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Merging Purpose with Design in the World of Gamification

17 Jun 2016

Merging Purpose with Design in the World of Gamification

Gamification and gamified elements have been a hot topic for the last year or two. However, too much of the conversation stays at the superficial level of how to make learning fun, without delving into the real reasons gamification works to change behavior. We see fun as a means to encourage, support and change critical behaviors.

So why is gamification now a critical part of our tool box? The definition from Gartner states, “Gamification is the use of game mechanics and experience design to digitally engage and motivate people to achieve their goals.” This definition highlights gamification’s reliance on digital technology and the design of the user experience. We love to design games for use in the classroom, and we’re excited to use gamification to revitalize e-learning.

It is easy to worry about bad gamification; however, the upside is much better. Raising the engagement factor of our learning and adopting technology that can help us create interesting learning events is a great opportunity.

Good design starts and ends with content that is highly relevant to real job activities, motivational and has the ability to provide skills and critical thinking. Much has been written on this topic, including books like “Gamify “by Brian Burke and “The Gamification of Learning and Instruction” by Karl Kapp. Both of these great books detail the potential pitfalls of gamification, but they also show that gamification can be a critical piece of our instructional design tool box.

Many of the pitfalls start with the ideas that games are just there to make learning more fun, and unfortunately can end with results that aren’t really different from more traditional training. To stay focused with gamification, you must keep purpose and design in mind.

  1. The Purpose: The requests we get for gamification typically stem from one of these three reasons: our younger workforce demands it, our training is too boring, or we need more fun to achieve our learning results. However, those don’t really speak to the true objective of a training program. Using training games should be done because gamification is the best tool to change behavior.
  2. The Design: When we get requests for gamified projects, many seem to want a design that focuses more on the “snag them” or “score and badge them” dynamic. However, the look and feel should be a part of achieving the objective, not the sole consideration.

As you go through this process, here are some best practices:

  • Avoid gamification fatigue. The use of points for activities, badges for completion and leaderboards to encourage competition are useful when in a supportive role. However, they don’t replace, for example, the exploration of sales skills or product knowledge. Badges and leaderboards can extend the life of the program, but shouldn’t be overused or put in a program just for the sake of badging.
  • Gamification is a great tool for engagementwhen your game design creates a real challenge and offers a feeling of accomplishment to the user. There has been success with users sharing results and best practices as a byproduct of the game design. But don’t rest your hopes solely on gamification. In the corporate setting, we have yet to see examples where a game can lead to the whole behavioral change.
  • Gamification is agreat tool for exploration and the introduction of terms and concepts. We often overlook the need to create fertile ground for our learning. A game is a useful prequel to a program. Let employees have fun with concepts and terms you are introducing in a more complex program.

Mastery by game is the pinnacle and most complex aspect of gamification. Here you can move to more “serious gaming” to immerse learners in complex scenarios, like deep game mechanics and lots of content.

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