Gamification is one of the hottest trends in Learning and Development this year, with over 30% of companies saying they are currently using it, 12% running trials and 53% hoping to make use of it in the next two years. But what’s all the hype about and isn’t it an expensive fad to implement?
There is confusion about what Gamification actually is as it gets mixed up with concepts like Serious Games, Gameful Design and just plain, ordinary games.
- Gamification - using game mechanics to help motivate users to learn
- Gameful Design - using design principles from games to make user interfaces more appealing and easy to use
- Serious Games - simulations and immersive experiences that play through like a game whilst delivering learning experiences
- Games - designed for fun and entertainment only.
“The use of game mechanics and experience design to digitally engage and motivate people to achieve their goals” — Gartner
Why do people keep playing games, what makes them go back and try again? Gamification is not about creating games for people within your organisation to play, but capturing the essential elements of games to make learning more engaging and memorable.
If there is an emotional attachment to learning it makes it more powerful. You may not remember much about your journey to work today, but you will remember a day when the journey didn’t go to plan. This is the power of affective learning. Emotion enhances memory.
Many games unfold as they progress thus creating a desire to know what’s round the corner. With learning, don’t reveal all at the start, include levels that need to be unlocked to reveal the next part. Where possible include ‘discovery’ with hotspots that the user has to search for.
Let people feel like they have a degree of control in the path they chose. Older eLearning developments tends linear – click next – progression. By allowing users to alter the path, or jump past things they’ve mastered it gives a more accomplished sense of control, which positively impacts motivation.
Providing a character to follow, empathise and identify with, brings a story to life and gives it meaning. Factual and dry narrative becomes more personable.
Most of us have a competitive side, even if we don’t always admit to it. Competition can drive us to work harder and try again if we fail. There is a ‘sweet spot’ known as ‘FLOW’, that point when you are in the zone, between boredom and anxiety. Lots of games make use of this sweet spot, too hard and we give up, to easy and we get bored and forget it.
Games frequently demand that you redo something until you master it. Learning is like that, you start by scratching the surface, then revisit to find out more, and more, until you have mastery. If you try to give a big, in-depth chunk of learning all at once, very little will stick. However, if you ‘chunk’ the learning and revisit it, the potential for recall is much higher.
Levels and progress bars can help to visualise progress. By including these in a personalised dashboard the user has an overview of their progress and an understanding of what they still need to complete. Open Badges can be used as a mark of a level achievement, and these can be aggregated to show mastery.
Gameful Design can also be referred to as playful design. It uses the principles of good games design interfaces to help inform interface design for other uses.
In games the interface needs to be simple so it doesn’t impede game play. Most app games have a very low learning curve for the control interface. How to use the app is frequently built into the game mechanics so you get introduced to it a bit at a time.
Gameful design can add pleasure to using an interface, without altering the functionality. Big software developers are including more friendliness in their interfaces, which adds a fun element whilst removing none of the communication value.
“These games have an explicit and carefully thought-out educational purpose and are not intended to be played primarily for amusement” — Clark Abt (originator of the term serious games)
These type of games tell a story as they progress. They get the user to immerse themselves in another world (now sometimes quite literally through the use of Virtual Reality). These games have high motivation, short play duration and are designed to modify the user’s behaviour rapidly with frequent feedback on performance. A good example is a game to get you to blood type patients effectively developed by the Nobel Foundation. These are presentations that we would recognise alongside traditional games, the difference being the incorporation of learning.
It is quite often these types of games that people think of when they say that the cost of gamification is too high to implement. The cost may be high, but this needs to be considered against the number of users, and the alternative costs of delivery and its effectiveness.
9 ways to include gamification in Learning Design
- Make learning more personable, tell a story, include emotional engagement and empathy
- Provide a narrative that users can identify with
- Create simple, visually engaging interfaces with a human touch
- Make the interface a pleasure to use so users want to come back
- Design for ‘Flow’
- Show visibility of progress, competition through achievements, levels and unlocking, add in rewards like badges
- Design so the user feels they have a choice of pathway rather than just a linear one
- Provide elements to be revealed, discovered or searched for
- Good instructional design ‘chunks’ learning appropriately, and goes progressively deeper.
eCom’s learning specialists can help you incorporate gamification and gameful design into your projects. Our work for NetRegs included the use of hotspots and our collaboration with Howden adopted avatars and illustration in eLearning.
Our projects have used Open Badges to stimulate reward and competition.eNetAuthor, our new content authoring tool, is designed to help you easily create engaging content through the use of simple tools.