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Playing By the Rules of Gamification

Gamification is rapidly gaining popularity as a business tool; some of the first applications of game mechanics were to be found in the marketing sphere when marketers realized they could use games to improve engagement in their products, and the usage of game mechanics has since spread to other areas like employee engagement, performance, learning and talent acquisition.

In fact, it has become so popular that game elements are predicted to be used in 25% of redesigned business processes by 2015, and 70% of Global 2000 businesses are expected to be managing at least one gamified application or system by 2014.

To boil it down to its essence, gamification is the application of a game’s core elements, such as rules, competition, scoring and leveling to an activity not traditionally thought of as a game. The idea is to enhance the user’s level and quality of engagement with the activity through the game based elements, and as such the concept has caught the attention of learning professionals looking to enhance the impact of their learning interventions.

While it can be very powerful it is worth noting that gamification is not always going to be the right solution.  There are several key rules we recommend you follow when considering applying game based elements to your L&D interventions.

1. Select the right learning intervention
Learning and development teams should pick the objective of an exercise first and ensure the game elements align with the desired outcome.

2. Recognize that content is still king
Even when using gaming principles, games will become stale if the content that underpins the games is not actively managed to remain interesting, relevant and challenging.

3. Don’t let the competition overwhelm learning
Competition can be a powerful tool to engage learners, but it can also lead employees to focus overly on winning  and distract from key learning moments. Structure learning moments and opportunities for reflection within the game to ensure participants are able to reap the learning benefits.

4. Keep games simple
Complex games with complicated instructions can be more bothersome for participants to engage with than other learning approaches and may actually create barriers to engagement. Ensure all participants understand how to play to drive the learning value.

5. Identify specific learning objectives before approaching vendors
As a result of its popularity, there are a number of niche players adding gaming techniques to their learning offers. When reviewing suppliers, ensure that you have identified specific learning needs and objectives, and understand the learning style of the population.

Have you overcome challenges and learned lessons when deploying gamification initiatives? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section!

Learn more about the buzz around gamification in the Q4 edition of the Learning Quarterly.

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