Applied Gaming & Simulation
Applied gaming and simulation.
This topic focuses on new models, methods and technologies for the creation of digital games and simulations for learning: how to design and develop effective games for learning?

Digital games and simulations are widely recognised as most powerful and highly engaging learning environments. They are complex and dynamic constructs that require appropriate designs of multimodal contexts and playful interactions, as well as productive pedagogical strategies and measures for preserving the efficacy and efficiency of learning.


The inherent richness and complexity of applied game environments (and simulations) makes the topic to be a cross-cutting one, embracing a variety of pedagogical and technological themes. On the one hand concepts and principles from pedagogy and instructional design need to be fully linked and integrated with the game design. That is, notwithstanding the need for game concepts such as challenges, rules, scores, competition and levels, the game design should address and accommodate principal pedagogical functions and variables such as instructional support, feedback, guidance, reflection, self-regulation, attention, motivation, cognitive flow and assessment. On the other hand, advances in digital gaming are primarily driven by cutting-edge technological innovations, which requires research into serious games architectures, data interoperability, machine learning, adaptive and personalised system design, sensors, affective computing and natural language processing, among other things. Many of these themes are currently covered by this topic in close collaboration with European research parties as part of the RAGE project, which is Europe’s principal applied gaming research project in the Horizon2020 Programme of the European Commission, lead by the Open University of the Netherlands.


At the OUNL we developed EMERGO (Effectieve Methode voor Ervaringsgericht Onderwijs) as dedicated design method and development toolkit (see Nadolski et al, 2008) to design, develop, implement and evaluate such scenario-based serious games for acquiring complex professional skills. The EMERGO authoring platform currently contains over 30 reusable components that allow for effective and flexible game production (Slootmaker et al., 2017; 2018).
For the continuous advancement of EMERGO the merge between Research and Development (in previous R&D departments on TEL at the OUNL) has been essential over that period of time: without research producing games becomes production without evidence-base, new inspiration and innovation; without concrete development research becomes disconnected from educational practice. Since 2020, the faculty of learning sciences (OW) collaborates with the department of educational production (ECO) on game-based learning programs. Over 40 serious games across various domains and types of education have been developed with EMERGO over the last 10 years, and others are currently under construction.  [for list of passsed and current projects ask Aad]


  • Dr. Kiavash Bahreini
  • Dr. Enkhbold Nyamsuren
  • Dr. Giel van Lankveld
  • Eric Kluijfhout
  • Wim van der Vegt
  • Dr. Rob Nadolski
  • Kostas Georgiadis Msc.
  • Dr. Hans Hummel
  • Hub Kurvers
  • Drs. Aad Slootmaker
  • Prof. dr. Wim Westera


    The EMERGO game engine supports the quick authoring of games for learning.
    Applied game design
  • A couple of dozen so-called scenario-based (mini)-games for learning - mostly addressing complex cognitive skills or professional skills using authentic tasks and embedded support - have been designed and developed with various subject matter domain experts in the last decade (and still the case), often (partly) externally funded, and mostly using the EMERGO methodology and authoring toolkit.
    National Projects
    Surf-EMERGO, Galema, Surf-Skills Labs, NRO-SLEM (finished)
  • Emotion recognition
    The main goal of this study is to develop a client side software application to detect emotions from players’ faces. This study considers six basic emotions: happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, disgust, and anger and detects the neutral face. Game developers can use the outcome of this study. The programming languages used are: C#, Unity3D, and C++.
    European project
    More information...
  • Adaptation methods
    Within the RAGE project, we are developing an open-source adaptation and assessment (TwoA) asset. Its purpose in a serious game is twofold: assess player’s performance and adapt game difficulty correspondingly. Both steps are done automatically and in real time.
    European project
    More information...
  • Performance analytics
    The performance statistics software provides insight in student’s performance in serious games and automated signalling of students at risk. These insight can be used to guide teaching efforts and to improve game design. The software is available as C# and Java libraries and as an integrated component in the UCM learning analytics system.
    European project
    More information including links to the software...
  • Reusable software components for serious game development
    This study follows the evolution of a software architecture designed for creating and delivering highly portable software components containing pedagogical functionality. The study encompasses the architecture design, verification of portability, quality assurance and acceptance by both component creators and users (e.g. game developers).
    European project
    More information including links to the assets...
  • Flow theory
    Deep engagement with a game can cause a player to enter the state of flow and show improved performance. However, quantitatively measuring the state of flow is highly challenging. We approach this problem from the perspectives of time perception and attentiveness to external distractors.
  • Game evaluation and experimentation
    In the RAGE project we use various evaluation instruments and metrics to assess the effectiveness of applied games
    European project
  • Computational modelling
    Simulation models have been developed to simulate the process of playing a serious game. The model is based on flow theory and involves a variety concepts such as motivation, complexity, attractiveness, prior knowledge, learning efficiency, and many more.
    European project
    Read more ...
  • Stealth Assessment for Serious Games
    The main goal of this study is to verify the proper functioning of a generic stealth assessment prototype. Log data from gameplay activity will be used as input to the prototype to generate Bayesian inferences and classify the data. Relative data from verified measurement instruments will be used to perform correlation analysis.
    European Project, Doctoral research
  • Reverse Engineering Techniques for ECD Construction from Raw Data
    The main objective of this study is to develop a generic tool for constructing ECD models using raw data from both gameplay activity and verified measurement instruments. Regression analysis techniques will be applied on data collected from previous experiments to detect its statistical relationships in order to construct respective ECD models.

    European Project, Doctoral research

  • IP2 games
    The Introductory Psychology (IP) course will be enriched with case-based interactive practicals (IP), which will offer more active and situated ways of learning about the psychology program and future professions in psychology. We are comparing the old and new course, and will carry out experimentation within new variants of 16 mini-games developed, using a triangulation of methods and techniques.

  • Youth@Work
    The Youth@Work game is targeted at young people between the ages of 13 and 19 years that have to make future career decisions. It supports teachers and careers guidance staff in helping young people to think about employability and careers. It seems likely that young people find a game-based approach to employability and careers highly attractive.
    European project (finished February 2017)
    Watch the video...

  • RU EU?
    The proposed RU EU? game offers an innovative, informal digital approach to supporting young people in developing and sharing their understanding of European identity, culture and values. An online game offers an ideal solution to challenging young people's views on national and European identity since games have the potential to provide personalised, challenging activities that require decision making about relevant problems.
    European project (started October 2017)


Key publications:

Check out for more games-related papers in http://research.ou.nl/.