations of games is the scores based on the hunting of animals and a time                           themselves be aware of the knowledge or skills and, as a result, game designers should build
                                             inevitable simplification of circumstances, which is pressure to finish the trail, did not align with the              that they have acquired. The debrief provides games to be as accessible as possible to a wide
                                             inevitable in the recreation of complex scenarios. games’ learning objectives of teaching users about                  trainers with the opportunity to reiterate and range of people; it is not enough to assume that
                                             Not all elements can be incorporated or recreated the terrain and wildlife on the Oregon Trail. It is                  reinforce desired learning outcomes. Likewise, players will be intrinsically motivated by the
                                             and attempting to include too many details can be not enough to embed attractive characteristics                       instructional support helps learners to use the label of “game” or the promise of “fun” alone.
                                             overwhelming for a player and result in making in the game because these can easily become                             game effectively, enabling gamers to focus on the Furthermore, little attention is given to issues
                                             the game too convoluted to play.                     diversions from the real goals. It is necessary to                instructional information rather than the rules of cultural diversity in serious games. Rasyse et
                                                                                                  emphasize important information in the game                       and requirements of the game (Hays, 2005). The al. 2016 reviewed 45 serious games for disaster
                                                                                                  and choose game mechanics that ultimately                         presence of a facilitator precludes a negative risk management and their respective literature
p. 13

                                                                                                  support the instructional objectives. However, in                 experience by offering space to air emotions, and found cultural implications were distinctly
 Serious Games: Humanitarian User Research

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       p. 16
                                             absent; only a few mentioned “bridging the gaps       there is extensive literature on the importance        Telling ‘the story’: there is a tendency           for understanding the complexity of
                                             between people of different cultural and linguistic   of engaging ethically in humanitarian work,            in humanitarian response work to                   the topic and in terms of identifying
                                             backgrounds to better manage risks”. This lack        both for researchers and practitioners in              represent refugees’ individual life stories        solutions or learning particular
                                             of cultural competency in game design can have        the field (see for example, Clark-Kazak 2017;          as a singular experience, essentializing           skills. However, it is vital that serious
                                             a significant impact on the player’s receptivity      Hyndman, 2000; Malkki 2013). In her seminal            the individual as a victim in a position           games that engage with humanitarian
                                             towards the method, as well as its effectiveness.     piece “Can Humanitarian Work with Refugees             of dependency. The foil of the unified             contexts are centered on principles
                                                                                                   Be Humane?” Harrell-Bond (2002) refers to the          ‘refugee story’ is the solutions-based             of respect and dignity, especially
                                                                                                   need for a “rights-based humanitarianism” that         humanitarian organization. When                    when representing people receiving
                                                                                                   moves beyond the charity model and upholds             designing and implementing serious                 humanitarian interventions. Ideally,
                                             1.4 SERIOUS GAMES IN
                                                                                                   the dignity and rights of the communities they         games in humanitarian contexts, it is              voices of members of the affected
                                             HUMANITARIAN CONTEXTS                                 hope to serve, moving away from the ‘victim’           important to problematize this binary.             community should be directly involved
                                                                                                   narrative framing of so many organizations.            Who is telling the story, and to what              in the development of the simulation.
                                             Serious games remain an underused tool in These academic principles have recently been                       end? What mistakes do humanitarian
                                             humanitarian training, especially when compared enshrined in the Sphere Standards and Core
                                             to other fields dealing with similarly complex multi- Humanitarian Standard (2018).
                                             stakeholder problems such as peacebuilding,
                                                                                                                                                          organizations make, and how can serious
                                                                                                                                                          games contribute to the identification,
                                                                                                                                                          description, and reduce the frequency
                                                                                                                                                                                                        2.   Avoid abstraction of voiceless
                                                                                                                                                                                                             stakeholders: it is common in serious
                                                                                                                                                                                                             game development that “voiceless”
                                             medicine, disaster risk management, and security. The application of ethical principles in the               and severity of those mistakes? Serious            stakeholders are abstracted as a
                                             Where serious games have been applied in the development of serious games should be                          games have the capacity to engage                  mechanical function. For example,
                                             humanitarian context, they are more frequently foundational to their design, especially in the               with the complexities of different                 in a military learning game on the
                                             employed as advocacy and awareness-building context of humanitarian work where wildly                        experiences and consequently offer                 functioning of provincial reconstruction
                                             tools for public consumption rather than training disparate power dynamics between ‘stakeholders’            up more nuanced solutions.Dignified                teams in Afghanistan, the only played
                                             tools. These advocacy games tend to be targeted and ‘beneficiaries’ already exist. Lessons Learned           representation: unlike a purely fictional          roles are military, government, and
                                             at potential small-scale donors rather than Simulations & Training, which primarily works                    game, serious humanitarian games are               humanitarian actors; local populations,
                                             humanitarian workers themselves, and focus in refugee-response contexts, has developed a                     based on real-life and often ongoing               displaced people, and militants are
                                             on the building of general empathy and “feel- series of principles to consider in the design and             crisis scenarios that are lived by real            represented via the “flip of a card”
                                             good” interest in humanitarian projects rather delivery of serious games with respect to forced              people. There are clear benefits to                (Mason and Patterson, 2013). While the
                                             than specific learning about contexts or skills. displacement:                                               experiential learning experiences, both            game successfully teaches participants
                                             Few serious games have been developed for                                                                                                                       about some stakeholders in the Afghan
                                             or applied to humanitarian response, with little                                                                                                                conflict, it fails to explore those who are
                                             public data available on design, application,                                                                                                                   inarguably the most impacted by the
                                             educational effectiveness, lessons learned, or                                                                                                                  ongoing violence. Abstracting voiceless
                                             best practices.                                                                                                                                                 actors encodes their liminality into the
                                                                                                                                                                                                             games’ approximation of reality. Not
                                                                                                                                                                                                             only does this reinforce the assumption
                                             1.4.1   ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS                                                                                                                                  that they are unimportant, it presents
                                                                                                                                                                                                             these actors as irrational, unknowable,
                                             Any discussion of serious gaming in                                                                                                                             or random, and misses an extremely
                                             humanitarian contexts must be prefaced with                                                                                                                     valuable analytical opportunity to
                                             an acknowledgement of the ethical considerations                                                                                                                understand a scenario from that
                                             of such a venture. Implementing serious games                                                                                                                   perspective.
                                             on subjects of human or natural disasters, and
                                             the resulting depiction of suffering, poverty,
                                                                                                                                                                                                        3.   Biases and assumptions: there is a risk

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Serious Games: Humanitarian User Research
                                             liminalization, exclusion from the national order,                                                                                                              of ‘encoding’ biases and assumptions
                                             and all associated hardships requires a deep                                                                                                                    into the design and implementation
                                             sensitivity towareds the context. In this sector,                                                                                                               of simulation exercises. These biases
                                             we must be explicit in the difference between                                                                                                                   can be represented in a narrative
                                             “gaming” for fun and serious games as powerful                                                                                                                  sense (how roles are described) or
                                             training tools. Serious humanitarian games must                                                                                                                 a mechanical sense (how the game
                                             be executed with a strict adherence to respect                                                                                                                  functions). Mechanical biases, where
                                             for the people and communities affected by the                                                                                                                  the functioning of a serious game
                                             topic being simulated.                                                                                                                                          is internally coherent but does not
                                                                                                                                                                                                             accurately represent the real-life
                                             While there is little written about ethical                                                                                                                     process, is particularly dangerous as
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                                             considerations in serious humanitarian games,                                                                                                                   participants can leave the game having
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