“Utilizing Gamification”

I have another accomplishment to put on my resume: “lampo di luce!” Of course, there’s a story behind it. I was honored to be included in a list of talented eLearning pros in Tom’s blog this week, 8 E-Learning Developers You Should Follow. Tom referred to me as the “zsolt of lightning” with creative ideas on learner engagement and gamification in eLearning. The blog apparently was translated to Italian, hence my accomplishment of “lampo di luce” below:

Why would you care about this?

Of course, the reason for this blog is not to learn Italian. I wanted to re-address the use of “gamification” in learning. If you’re a grammar geek, it drives you nuts when people use “utilize” instead of use in learning solutions. The verb utilize is supposed to be used for an unusual application of something for practicality or effectiveness. For example, you use a paperclip to hold paper, but utilize a paperclip to eject the SIM card in your phone.

That said, especially in technical jargon, utilize is becoming the “look, how serious I am about using this” approach to use software applications, functions or equipment. The question is, when does a rule change? When does the proper use of a term become the exception? How long until you become minority with your opionion?

Let’s talk about gamification of learning!

The verb, “gamify” reminds me of the story of utilize. A decade ago, there was no gaming allowed in corporate learning because playing is the opposite of working (hint: it’s not). We called things immersive challenges instead of games. Then came the word: “gamification.” Gamification is a human-centered, behavior-changing approach to motivation and engagement using game elements in non-game situations. Now, that is serious! Like utilize. And that’s why everything in the WORL&D that is remotely close to gameful design came under the cover of gamification. In fact, when you gamify content (don’t!!), you get gamification. Whether it’s a game, a game-based assessment, serious game or just a gameful experience, they all might just be called gamification.

Key mind-gums to chew on:

  • Where to start? Serious games, game-based assessments and gamification are actually not where you should start. This is where you should end! But only if they are the appropriate solutions! Think of these as modalities such as eLearning, ILT, video, whatever. If you start with an eLearning in mind, you will build an eLearning, no matter what.
  • Don’t gamify content! Game thinking is human-centered, not content-centered. If you have boring content, think about why it’s boring, rather than sprinkle some sugar on top.
  • If not content, what is the starting point? ACTIONS! There are very few gameful activities where players don’t do anything. You must identify actions people need to take (or decisions to make). Use Cathy Moore’s action mapping or similar approaches to dig into desired behaviors.
  • If content is king, context is queen. A queen is fast, agile and has the most value on the chessboard. Provide humans with context, challenges, consequences and a positive feedback loop. Make the core loop gameful, not the content. Engagement starts with context and challenge.
  • If you really want a serious game, and you don’t have the resources in-house, hire someone who knows what they’re doing! Building a mediocre angry bird for leadership development won’t cut it. The dirty secret of games is that they are not supposed to be mandatory. The moment you force people to play, you risk losing a many of them.
  • How to learn game design?¬†Reading a book is not the same as writing one. But without reading books first, it’s going to be hard to write one. And if your only book you read was Adventures of Big Toe in the Bathtub, your book you’re writing will be stunningly familiar to adventures of a big toe in the bathtub. Sames goes for games. You must play games before you design any. If the only game you played was Jeopardy, guess what your game will look and act like. Playing is essential but not enough. You must dissect and analyze game mechanics in the games. What makes them engaging? How do they work? Learn the theory from Karl Kapp and Sharon Boller. And finally, design and build prototypes. Lots of, lots of prototypes. Build a gameclub with friendlies to playtest your ideas first. Follow fellows on social media.




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