Tag Archives: #seriousgames

Gameful Project Management versus Serious Games

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Acronyms and definitions: GPM = Gameful Project Management, SG = Self-Gamification; GPM is the application of SG to project management.

In the last post, we have discovered that Gameful Project Management (GPM), in other words, a gameful approach to project management, is not the same as project management gamification.

So, if it is not gamification, could the GPM or its outcome be a serious game or a collection of serious games?

After some research and contemplation, I realized that that wasn’t it either.

Here’s why.

Serious games are “full games that have been created for reasons other than pure entertainment.” — Andrzej Marczewski, Even Ninja Monkeys Like to Play: Unicorn Edition

In spite of being called “serious,” these games can be very much fun for their players. My son and his classmates love playing grammar and math games at school, which are a combination of learning grammar, math, and other subjects with a ball game or another fun sport activity.

On a more “serious” note, serious games are also used to bring awareness into the intricacy of such issues as patient care, vaccination, and many other for medical personnel*, as well as many other areas.**
So similarly to gamification, serious games also have the purpose of achieving a specific goal, which is often to educate but not exclusively so. For example, “Genes in Space,”*** is “a space shooter game that uses gameplay to map genomes to help the fight against cancer in the real world!” — Andrzej Marczewski, Even Ninja Monkeys Like to Play: Unicorn Edition

Here is a quote showing the common side of gamification and serious games:

“Serious games and gamification have in common that they both use game design and game elements (Marczewski, 2013) and they both serve a business purpose: increasing employee of customer engagement, improving the learning curve in education…The main difference between gamification and serious games is that gamification is not using gameplay where serious games do. Some of the most well-known examples of serious games are Plantville from Siemens (a serious game focused on educating plant management) and “Pass It On” from AXA Insurance (a serious game focused on personal financial planning) (Marczewski, 2013; AXA, 2011).”****

In contrast to that, the goal of the GPM is not aiming to increase productivity or motivation or engagement, to educate or facilitate learning. All these are the are byproducts of the GPM but not its goals.

The goal of GPM is to turn any project as well as the management part of it into fun, engaging games, of which you are both the designer and the player. GPM assumes that you are open to the possibility to see projects and project management tasks (regardless of whether you claim to like them or not) as games. When you see what you do like games and each of its components as a game component, then you quickly realize how to modify those components so that your projects and project management “games” entice the players, in other words, all involved in these projects.

The outcome of the GPM could be a serious game or a gamified solution, but it doesn’t’ have to be that way. The main outcome of GPM is the ability to see what you do as a game and approach it both as a designer and the player of it. In other words, it is about taking ownership of how these projects and project management games turn out to be, especially how fun and engaging they are for you and all involved, as players.

Thus, serious games are “created for reasons other than pure entertainment,” even though their players can be entertained and have fun while playing them. On the other hand, the Gameful Project Management can guide you to make your projects and project management processes entertaining and fun, regardless of whether you initially preferred doing them or not.

P.S. We will discuss the necessity of fun for your project and project management success in a later post.


* Focus Games in the UK create board games for these and other areas. Their page has a great collection of case studies for the serious games they develop: https://focusgames.com/case_studies.html

** There are many successful companies creating serious games for various requirements. Many of them are also situated in Denmark (the country I live in). Here are just two of these: https://www.seriousgames.net/, http://cphgamelab.dk/en/vores-spil/

*** https://www.genesinspace.org/

**** https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/gamification-project-management-5949; The references quoted in the article:

  • Marczewski, A. (2013, March). What’s the difference between Gamification and Serious Games? Retrieved on 29/08/2013 at http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/AndrzejMarczewski/20130311/188218/
  • AXA. (2011). Company debuts the game of life…insurance. Press Release 13/09/2011.
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