Five “Gamification” Mistakes In L&D

If you’re not sure about the difference between gamification, game-based learning, serious games, game-based assessments and mashed potatoes, please read this post first.


Five mistakes I’ve seen in L&D when it comes to “gamifying” learning:

  1. You believe that gamification is your answer to your challenges.

    Well, it may or may not. First, you must know you audience. Not just like “supervisors,” but really know: What are they doing? How are the doing it? Why are not doing what they’re supposed to be doing (they don’t know what, how, why; or they don’t care?) What resources are they using why they’re doing or not doing what they’re supposed to be doing? What motivates them? Answer all these questions, before you even think about gamification. And even then, start with game thinking: challenges that are relevant and life-like with decisions that have consequences and ample feedback that makes sense. CONTEXT and ACTION are key. Start with game thinking in mind and end up with gamification, game-based learning or just gameful design… Honestly, sometimes with a checklist. Whatever simplest solution is, you should go with that one!

  2. You add points to every eLearning course.

    Points, badges and leaderboards are the first things usually implemented when it comes to “gamification” of learning. Wrong! Think points as feedback. Instant and delayed feedback, accumulating across the learning process. Points are progress indicators to motivate humans to do more of the desired behavior and less of the undesired behavior. Points could be lives saved, customers gained, etc. Be careful what you reward with points, though! Giving points for every comment surely drives a conversation on your social site. Except, the conversation doesn’t make any sense, as humans quickly figure out that they get points for comments like g, gg, asd, asdsdfsdf, sdas…

  3. You think playing games is fun for everyone.

    Not everyone likes to play games. And not everyone likes to play the same type of games. Oh, even more complex: humans are not even motivated by the same elements of the same game. Just because you like Uno, it doesn’t mean everyone does. And don’t forget: the ultimate goal is not having fun but learning. Not even learning, performing better. Whatever gameful activity you come up with should be aligned with the performance goals! Aim for the simplest thing you can to achieve results.

  4. You think every learning game is competitive.

    Not. In fact, at work, most people do not compete but collaborate to get things done. Yes, sales love competitions. But did you notice that always the same sales people end up winning?

  5. You think if you play games, you can design games.

    Just because you eat, it doesn’t make you Top Chef. Just because you watch movies, it doesn’t make you a screenplay writer. Why would you think designing games (or gameful activities) is the same as playing games? The good news is, you can. But I tell you, it will take lots of trial, playtesting and tweaks. It is a profession. You can just read blogs and “gamify” your learning experience. Or, maybe you can. You never know if you don’t try. Because the last absolutely horrible learning game you designed is still better than the perfect serious game you never did.

And finally: forget about content. Think context and action. And please, do not list your learning objectives anywhere close to a gameful design!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *