Three Reasons Why A Card Game Paradigm is Good for Your Serious Game

Many people think of card games as being simplistic or basic like the classic game “Go Fish” or the solitary game “Solitaire.” However, the appearance of simplicity is mis-leading. While many card games appear to be simple on the surface that simplicity is what makes them powerful tools for creating learning. If you look closely, Solitaire can teach the value of thinking ahead or the lesson that no matter how careful or calculating you are, sometimes you just can’t win or even, the lesson that you shouldn’t rush a decision—it’s important to take your time and consider alternatives.

These are just lessons from the “generic” version of Solitaire. Now imagine if you had added some creativity, business context and the right content. Suddenly, you have a sophisticated and elegant method of teaching leadership, sales or empathy skills to just name a few. With little manipulation card games can be used to teach resource allocations, strategic thinking and, even, critical thinking skills. The paradigm of a card game is highly versatile. Card games are a low-barrier, low-friction method of asking learners to think deeply about subjects, topics or ideas that they many not consider on a regular basis.

While face-to-face card games for learning are not recommended in this time of a global pandemic, digital versions are providing many of the same advantages as face-to-face games with the added benefit of being able to play with anyone around the world from the privacy of your own office, home or even kitchen table. All you need is a WIFI connection.
And in addition to the rich content and context that digital card games provide, they also have some benefits over traditional online learning games that have more complex interfaces or storylines. Card games have four fantastic benefits as learning games.

Let’s look at those benefits.

• Familiarity—One real advantage of a card game paradigm for “serious learning games” is that card games are almost universally known. Almost everyone at one point in their life has played a card game. Therefore, as a player of a serious game a digital card game doesn’t appear to be intimidating or complicated. People who are familiar with card games understand certain rule or norms such as, each player receives their own hand, cards are dealt and shuffled, cards are played when they are good or discarded when a they are poor. Cards are to be collected or traded. It seems basic but when people are familiar with a construct such as a card game, they are less anxious and more open to understanding the new rules and methods of playing because they already have a familiar framework to help them learn the new digital card game.

• Simple Rules—Contrast the universally known elements of a card game with sophisticated first-person like learning games or multicharacter digital role play games. With card games, most are learned quickly and easily because there are a limited number of rules and complicated nuances. This makes it possible in a training situation for the players to quickly adopt a digital card game and virtually eliminates long, complicated on-boarding or tutorials just so all players understand the rules. Card games are simple, efficient and easy-to-learn. Yet, they provide a powerful learning impact.

• Real-Time Application—When playing a card game where you need to sort concepts into distinct categories or where you are responding to a prompt or you are trying to collect cards of a certain type, you are applying knowledge immediately. You are making decisions based on classifications, model or methods that you’ve just learned. A well-designed digital card game forces the players to immediately put into practice what they have learned during the card game. This immediate need for action makes the game exciting and energetic but also forces quick thinking and action, in short, it reinforces the knowledge being taught and provides the learner with immediate feedback as to whether or not they applied that knowledge correctly.


Digital, online card games might appear simplistic or basic but if you start to peel away the layers, you’ll see a dynamic, energetic and highly instructional method for teaching all types of content, concepts, and ways of thinking. Give a digital card game a try today.

By Karl M. Kapp, learning game designer, author of several books on game and game design and advisement board member to Enterprise Game Stack.


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