The global video game industry is expected to hit a market value of over $118 billion by the year 2019. That’s simply staggering for a hobby that was once confined to clunky arcade machines and tape-based home entertainment systems that would make you wait twenty minutes before indulging in any kind of gaming.
Now, video games are an intrinsic part of everyday life. They still play a big role in the living room, but are increasingly the method of relaxation we choose when we need to grab a quick five-minute break on our smartphones. They’re alluring, immediately obtainable and, at times, frustratingly addictive.
Take one look at any app store top ten charts and it’ll be full of household names from the video game industry and boredom-busting mini-games – all of which can be installed quickly and, often, at no cost to the user.
As a result, ‘gamification’ is becoming an increasingly common tactic for raising engagement and increasing information retention in learning. It’s putting the fun back into education, yet is so cleverly integrated that it often slips by, unnoticed.
What is gamification?
If you’ve ever joined a coffee shop’s loyalty scheme, you’ll have experienced gamification first-hand. Every time you buy a drink, you’ll likely hand over a punch card that is stamped to confirm your purchase. That notches you up a level and pushes you closer to a particular goal (usually a free drink).
In principal, this is no different to Nintendo’s loveable plumber, Mario, who collects coins as he goes about his adventures – and is just as addictive. Any number or value assigned to us that we are empowered to increase and benefit from is a goal worth pursuing.
More subtle examples of gamification can be found on platforms such as Facebook or LinkedIn, where users are encouraged to build online profiles by adding photos, bios and past achievements. As you create your profile, an achievement ring showing the percentage completion is usually displayed, urging you to forge on and complete every task.
Gamification exists for one reason: to encourage people to reach specific goals by making the process of doing so (no matter how mundane) addictively video game-like.
Gamification and learning: perfect partners
From the time you spend at school to the days spent learning in the world of work, education is only effective when it motivates you. At some stage, we’ve all sat in a classroom, bored beyond belief, waiting for the clock to strike a specific hour. That doesn’t make us impatient or unwilling to learn; we need incentivising if we’re to learn effectively.
Gamification’s benefit in the learning space is unavoidable. In a telling example, DevHub, a service that enables novices to build their own websites, implemented gamification techniques during the web build process. As a result, they saw the number of registrants who completed their websites rocket from 10% to 80%.
Gamifying any learning experience incentivises students and increases information retention. It also injects a healthy layer of competition into the most mundane of tasks. It’s why this form of learning is, quite simply, one of the best ways to help people take on new skills and better themselves.
Examples of gamification in learning
Of course, the real reason you’re reading this blog is to gain some inspiration for integrating gamification into your learning program for employees.
There are countless ways to do this, but we’ve picked out five examples of immersive learning experiences that can utilise gamification in brilliantly subtle ways in order to capture (and hold) the imagination of students.
Ask anyone to list their least favourite business topics and it’s likely ‘compliance’ will top the list. However, throw some gamification into the mix and even red tape and procedure can become exciting.
Take risk management. This is a vital area of business, but the dreariness with which it has traditionally been taught unfortunately leads to non-adherence and, as a result, a potential increase in health and safety-related incidents.
By using a simulation-based learning environment where people are encouraged to play with real-world scenarios from the safety of a laptop or tablet, exploration, challenge and eventual reward replaces the energy-sapping trawl through compliance manuals.
Inducting a new employee into an organisation can go one of two ways. It’ll either be an inclusive affair where they’re immediately welcomed into the family and given work of a meaningful nature, or they’ll be left feeling alienated and more of a nuisance than a team member.
Gamification can make the induction experience a far more enjoyable one and is capable of greatly reducing the amount of paperwork and shadowing that usually dominates the first few days of a new career.
Company processes, procedures and the setup of network profiles can all be turned into mini gaming tasks where the new employee levels up as they gradually induct themselves into the team. Think of it as you would the initial instructional level that features in most video games.
3. Skills enhancement
Following a singular path in order to learn a new skill or enhance those we have already taken on board isn’t particularly inspiring. Humans like to have a choice, which is why gamifying skills enhancement in business is fast becoming a popular learning method.
Modern video games have all but abandoned linearity, offering gamers the ability to forge their own path and complete the task in hand in any way they see fit. The same can be done with learning by offering different learner paths that present a mixture of questions and eventual rewards at each stage.
4. Real-work scenarios
McDonalds is perhaps best known for implementing gamification techniques during the learning process in order to ensure that new staff are ready for real-world scenarios.
Cash register training capable of simulating busy periods and offering rewards for successful stints in a virtual working environment enables employees to learn in a quasi-live situation that is challenging yet accepting of failure. Get it wrong first time? Try again!
Just like compliance, safety is a business risk no one wants to fall foul of, yet few people relish the task of learning its intricacies.
Gamification isn’t just about points scoring and levelling-up, it also encourages large course material to be divided into smaller, bite-sized chunks. It enables micro learning in areas that have traditionally been cumbersome and, for many, anything but approachable.
If you break up your safety program into its constituent elements and design a learning strategy that allows employees to pick and choose the order by which they complete each section, you’re far more likely to see increased engagement and, as a result, better adherence to safety regulations.
Learning should always be fun. Gaming is inherently fun. Join the two together and you can turn what was once the sole domain of lengthy, classroom-based tuition into an engaging learning experience that encourages exploration and engenders healthy competition.