“You might be a serious games researcher if….”

I thought I’d post something fun about how to figure out if you are a serious games researcher.

Here goes…

You might be a serious games researcher if…

1. You want to crawl under a rock when people hold up poorly designed studies of serious games and proclaim that ALL serious games work.

2. You feel duped when you find out that when someone said they did “research,” it meant that they did extensive reading on the topic on Wikipedia and did a Google search for websites dealing with the topic. You lose it completely when you see the written summary on the topic they “researched” and the references are all hyperlinked to second-hand sources on the internet.

Lee, C. (2010, November 18). How to Cite Something You Found on a Website in APA Style [blog post]. Retrieved from http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2010/11/how-to-cite-something-you-found-on-a-website-in-apa-style.html.

3. You know what a File Drawer Problem is.

4. You secretly wish you had the power to prescribe elementary statistics classes (or an effective serious game on statistics) to people. You painfully feel this urge when someone looks at a graph of two averages with error bars that overlap and they tell you that there actually IS a difference between the averages. But you don’t make the prescription. Instead you spend hours thinking about how you can explain summary statistics, distributions, hypothesis testing, Type I and II Errors and probabilities in less than 4000 characters (because that is the limit in LinkedIn discussion groups).

from Open Educational Resources (2013). Comparing average and variability for several datasets [online guide]. Retrieved from http://www.numeracy-bank.net/?q=t/std/cgc/7.

5. You are a bit gullible. Your heart drops when you find out that someone who told you that research on the efficacy of serious games is unnecessary, also has a company making and selling serious games (that of course have never been evaluated for efficacy). You actually read the non-scientific articles they sent you supporting their point. You are so gullible!

6. You wonder how far the field will advance when money is being put into investigating mechanisms of how serious games “work” and not into research to evaluate which serious games “work” in the first place.

7. You secretly wonder if people who show a lack of critical thinking skills and a disregard for empirical research on serious games got their information from Fox News.

8. Your heart fills with joy when you hear that researchers conducted a randomized trial of a serious game that was powered to detect differences between experimental groups.

9. You are genuinely interested in finding out what serious games can and cannot do. You love challenges and the process of discovery. This is precisely why you continue to pursue research on serious games.

10. Finally, due to your extensive experience reading, writing and editing; you can find several errors in this post (including typos and formatting errors).


Count the number of statements with which you agree.

  • If you agreed with 0 to 3 items on this list, you are definitely not a serious games researcher.  You have a disdain for anyone with letters after their name. You are probably puzzled by how hard serious games researchers work for so little money, how much attention they pay to little details, and why they seem so frustrated when they should be forever grateful that, unlike other researchers, they get to work on fun games for a living!
  • If you agreed with 4 to 7 items, you might have an interest in research on serious games but you haven’t been immersed in the area long enough to have your buttons pushed yet.  You may be currently taking a course on statistics and research design. If so, it will only be a few years for you to develop a better appreciation of the probabilistic nature of science and the extent to which researchers can get caught up in seemingly petty details.
  • If you agreed with 8 to 10 items on this list, you are probably a fully fledged serious games researcher! Congratulations!

Please feel free to share your scores in the comments section below.

Note:  Ironically, the criteria above are not based on empirical studies but from subjective impressions and anecdotal reports. The criteria have not been empirically evaluated for experimental, test, internal, external, concurrent, predictive, criterion, face, construct, content or any other type of validity there is. The lack of scientific rigor in this list really irritates you if you are a hard-core serious games researcher.

Finally, if you realize the above criteria were made all in good fun, then you are a serious games researcher with a sense of humor.

The end.


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. I saw WellaPets for asthma on TV where it was mentioned that there are plans to enter into other health categories for children. Diabetes was mentioned. I’d like to know if there is research for children with autism? My daughter does ABA therapy, did extensive research in college. I thought how wonderful if serious games could help children with autism! My daughter would be great at that!

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