Serious games

A better way to assess candidates

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What are serious games?

There are plenty of definitions of serious games floating around, but most of them agree on the fundamental principle: Serious games are games that don’t have entertainment, enjoyment or fun as their primary purpose. (Michael & Chen, 2005)


While serious games can (and often do) have elements of fun or enjoyment about them, this isn’t their most important attribute. Instead, it’s likely to be something more practical or consequential, such as teaching people a new skill, conducting scientific experiments, or simulating a real environment.

Serious games are games that don’t have entertainment, enjoyment or fun as their primary purpose.Michael & Chen, 2005

How are serious games used?

Serious games have become more and more widespread over the last 15 years or so, and are now used across numerous industries and disciplines, for a variety of purposes. Industries such as defence, healthcare, emergency management, city planning, engineering, politics and scientific agencies have adopted various forms of games and simulations to model real-life environments and situations likely to be faced by their current or new employees.


Education, training and development are some of the primary uses of serious games: offering people a safe, inconsequential environment to learn and refine skills they’ll need to perform their role more effectively. They’re widely used for this reason across the military (simulating battle or hostile situations), healthcare and other industries.


As well as education, serious games are also used for purposes such as advertising, health promotion, science and research, environmental planning and government.

Flight simulator serious games example

Woman on mobile phone serious games example

Why use serious games?

If you think about it, (well designed) games are designed to be immersive and engaging. They offer up a challenge or puzzle to be solved, and ideally, hold the player’s interest and enjoyment while they complete the task/s. Most games also have several elements in common, besides engagement: they use game mechanics such as a set of rules or a framework users need to abide by, regular feedback, increasing difficulty levels, competition against others or a previous score, and rewards. And as humans, we intrinsically enjoy this kind of play and experimentation.


So, even though serious games don’t have fun as their primary purpose, they do still use the kind of game mechanics we enjoy, which means we’re more engaged and involved in the content – whether it be educational, promotional, or experimental – than more traditional methods. Just imagine: would you be more engaged learning about piloting a spaceship by reading a book, or playing a game-based simulation?

Serious games for recruitment

Recently, organisations across the world have understood how serious games offer a unique and highly effective way to attract and assess candidates for employment.


For example, serious games can enable us to assess candidate skills while they play an engaging and enjoyable game, which also helps to minimise their anxiety levels, so they’re more relaxed and likely to perform at their best. They can also help recruiters ascertain – in a scientific and objective way – whether their candidates have the aptitudes and skills they need to be successful on the job.

Theme Park Hero and Cognify

Back in 2015, the team at Revelian had a theory: that we could use ‘serious’ games to assess the kinds of aptitudes and traits that are critical for almost every jobs, such as learning ability, numerical reasoning, spatial awareness, problem-solving and more. We’d been creating highly respected, accurate and scientific psychometric assessments for over 15 years and while they were effective, they weren’t very engaging or enjoyable for candidates. And with employers increasingly focusing on offering a positive candidate experience and wanting to differentiate themselves as an employer of choice, we felt the market was ready for a new way of assessing job-critical skills that also appealed to candidates.

The good news: our first game, Theme Park Hero, accurately and validly predicts general mental ability (also known as cognitive ability), which is the fastest, simplest and most effective way to predict future performance at work across all roles and industries. It’s a ‘serious game’ in the sense that it does has a primary purpose other than fun – that is, assessing candidate abilities – but the great news for employers and candidates alike is that it’s also engaging, immersive and enjoyable with 80% of candidates preferring it to more traditional forms of assessment.


Theme Park Hero – with its narrative of playing the manager of a Theme Park and solving a variety of problems throughout the day – has been very well received by people hiring graduates or entry level roles. It was also a double finalist in the Australian Psychological Society’s Workplace Excellence Awards for recruitment, selection and assessment.

To cater for a broader set of employers and roles, in 2016 we released our second set of ‘serious games’: Cognify. Cognify offers a more streamlined and professional look to appeal to employers and candidates across all industries and employment levels. Candidates complete a set of short puzzles or mini-games that have been proven to assess skills such as problem-solving, numerical reasoning and verbal knowledge, as well as general mental ability or cognitive ability.


And again, it’s received fantastic accolades from both employers (because it distinguishes them as a desirable employer who cares about the candidate experience and objectively identifying quality employees) and candidates (because it’s much more enjoyable and less stressful than traditional tests and they can feel more relaxed).


In 2016, Cognify won first prize in the Serious Games Showcase & Challenge – Australasia (SGSCA) for its innovative blend of enjoyable gameplay and scientific and analytical rigour. And while it didn’t win the international SGSC award at the Florida event in 2016, it did receive excellent feedback from a broad range of industries including defence, government, business, infrastructure and healthcare.

We believe games offer a unique, innovative, highly objective and scientific way to assess critical job skills. Because of this, we’re hard at work on our next batch of serious (but still fun) recruitment games. Stay tuned for more information as they take shape!

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