Gamified Gamification: All Myths Must Die 2

Last year, I started a Work Out Loud (actually Tweak Out Loud) project: a gamified Storyline elearning that addresses common myths about gamification/game-based learning. I’ve learned a lot since the first edition, so here comes

Gamification of Thrones v2

It’s still not complete, but in the spirit of working out loud, you may find the evolution and thought process useful.



 The Storywar

Storytelling is an art in itself. Great storytellers can grab the audience attention and hook them right from the beginning. Others went to marketing and introduced binge watching for humanity. If you’re interested more about how the brain reacts to stories, here’s a great article from the Harvard Business Review.

Back to our story. In an eLearning, you don’t have the time to introduce a whole James Bond theme but a simple framework can help the audience set the expectations. You may be thinking: content is king. What does expectations matter? Take a look at this article, where participants found a game much more engaging when they were told the enemy is using artificial intelligence. Like it or not, perception is king as it sets expectations. So, next time think about this when you start a presentation with “bare with me, I know it’s a lot of info on this slide but…” or “I know this is not going to be so exciting but..”

Our theme is Gamification of Thrones. It needs a quick backstory that make sense. Hence the history of the gamification war. Just like in a movie, unconsciously, every single element plays a role, even if you never register it. If you know who Bartle was, you know what we’re talking about, if not, it does not matter, you get the point of the story.


A backstory is good to grab attention and set the tone. At this point, some people want to just jump in (Bring It On), especially, if this is not their first time here. Others, may want to know more about the topic (Need More Info). And there are those who click on every little thing just to see what happens…


Resources to explore if you wish before you would jump into action. Added a direct link to Marczewski‘s User Types as well, which we’ll be the base of learning about game mechanics.


Before you let the user travel around to bust myths, let’s introduce them to land. Changes I made here since the previous version are introducing four player types (noble houses) based on Marczewski‘s player/user types. And added Players and Disruptors, who do not belong to any places, rather ramble around. In reality, Players and Disruptors are somewhat different based on their default attitude towards playing itself. I kept the introductions of the houses biased from the perspective of others, rather than a factual, plain description. It helps make it stick, and also drives home the point again: perception is so important! Perception relates to emotions! And emotions may be much more impactful to learning as you might think.




Game Thinking

Ultimately, the goal is to learn about gamification and/or game-based learning, including user/player types. I’ve seen gamified learning that some people hated, while others loved. Why? Because adding points and a leaderboard itself might actually turn down many of your participants…

While you’re designing a solution for a business problem, my suggestion is not focusing on gamification or game-based learning. Most people are not paid to to play games or have fun at work. Their goal is to solve business problems. And so,

gamification or game-based learning is NOT THE solution!!!

It is “a” solution, in combination with many other performance support elements in the ecosystem at work.  You may be presented with ton of “content” that need to go in a learning solution. If you decide to gamify an elearning course to make it more fun and engaging because there’s just so much content to learn, I guarantee you’ll have mixed results at best.

Game thinking is an action-driven approach. What does a user need to do with a piece of information? What is the context, in which this piece of information is used? SMEs and stakeholders actually do not want to jam all that content in a course! What they worry about is that important (?) information may get lost. And since you’re proposing a course, they want to make sure you include all information in that one singe course. However, if you know the ecosystem of support tools, knowledge base, social network, etc. at work, you can come back with a package, as to where and what to include. You may propose to move from a “learning event” to a learning process. Spread out in time. This may include different ways of learning and reinforcing the content. This way, your gamified solution will need to include the most important actionable items only, rather than ton of information that more than likely would result in cognitive overload anyway.

Back to our game play. The core dynamics of this elearning is to move from place to place on the map and MATCH game mechanics and player/user types. The goal is to keep in mind the variety of game mechanics that are available when next time you’re using game thinking to solve a problem. Planning to include only points, badges and leaderboards? Surprised that the same 10 people are on top? Now you know, why.


I’m planning to use this gamified piece (elearning?) not as a standalone learning in itself. For my next speaking event, I’d like to use this in an interactive session with the audience, where participants make the decisions along the way, using an interactive polling tool, and we would discuss each myth and the consequences of their choice as play.


+bonus tip

I’m using Storyline’s question bank feature for the questions. However, I tweaked it a little bit to match my game thinking needs. Every time you bust a myth, it randomly picks ALL questions from the bank. For each correct answer, you gain a badge (game mechanic listed in the question). Now, if I already gained a badge for the question, the system skips that and moves on to the next question in the randomized order. It checks for badge again, etc. This way, I force all questions to show. The reason I did this because, instead of answering a set of number questions (like 10 questions every time), I wanted the player to have 3 correct answers. But consecutive correct answers! So, if you’re correct on the first two but you miss the third, you start from 3 again. This raises the stakes with each question. The system monitors the number of consecutive correct answers and leaves the bank when you get 3.

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