• gamification
  • serious Games
  • satisfaction
  • efficiency

What if learning could be fun?

It sounds like nonsense. But what if it is possible?

Diogo Fernandes Silva

It sounds like nonsense. Ideal but unreal! Illogical even...

But let's take a step back and reflect a little:

  1. In which situations are we more absorbed in a task than in a game (football, video games or some other game)?
  2. Do we learn and remember more from lectures or practical and engaging training?
  3. Why does learning have to be a costly process if we can do it in a fun and even more impactful way?

The concept of gamification has been used for some time now. In a structured way it appeared in 1984 in the book The Game of Work. Since then, attention has skyrocketed, becoming progressively a day-to-day methodology, particularly in technological companies.

But is it useful? Or just fashionable?

Serious Games or Gamification are characterized by the use of game principles (competition, curiosity, challenge, among others) to mobilize and motivate participants towards a goal, in this case, the acquisition of new skills and knowledge.

Rather than viewing fun as a goal in itself, through an immersive and highly engaging experience, fun becomes the engine that drives the participant spontaneously to pursue a specific goal.

It is this state of total absorption (flow) that brings us the great advantages of this methodology: greater involvement of participants with consequent greater acquisition of skills and long-term retention.

And what is the difference between Serious Games and Gamification?

Both are characterized by the use of game principles to achieve a serious goal. The difference lies in the proportion of the reality influenced.

Gamification is a partial change, in which we just add a few of the game principles to reality.

On the other hand, Serious Games happen when you design a fully immersive experience in a game format with a serious purpose, in this case, the acquisition of skills and knowledge.

Game specifically designed to practice conflict management

Is there any good examples in healthcare?

The applicability of these methodologies is endless, since in every case the game is built according to the desired goal. In healthcare, the use of game principles has grown widely, with applications in different areas:

  • Promoting medication adherence or promoting healthy lifestyles (exercise or diet) - applications that use scores, badges and awards for users with the highest compliance rate;
  • Therapeutic adjuvant in physiotherapy - video game designed to make the participant make certain physical movements according to prescription;
  • Reduction of ansiolytic medication - video game that allows children to know the hospital better, reducing pre-surgical anxiety;
  • Training of health professionals - serious games built to train skills such as leadership and team management in health professionals.

Further examples can be found in the growing number of innovative projects submitted to conferences such as Games for Health Europe or Games for Change.

Game designed to improve communication in crisis

But how can we make sure it's not just a fun experience?

Regardless of what was written earlier, these advantages only come about when we seriously abide to the principles of games, defined and improved over time, and summarized below:

  1. Clearly defined goals: This step is fundamental and will define the entire structure of the game. Not devoting sufficient attention and time to defining the ultimate goal (acquiring skills or increasing compliance with a therapeutic prescription, for example) will dampen the usefulness of a game-based initiative.
  2. Scoring system: to gain insight into your performance and compare it with others, instilling a healthy spirit of competition that enhances your motivation and focus.
  3. Frequent feedback: so that participants can assess whether they are moving towards the goal and can correct and accelerate the learning process;
  4. High level of methods freedom (to achieve set goals): Although goals are set by game developers, the way to achieve them should be relatively flexible to allow participants to think, risk and test various possible approaches, creating a safe place to experiment new approaches.
  5. Constant support and guidance: To accelerate the learning process, support and guidance throughout the experience that indicates how participants can improve their performance is important.


Healthcare professionals and organizations are flooded with new information everyday, with a constant need for self-actualization and little, if any, time to do so. It is our responsibility to find innovative methods that are more motivating, but above all that will ensure greater success in the acquisition and retention of knowledge and skills, allowing, without much personal sacrifice, a real continuous training of health professionals.

Diogo Fernandes Silva

Medical Doctor