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What is gamification and where do you start?

Gamification canvasI have written a few blog posts on gamification and we realised that while we talk about gamification (and there is a growing amount of information out there), it might be worth doing an ‘introduction to gamification’ webinar and blog.

So here is a blog post for people who are new to the concept of gamification…

The video game industry is a massive industry. Angry Birds has been downloaded more than 2 Billion times and is one of the most downloaded apps of all time. The video game industry is larger than other forms of entertainment (Movies, DVD rental, music and books).

So why are we so engaged when playing games? Take some time then next time you pick up your phone or console controller – why are you doing this? What can’t you put it down?

You might say something like this:

  • Simple – easy to understand
  • Achievement – provides a sense of accomplishment
  • Satisfaction – makes it addictive
  • Casual – you choose how long you access it

So how do our learning and development activities stack up to this?

When we talk to educators/practitioners/L&D specialists, they will often tell us about the interesting ways they engage their learners/participants. They say things like:

  • promote communication with others
  • set clear guidelines on when they can expect communication back
  • provide instant feedback and rewards to gather along the way

These are all forms of gamification.

Gamification is the process of making activities more game-like or some people say the addition of game elements into a non-game environment. We see it in marketing, sales, social media and a whole stack of other areas. It’s a booming area and there are some simple ways to think about using game elements in your learning and development.

Progression – See success visualised incrementally

  • Levels: ramp up and unlock content
  • Points: increase the running numerical value of your work

Investment – feel pride in your work

  • Achievements acknowledged
  • Collaboration
  • Virality (being incentivised by others)
  • Epic meaning (work to achieve something grand)

Cascading information theory – unlock information continuously

  • Bonuses, discovery, infinite play, countdown, loss aversion, synthesis (work on multiple projects)

You can take a short-term or long-term approach to your gamification. If you plan to add simple game elements to your learning sessions, test a few of these ideas with your learners/participants and see how they go. If it works, then incorporate some more and build on your successes. Even short-term gamification attempts should aim to encourage (or discourage) a specific behaviour. For example, hidden easter eggs are not just added for ‘fun’. The purpose is to encourage people to keep reading the content.

When thinking about gamification, it is important to think about the diversity of your learners. People find different activities fun or engaging. What you find challenging, someone else may find boring. Game designers use a framework of stereotypical player types to balance aspects of the game to appeal to various motivations.

The Moodle for Motivation guide charts how Moodle (or other LMS) learning activities are matched to Bartle’s Player Types: Achievers, Socialisers, Explorers and Killers. It provides a simple at-a-glance reference for starting to use game elements in your course development. Although we play multiple roles and change the roles we play over time, understanding these stereotypes can provide insight into the wide range of motivations behind participants’ actions.

So here are some ideas to think about using in your courses:

  • Progress Bars – to encourage completion of a sequence of events a
  • Leaderboards – Top Influencers, Most Popular Discussions.
  • Feedback – Group membership growth, Likes.
  • Badges
  • Autonomy – choices wherever possible

If you would like to take a more strategic approach, have a look at my Gamification in Education Canvas. This is a planning tool to guide you through developing a gamification strategy in an educational context. Please download the PDF file, or view the RealTime online whiteboard. View an example of a completed strategy to increase webinar participation.

Hints and tips

To get you on track, here are some tips to getting started.

  1. Focus on encouraging (or discouraging) a specific behaviour.
  2. Focus on things people already want to do: Your best starting point for gamification is to reward a behaviour that’s already happening.
  3. Measure the change: Track the desired behaviour before and after gamifying it, so that you’ll know whether the gamification is working.
  4. Reward incremental progress: A good gamelike experience measures and rewards small accomplishments in addition to big ones. When you reward people for making incremental progress toward larger goals, you encourage them to keep going.
  5. Make it social: Whether within a closed environment such as a sales-team leaderboard or an open environment like Facebook, giving people the opportunity to share their accomplishments and badges adds meaning and significance to their achievements.

Here are some more resources for you

Motivation LinkedIn group

Open badges

Description of a Game of Thrones game in a face-to-face context

If you are interested in seeing the webinar on this topic – email

We can work with you to implement gamification strategies in your training and development, ask us how!

This blog post is based on a webinar and co-written by Natalie and Melanie.


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