As for any domain, the toughest challenge to be addressed by SG is their effectiveness. The capability of a serious game (SG) to make learning “actionable”, that is, making the end users able to put the learning into practice (and to retain it over time) it is the actual objective SG designers have to face. This is particularly true in such a conservative environment as like as B&M where SGs have often to be called simulations to make them more digestible, acceptable.
This another key challenge is the evaluation of game effectiveness and “actionability’. There is currently a lack of effective measurement of impact (going beyond post-game first impressions). Given the resources invested in the development of games, there needs to be a more systematic way to measure and capture the impact of the game in terms of transfer of learning into the workplace- i.e. actual change in behavior.
Moreover, B&M serious games often address quite complex issues and the different subject matters that characterize this application field require very specialized and high quality expertise that can be hardly implemented in SG design as a standalone. Therefore, in the vast majority of the cases SGs in B&M are inherent parts of a formal educational program that is deployed by making extensive use of facilitated workshops. This is almost a mandatory requirement the more the game is targeting executive education.
Still the presence of facilitation doesn’t answer all the questions about a SG’s learning impact, in particular for what concerns the learning retention and the ability to put the newly acquired knowledge into practice over time, not only at individual level, but also under an organizational perspective. If the learner/manager is not given the possibility to put the learning experience into practice or if the personnel turnover rate is high (in a high competitive economy the war for talent challenges the preservation of the organizational know-how), there is the actual risk that whatever effective a learning experience could be, there is not any actual impact neither for the individuals nor for the organization.
Post Game Learning Communities (PGLC)
In order to sustain the learning over time in B&M games, Post Game Learning Communities (PGLC), that is, Communities of Practices (CoP) composed of the set of learners that played a SG, may be set up around a collaborative platform that allows participants to share their learning experiences and, in particular, to exchange among their peers how and what they did to put into practice what they learnt. PGLC are porous environments as their members can tap relevant information and knowledge related to their learning experiences outside even their formal education environment (from the web, for instance) and then integrate them into the shared collaborative space they use.
However while this space might be used to capture and map learning, the major challenge remains as to how to tie the changes in behavior to actual business outcomes. In times of a worldwide economic crisis, such as is nowadays, even the most structured organisations take care about of their investment choices: competence development is often not at the top of the expenditure lists. Organizations are often unwilling to put in the additional cost, beyond just the simulation experience, that is needed to link the impact of learning programs to organisation’s metrics, such as ROI. Only a small fraction of investment is allocated to evaluation (5.5% on average according to the ASTD report, 2009), therefore, it is also supposed that organisations do not have a clear picture of the actual impact of learning of such games on their businesses.