Games and gamification have been around for hundreds of years. Last week I had the pleasure of participating as a panelist to discuss common barriers to games and gamification in organizational learning at DevLearn 2017 in Las Vegas. I shared the floor with Marci Morford and Nick Floro who are well known practitioners of gamified learning environments. There were about 50-100 learning professionals in attendance and we answer some great questions while providing suggestions on how to overcome the aforementioned barriers. The event was hosted by the phenomenal Bianca Woods from the eLearning Guild. I made a LinkedIn post about the event and it went viral with over 5,000 views thus far. In this post, I offer a recap of that discussion and insights from the event.
Why games and gamification in organizational learning?
The word game ignites a positive or negative response depending of whom you ask. Many assumptions about games is that they are childish and irrelevant to work; this can be true. It all depends of how the game is designed and how relevant it is to a learner’s occupation. Make your games relevant to the desired learning outcome and avoid superfluous material. For example, don’t introduce “fun” characters just for fun sake; this would be the kind of practice that would make your game look childish. Games can be far more engaging and effective at transferring knowledge than most learning activities. This is because games often involve the user in making decisions and provide a personalized experience. Well designed games operate with constant feedback loops where players make informed or exploratory decisions and there’s always a consequence. After all, game theory is a real thing affecting human behavior. I also suggest becoming familiar with the Mechanics, Dynamics and Aesthetics or MDA framework which is used by game designers around the world.
How can you get buy-in for learning gamification?
Build a demo! Don’t waste your time pitching a concept without having something to show because they key for leadership buy-in is to show value as soon as possible. I recommend to start with a gamified approach to an existing project to make it more engaging. If you are not familiar with gamification, it’s a marketing term used to describe the use of game mechanics for non-gaming purposes. The first examples of this practice came from the film and retail industries. Think about it; what is the reward program from your favorite retailer? Yes! You guessed right! It’s gamification. Game mechanics are the rules of the game. There are players, there are rules to follow, there are decisions, actions and consequences. If your leadership can see the powerful influence game mechanics have on behavior; then, their support will be easier to achieve.
What game authoring tools should you use?
Pencil and paper! One BIG assumption about games and gamification is that it has to be technology driven, hard and expensive. This is not the case at all. Earlier in the conference, Marci conducted a session on how to build a game in 20 mins for instructor led activities. I also presented a session on how to build game elements in Storyline 360 . Based on this, you can probably tell that a game or gamified content can be created with your current tools. However, if you want to develop a gamified app or video game; you would then need a gaming engine software like Construct2 , Game Salad or BuildBox .
Should games be used when there’s large content?
A key thing mentioned by Nick is that games are not the only solution but, a part of it. I completely agree with that statement and games should be strategically used for learning purposes. Your learning solution does not have to be delivered solely in a gamified approach. A learning game should be one learning event in a sequence of learning experiences. Gaming user interfaces also allow for hidden menus where information can be provided in reading format, allowing the player to use it as performance support to step in and out of the game as needed.
How can you get started?
As always, start small and build a pilot. You have to know your organization and assess the population you serve. Games are not for everyone but, most of all also expect to receive rebuttals and rejections from even those who may seem to be keen to trying games for learning. Start with the tools you already have or use a free trial version so you can have 10 people try your game and collect their feedback. If it works out, then go to your leadership and have them try it and be sure to highlight the feedback collected whether favorable or not. In the end, it’s a win-win situation because whether games are approved or not, you would have gone through the experience of creating one. You can also follow each panelist mentioned here and take advantage of my Udemy course on eLearning Game Design in Storyline2. Use code ID90OFF and get it for $10!
Games and gamification are presumed to be childish and irrelevant but that’s because you have to avoid these characteristics in your design. Games and game theory have been around for years and they are now part of our daily lives. Every time you make a purchase to increase points on your favorite retailer’s rewards program, you are playing an engaging game. My participation as a panelist in this DevLearn 2017 session helped me realize games can bring us together in ways no training module can do. I’m very grateful to the eLearning Guild for this opportunity and all I learned from interacting with Marci, Nick and all in attendance there.