10 Tips for Making a Successful Serious Game

1) Plan from the beginning to do research on your game. It makes everyone stay honest. Start with research on the target group and what they want.

2) Pick a game development team that is passionate about your project and has made serious games before and will listen to the target group.

3) Involve your target group at every step of the process. They will keep you on the right track of making a game that the target group will ultimately accept. Makes sense, right? Hardly anybody does it.

4) Do QA on your serious game. Apparently, it is rarely done on serious games. And when you do, it is critical that members of the target group are part of your QA team.

5) If you want to make money off your game, engage a business person at the BEGINNING of the project, as well as the end. Make sure they know EVERYTHING about your target group (what they like to do in their spare time, what their disposable income is, what their demographic is, what they don’t like, etc.).

6) Figure out who will buy the game. If an individual (e.g., parent) or organization (e.g., insurance company) will buy it and give it to the target group, listen to them and make sure you cater to them. But remember that ultimately, you have to make the target group happy.

7) If you ever have a conflict between researchers, business people, developers, artists, etc., go with what the target group wants.

8) See if you can actually hire a representative from the target group to work on the game.

9) Cherish input from the target group.

10) Thank all the members of the target group who helped make your game possible when your game is released.

I’m serious about this list. Any questions?

Please cite this article as:

Kato, P.M. (2012). 10 tips for making a successful serious game. Retrieved from http://pamkato.com/2012/02/02/10-tips-for-ma…l-serious-game/

Click HERE to access an article on how to gather information from your target group.

By pamkato

I am a Harvard- and Stanford-trained Ph.D. psychologist, social entrepreneur, and serious game visionary. I want to work with other people to change the world while having fun doing it.


  1. Over the last several weeks I have been researching the serious game design and development process. I wanted to go beyond the typical GDD template. I am closer to the end that to the beginning of the research, and the 10 tips you mention both affirm what I have and fill in some missing or weak sections. Thanks.

    P.S. Have you considered activating the “Follow Blog via Email” or RSS widget? Remembering to visit periodically is a challenge at my age.

  2. Hi Bill, Glad I could help you with your research.

    Thanks for the feedback (you are my target group!!!!). I added an RSS widget to the bottom of the pages and a “follow blog via email” on the sidebar. I’m always up for making my target group happy! Thank you again for the helpful feedback. I really appreciate it.

    p.s. I also followed your blog and I look forward to reading it.

  3. Great tips. I am in the unorthodox position of being the representative of the target group who is attempting to deliver a solution that is sorely needed. As above, your words have validated some points I knew intuitively and identified shortcomings. Good luck to you, Mr. Braun. Thanks for the advice, Dr. Kato.

  4. Hi Samuel, If you are in the target group and therefore in a position of power in making your solution, congratulations! You’ll keep everyone in line and you’ll hit the target! You have a military background (I peaked at your FB profile) so you’ll have good leadership skills. Now the next challenge is finding partners who will listen to you and other members of the target group and respond appropriately. Hopefully I can post some tips on finding good partners but you’re past a HUGE challenge. Good luck and please let me know how the game turns out when it’s done. Safe serious games journeys!

  5. Your item (4) is huge, and even understates the problem. Game design and development is necessarily iterative. You do something, you try it out, you change it, you try it again, you change it again, …. There are reasons why this is often a particular challenge for serious games — perhaps the most prominent are lack of experience with the iterative nature of game design coupled with funding sources which don’t anticipate or support iterative development. Another is a tendency (on the part of designer/developers) to get too attached to game elements — you have to be willing (ruthless?!) in removing things which don’t work.

    1. Hi Steve, Aren’t you talking about (10) instead of (4)??? If so, I think the issue you are talking about is an issue of game development and not about finding a game developer. I agree 100% with what you are saying. Sounds like I need to do a top 10 of “how to work with developers and get the !@#$ game out.” BTW, I 1000% agree that a HUGE problem is getting too attached to game elements that don’t work on the part of developers and probably non-gamer researcher/educators getting to attached to game ideas that are outside the core game mechanic of the game. So yes, I am understating the problem in (10) to the extent that I’m not adequately addressing issues of iterative game design and development.

      I probably need to reword how I stated it. What I don’t want first time non-gamer people to do is to think that they can develop along the way. I was in a project where we were like, “OK, we made part of the game and it’s great but we have absolutely no game ideas now to even try to carry out the rest of our learning goals.” D’oh! I blame myself for getting us into that situation because the game team was panicking with the design process was taking so long at the beginning so we barreled our way into rapid prototyping what we had. They weren’t used to making a serious game and panicked when it was taking a long time to design. I gave in and then paid for it mid-development when were in an even worse panic. I believe that rushing into production before you really flesh out your learning goals and come up some great game mechanics is a bad idea. Development teams want to get on with developing and getting paid but us researcher/education types need a final product that WORKS. I am seeing lots of examples now of designing on the fly and it often leaves the researcher/educator out of the equation because it basically implicitly needs to be initiated by the game developer. Personally, I think it pays off in the long run to have a really good design document up front and then be willing to let go and adjust at you do your agile, scrum, rapid prototyping, iterative design/development process. I think it is particularly important for people who have never been involved in a game development process before because they tend to get panicky (like I did my first time around) when they feel like they don’t know what’s coming next.

      Oy, that was a long response! Thank you for your listening! Did I address your issues?

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