Interview with Serious Games Designer Tania Vercoelen


On Thursday 21st January we organised a playtesting session to help out Serious Games designer Tania Vervoelen.

Her game, 'Project Ninjas' was a hit and Tania has been kind enough to answer a few questions we all had!

Take me through 'Project Ninjas' from idea to game.

I started my own learning technologies company a year ago. The first month or so was pretty quiet, trying to build up my clients and market myself. In my free time (which I had plenty of) I wanted to create something fun and exciting that I could use to help my future clients. In my previous full-time employment, I created a board game that was used in L&D workshops. It went down really well, everyone enjoyed it, received great feedback and I really enjoyed making it. I had the idea to create my own board game and have a subject matter that any client would be able to make use of. That’s where I came up with the idea to do a project management board game.

Where/how did you first learn about gamification?

I first started building elearning games about six years ago, when a SME (subject matter expert) suggested that we do something a bit different with the online training (elearning). I was all for doing something a bit different that adds a bit of fun. That’s when my enthusiasm for games started, and I wanted to add that element of fun to every learning experience.

How did you end up with a board game vs something else on the spectrum, like a simulation?

As a learning technologies freelancer, I do so much in the digital space, that it is quite refreshing to do something physical and that gets everyone together in a room. Most things I design tend to be for someone developing their skills individually in front of a computer, so it’s quite exciting to create something where people can collaborate together in a room.

What are WE going to learn by playing the game?

I’m hoping you will learn something new about the people you are playing with, it’s a team building experience. I designed the game hoping to develop strong teams. At the end of the game, I get the players to discuss how well they collaborated, communicated and if there was any leadership within the team. I also ask what would they do differently if they were to play again? This game can be played in a variety of learning workshops, including project management training, collaboration, leadership and communication skills.

What do you think YOU will learn from today's playtest?

This will be the fourth time I have play tested Project Ninjas. I’m hoping to refine the mechanics and get it ready for commercial use. The end goal is to sell it to clients with a facilitator pack, so I’m hoping it’s nearly ready for that stage. I’m looking forward to getting everyone’s feedback!

What are your top tips for someone interested in doing something like this in the future?

Be prepared to play test it many times. You will never get the game mechanics perfect the first few times played, and it will take a few goes and a lot of feedback and observing to get it right. If you’re looking for inspiration to design a new game, try going to a board game café and play heaps with your friends.

​Do you follow the team on Twitter yet?

About the author 

Pete Baikins

Pete Baikins is an international authority on gamification, a lifelong gamer, successful entrepreneur and a lecturer. As CEO of Gamification+ Ltd he mentors and trains companies world-wide on the use of gamification to solve business challenges. Gamification+ won the Board of Trade Award from the UK's Department of International Trade in January 2019.

Pete is co-host of the health gamification podcast Health Points and is also Chair of Gamification Europe, the annual conference for Gamification practitioners.

Pete is an Honorary Ambassador for GamFed (International Gamification Confederation), having previously been the Chair from 2014 to February 2019, whose aim is to spread best practices within and support the gamification industry.

After 15 years as a Lecturer on gamification and entrepreneurship at the University of Brighton he now guest lectures on Gamification at King’s College London and at ESCP Europe at post-graduate and under-graduate levels.

Over the past 20 years Pete has built and sold two businesses. One was in security software and the more recent one was a telecoms and internet connectivity business. He is also an Ambassador for Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce in the UK.

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