What is Gamification?
Gamification sounds like a made-up word (which it is, but so are all words), but what does it actually mean?
Gamification is the application of game elements into non-game spaces.
This usually refers to office spaces or training using either structural gamification (“game mechanics”) or content gamification (“experience design”). Structural gamification can be as simple as hitting a sales milestone and receiving a prize. That’s not so different from grinding for levels and being rewarded with a new item in a video game. Content gamification refers to structuring something like a game to increase engagement with the content. If you’ve ever had to take an online training and it had you dragging and dropping to match terms, that’s gamification.
Why Use Gamification?
If you ever had a chore to do as a kid and your parents told you to “pretend it’s a game” to endure the painful drudgery of laundry, you’ve experienced gamification. In our world where you can do almost anything with the click of a button, it can be hard to focus on doing or learning one thing at a time.
Games can help you or your learner engage with the content on a deeper level, which has been proven to improve retention of information.
Something as simple as adding a matching game into your training can take it to the next level. Things that are “fun” are not seen as a chore. This can be attributed to dopamine, the naturally produced “happy hormone” that our body releases as we experience rewarding situations. According to one study in the Washington Post, the dopamine released while playing video games is “roughly the same increase triggered by sex” (Pandey, 2018). As humans, we are compelled to play on!
Examples of Gamification in Training
Gamification in training takes many forms. Take a look at some of these great examples below:
Domino’s Pizza: This pizza-making game simulates the process of making a pizza to teach new employees the methods involved without waste product.
Pulse!!: A next-tier level of gamification, that reproduces the conditions of an emergency ward in a hospital setting to allow future nurses the change to practice in a safe environment.
Elucidat: This timed quiz example from Elucidat demonstrates a simpler approach to gamification. Laying out the challenge as a question and adding interesting visual elements to the quiz engages the learner as they add valuable data to a facial recognition research project.
How to Add Gamification to Your Training
As previously stated, this can be as simple as adding a matching game to your existing training. The easiest way to add gamification to your training is to take a step back and think about your learners and what you are presenting them with. Can a bulleted list be animated? Could a diagram become a sort of I-Spy game that involves learners to click on the corresponding points on the image?
Additionally, consider adding rewards. We play games because there is something to be won. The self-satisfaction of completing training may not be enough for your learners, and the threat of being in trouble if they don’t complete an exercise in time is less incentive than you might think. Consider the old stick vs carrot analogy; would you rather reward good behavior and have happy, dopamine-fueled employees, or resentful employees doing the bare minimum to escape repercussions?
Gamification may look like an expensive process when first entering the space. Paying to develop a learning management system or make games can have an upfront cost, but consider that the cost of online training is generally lower than in-person instruction. Tom Richardson, the founder of Deloitte’s Leadership Academy, said that the cost of online training is as low as $5 per employee per hour, versus face-to-face instruction which can cost as much as $50 per person (Pasterfield, 2014).