Matchstick Inc.
eLearning, Instructional Design and Learning Technology Consulting


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Gamification: Let's Play a Game!



For learning professionals, gamification is all about bringing the enjoyment and excitement of play into the design of a training course or learning event. Simply put, they enhance content with an element of fun to engage people in the learning process.


While this is not a new notion – instructors have been using games in the classroom for years to energize participants and to review and reinforce learning - gamification generally refers to the design of online training as immersive simulation games or courses featuring game like elements that promote participant motivation throughout the module.


Game mechanics vs. serious games


“Game mechanics” are the game like elements such as rewards, points and achievement badges which engage and incentivize learners as they progress through a module or learning event.Inserting these aspects of gaming is relatively inexpensive with the help of 2D flash-based software. “Serious games” are simulations of real-world events or processes designed for the purpose of solving a problem rather than for pure entertainment. Used in training, they enable learners to practice making effective decisions and they require more sophisticated tools and development time.


Regardless of which approach is used, learners will be competing directly against one or more individuals or participate individually in an interactive experience that rewards learning performance in some way. The spirit of competition makes learning more enjoyable, boosts retention and increases speed of skill acquisition. This is especially true for Millennial generation employees who grew up playing computer and video games.


Gamification in corporate training

Given its appeal to employees, organizations see gamification as an opportunity to make learning fun and to encourage innovation and creativity.


A survey conducted in 2013 by ATD (ASTD) with the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) found that participating organizations are most likely to use gamification for all-employee training (all standard learning programs) and for new employee orientation and onboarding. Top uses of serious games had all-employee training ranked first, followed by development of high-potential employees.


Is gamification right for your organization? A few things to consider…



  • How would gamification support the business objectives? What business goals are you trying to meet? How can a game format be leveraged to achieve desired results?  Keeping in mind the costs of designing simple game mechanics vs. those of developing serious game-based training, don’t let the “cool” factor influence the decision to use either option as a learning solution. Choose what makes sense for the business and for your learners. 


  • How will you measure progress toward meeting desired outcomes? As with any training proposal, before gamifying, ensure that all stakeholders agree on what constitutes success. Will you look for 100 percent participation in the course, measurable business results, or a score on a test? What do you expect the employees to be able to do once the gamification experience is over? Will they make fewer errors, sell more products or provide better customer service?  If success is not defined at the beginning, it is hard to know whether or not you have achieved your objectives.


  • Is there a supportive corporate environment for gamification? Managers and front line supervisors need to understand any gamification initiative before they can be expected to willingly and effectively support it in the field. Plan to provide ample communication and opportunity for them to experience the program first hand before rolling it out to the larger target audience. Determine, as well, how you will allocate time to learning. Just because gamification is fun, learners will likely not give up their free time to complete a training course. Failure to allocate time during work hours sends the message to employees that learning and employee development is not valuable enough to be done on company time.


As gamification is becoming integrated into the larger learning strategy, it is enhancing the training options available to L&D departments. Once you have defined the best uses of this tool for your organization you can begin partnering with internal and external stakeholders and resources to successfully gamify your training.


Look for future postings on this topic!