Can filling the seemingly never-ending spreadsheets be fun? Can people be empowered or motivated to learn in an interesting, engaging, and experiential way? The terrain of learning is fast-changing. Companies opting for gamification techniques to hook its people have seen business results that put focus on learning the gaming way.
Consider game designer Ralph Koster’s quote – Fun is just another word for learning – that only amplifies the positive productivity outcomes that are possible. But a slight alteration is needed. Learning is fun under optimal conditions as Sebastian Deterding conveys in his Google Tech talk.
As children, certain things such as walking miles and miles back from school or having to mow lawns could have been an exasperating as well as a daunting experience. But remember the fun of being allowed to build sand-castles? That is autonomy at work! The adrenaline rush of getting into “mischief” without any onlooker and the flexibility of “experimentation”the “sandy” activity provided.
What if walking can be made interesting by adding a game side to it? What if the boredom of mowing lengthy swathes of lawns can be removed and made fun instead? Simple – by knowing how to make the experience interactive and connecting to the user’s passion, interest, and goals. Likewise, if a game can enable the player to achieve mastery then the sense of achievement equalizes the pride of feeling competent. Therefore, crafting an experience to make the user think about progress will only affirm his mastery of the game on successfully completing it. Figuring out a puzzle, recognizing a pattern, having dexterity to get to the next step and the good sense of achievement that one gets after finally mastering the games are what make learning addictive.
The right way of using gamification techniques makes learning meaningful and empowers learners especially given the freedom they have to curiously explore opportunities without the pressure of functional outcomes.
Let us take lawn mowing for example: slicing the task into small achievable goals makes the accomplishment fun and exciting. So, segregating learning into small and medium time goals helps the learner to grasp things in an easy, engaging, and fun way when gamification modules are introduced and used to impart training. Key aspects that need to be kept in mind are that games used in the context of learning must not under-challenge or over-challenge the player. While matching abilities makes achievement possible by mastering the game, the experience of failures only motivates the learner to push boundaries till mastery over the activity is gained. So, variety, depth, and complexity are core elements of a game that helps players to learn in immersive, engaged, and experiential ways.
Few other factors critical in making learning by gamification successful are given below:
1) Adding some rules – the goal is obvious in a golf game but the rules and regulations are what makes it an interesting sport that uses the mind-body-spirit aspects effectively
2) Clear, visually present goals
3) Structured flow of goals – not a bland line of goals as the game should be able to measure the progress by increasingly difficult challenges at every point till the end
4) Provide interesting challenges
5) Connecting to a meaningful community of interests – pro-social goals
In essence, the overarching narrative has to be compelling and meaningful and wrapped in a visually-supportive story.