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What’s the Benefit of “Fun” in Games?

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Yes, I know. You’ve heard that games are very useful for learning. However, it’s less about creating a game than actually understanding what it is that people find “fun” about playing games. There is power in understanding what makes games engaging to us. Armed with that knowledge, you can use it to inform your learning designs.

This table offers a quick summary. Use it to inform your decisions when designing learning games or learning activities that you want to actually keep people engaged.

What’s fun, why it’s fun, and how it can affect learning game design.
Game Activities People Find Fun What Makes Them Engaging Implications for Learning Games
  • Grapple with challenges.
  • Triumph over a challenge after working at it.
  • Achieve something (a win state, a trophy, a new level).
  • Figure out solutions to problems.
  • Create strategies that lead to a win or resolution of a challenge.
  • Mental satisfaction of overcoming adversity or some difficulty.
  • Sensation of mastery and accomplishment.
  • Mental stimulation; using their brains and savvy to find a solution.
  • Compatibility with many people’s natural tendency to be goal oriented.
  • Thoughtful incorporation of goals, challenges, and adversity can be linked to real-world job situations.
  • Goals are everywhere in the work world: sales goals, productivity goals, safety goals, retention goals.
  • Challenges abound in the workplace: time, money, and resource management; economic challenges; adverse event challenges; innovation challenges.
  • Problem solving and strategizing are higher-order skills that many workers and companies need more of. Games become a useful way of encouraging this type of thinking, if it’s required for the job.
  • Earn the title of “winner.”
  • Feeling of well-being and pride that comes from the admiration and recognition that winners and achievers often get.
  • Having employees that feel valued and recognized is critical to sustaining engagement. You can leverage this need in your game’s design.
  • Collect, explore, or escape.
  • Being active mentally stimulates us and keeps us from feeling bored or distracted.
  • Feeling of accomplishment; this is closely linked to goal achievement.
  • Action often generates an emotional response. Emotion interests us.
  • Engagement in a learning activity is typically measured by how involved a learner gets; activity-based elements tend to generate more involvement than passive ones, such as reading or watching. If mental activity and physical actions are required of us, it’s harder to disengage than if we remain passive.
  • Collaborate with others to work through a challenge or get something done.
  • Desire to feel valued by teammates.
  • Desire not to let someone down (if playing on a team).
  • Desire for interaction with others.
  • As with action, interaction often generates an emotional response. Emotion interests us.
  • To accomplish goals, people usually have to collaborate with others. Learning games lend themselves well to cooperative play, which helps build collaborative behaviors.
  • Role-play or imagine themselves in a different context.
  • Desire to feel creative.
  • Ability to safely explore something we’d normally consider too “out there” to be a part of.
  • Enjoyment of pretending or imagining; it can be very freeing.
  • In the workplace, mistakes can be costly. Allowing people to role play or imagine in a game is a safe practice area that causes no harm.
  • Fantasy can also be a useful way of helping workplace learners accept a situation they would otherwise object to as not being realistic enough to fit their specific work world. The fantasy elements make it clear it is not supposed to be an exact representation of their world.
  • Imagination in game play can also cultivate creativity and innovation – two desirable things in a workplace.

 

 

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How to Create a Game-Based Learning Strategy

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I was speaking to a client the other day who said only 10% of her workforce completes the training they are supposed to take on the LMS. She thinks training completion is low because the content isn’t engaging and wanted to know if a learning game could fix it. I told her that there is no “easy button,” and games are not a cure-all for for boring content or bad learning design.

Game-based learning can improve learner engagement, but only if you start with a strategy. Years of research shows that game-based learning can increase not only learner engagement, but drive both higher retention and completion rates. Industry professionals are now spending less time debating what the research says about games, but many organizations still struggle to correctly implement games that drive meaningful results. Adding a learning game to the mix just to ‘jazz things up’ could be like putting a Band-Aid on the problem when surgery is really needed.

How do you implement a true game-based learning strategy that will actually work? A strategy where learners actually learn and retain at higher levels? A strategy that drives measurable results?

Here are some key points to keep in mind when creating your strategy:

1. Know your audience

Key stakeholders often get this wrong. I had a seasoned training director tell me that since his audience was mostly women, games just wouldn’t work. Really? According to the Entertainment Software Association, of the 155 million gamers out there, 44% are women. There are marketing games that tout a player demographic of 52% women.

2. Make it relevant

This is where many game-based learning strategies fail.   First, learners want activities that are relevant to the learning material and their job. If the game is relevant to helping them retain material or gives them time to practice with material they will use often, then it’s worthwhile. If not, learners will reject it. If you’ve tried a game before and it wasn’t adopted well by your learners, this might be the culprit. Avoid drawing the conclusion that games won’t work with your learners if this is the case.

3. Make learning the focus

Many folks want serious games to be, well, less “serious.” They want more action, more sound, more addictive qualities to the game. The problem is that the more complex the game design or game-play is, the less cognitive space is left to learn the knowledge and skills you designed the game to teach in the first place.

4. Timing is everything

Learning games work best when implemented as part of a blended learning approach. At Bottom-Line Performance, we’ve implemented games as pre-work to a larger training event or instructor-led training as well as post-work for multi-module eLearning curriculums to help learners reinforce what they learned—particularly material they really need to know from memory.

5. Measure the outcomes

To drive measurable results, you have to know what you want the desired learning outcomes to be and have a way to access the data you need to measure those outcomes. If your LMS reports only completion, choose a platform that can deliver reports detailing how players performed.

Of course, implementing a strategy at your company will involve many more steps than what I have shared here, as well as testing to gauge the response a game-based learning approach has with your learners. Whatever your desired business outcomes are, make sure your game-based approach is based on sound instructional design.

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5 Ways Serious Games Can “Level Up” Your Sales Reps

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Sales people live in the moment. They need to hit this month’s numbers. They have a demo in 10 minutes. Their manager wants an update on their biggest account. They are paid on commission and they probably do not feel they have time to take your training! Sales people probably have the most single-minded focus of any role in your organization: activities that are directly linked to making a sale are top priority and everything else is just details.

As an L&D professional, you know that knowledge and skills are vital to building a successful sales organization. But a sales rep is not paid to worry about the entire sales organization. They are paid when, and only when, they produce results. Reps will be reluctant to invest time and energy into training if it is not directly helping them do their job better. They are eager to learn, but only when the knowledge will directly help them on their next sales call. Wouldn’t it be great if training could be a positive part of that, and not seen as a time waster?

Want to learn more about sales enablement? Access our webinar: Sales Enablement & Beyond: Using Games and Smart Implementation to Drive Performance.

Serious Games and Sales Reps: A Perfect Fit

There is a reason so many of the Bottom-Line Performance clients who ask us to design a custom serious game wish to use it with sales reps. Customers who use our Knowledge Guru platform often create their games for sales professionals, too. Our experience has shown that games are often the perfect addition to a sales training program or set of reinforcement and reference tools.

There are many ways games can be leveraged as a tool to help sales reps perform better on the job. Here are five ideas to jumpstart your thinking:

1. Games can prevent the need to “cram” new product knowledge

Product launches are stressful, complicated events for everyone involved. Sales reps are often bombarded with new product and technical knowledge they must assimilate quickly before their next customer conversation. Reps might find themselves studying PDFs, Googling information they can’t find or learning about the new product via a PowerPoint deck. Before long, learning about ACME corporation’s new product release feels like studying for a college exam. And there is a very good chance reps will forget more than they remember without proper reinforcement.

Our research and client work shows us that serious games provide a much better way to learn product and industry knowledge. With the right instructional design know-how, learning principles such as spaced repetition and feedback loops can be linked to the mechanics of a game that reps can play for just minutes a day as time allows. Games linked to learning science become real time savers for a sales rep, as the gameplay is designed to help them learn and retain the necessary knowledge. And when the product and technical knowledge is especially complex, sales associates will appreciate games that truly help them learn and remember.

Example: Cisco uses Knowledge Guru games as part of their year-long Cisco Sales Associate Training Program. Sales associates average over 3.5 hours of Knowledge Guru gameplay because the games helped them study for their Cisco Sales Certification. Cisco’s game earned a 2014 Brandon Hall gold award for best advance in sales training online application.

2. Games can create a little healthy competition… and camaraderie

Not everyone thinks that competition at work is a fun experience, but your sales team probably does. Most sales reps would probably describe themselves as “competitive.” That’s why they got into the profession in the first place. Games with leaderboards can fuel this competitive drive. They can also create a sense of competition between various locations, territories, or even individuals. Meanwhile, the scores that reps rack up can become informative to managers, showing which individuals or locations have the best grasp of key product knowledge, procedures, and selling skills.

Example: Competition through gameplay usually will not end up feeling cutthroat. After playing a Knowledge Guru game tied to a product launch, the ExactTarget (now Salesforce Marketing Cloud) employee from Australia who won “MobileConnectGuru” shared that he had never felt more a part of the team than while playing the game.

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3. Games can help reps retain and apply new product info

Games can be as simple as a jeopardy clone with handheld remotes or as complex as a 3D world. Most of the time, business needs call for an experience that is somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. For sales reps, the ideal game-based solution will do more than motivate. Sales reps’ time is limited and they will likely want to limit their time spent on training as much as possible unless that training is directly helping them sell (and earn more commission). Gaming that can be done in short bursts that helps them learn, study, and retain product features and benefits is ideal.

4. Games can provide meaningful reporting and analytics

Most serious games offer far more data points than a standard eLearning course. For example, a report that shows learning objective success rate for sales reps in different territories provides far more visibility into what sales reps actually know than a raw completion percentage. This information can be used to provide additional training on the weaker topics to the regions that need it.

With relevant, accurate data in hand, you can deploy just-in-time learning bites that help sales reps shore up the key information they need to learn instead of wasting their time with a full-blown course.

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5. Games can provide highly contextual scenarios to practice consultative selling

Of course, sales reps need to do more than simply memorize product information to be successful. In more complex selling situations, sales training is probably a full-fledged curriculum. Game platforms and templates will rarely be the only solution used in a curriculum like this. And they may not provide the necessary context to help sales professionals with higher-level skills. Thus, these situations are an ideal place for custom serious games.

Example: In Formulation Type Matters, a serious game we created for Dow AgroSciences, sales reps enter a fictional territory with five different unhappy customers they must try to place. Players gain and lose sales and increase or decrease customer satisfaction based on their answers to customer questions. As they play, the reps access a variety of resources and consult their manager, a learning agent in the game, for help. The resources used in the game are the same PDFs they will find and locate on the job.

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Six Truths About Implementing a Learning Game that Gets Results

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I love games—but that does not mean I think a game is the appropriate option for every learning situation. I do not think it will always equal the most effective or efficient means of helping people learn. In fact, I wrote a post recently clarifying how games differ from learning games because a lot of people are thinking about commercial video games when they contemplate incorporating games into their learning strategies.

If you are a chief learning officer or training manager/director who is trying to figure out whether games should be part of your learning mix—or how best to use them—here are six truths for you to consider:

1) Games and simulations require expertise to design well; you have to understand game design as well as instructional design. They require several rounds of play testing and iterative design to produce a game that fully engages your target audience AND achieves the desired learning and performance outcomes. They do not fit well into a “let’s draft it, pilot it, and finalize it,” three-step process. You may need to go through 5-8 iterations to get a custom game right. If you attempt to implement a game that you have not thoroughly tested, you are likely to be disappointed by the results you get.

2) Games are not a panacea. They do not spark crazed excitement in learners just because you say the word “game.” You have to market a game and plan its implementation just as carefully as you would any other type of learning solution. A game is not a cure-all for everything that might ail your training initiatives. Ideally, you have defined a clear purpose for the game and carefully integrated it into your learning solution—rather than inserting it as an afterthought to try to incorporate a “fun” activity in the learning experience. Make the game meaningful and tightly linked to your desired knowledge and skill outcomes. Learners are smart people. They will figure out if a game lacks relevance pretty quickly, and they will reject the experience.

3) A game is best suited as PART of a learning solution rather than as the entire learning solution. For optimal learning, games need to be set up and debriefed in some fashion. They can be a great reinforcement for learning, a great opportunity to practice a skill, or a great opportunity to create a shared experience that then transitions into something else. If your implementation does not include integration with other learning components, the game will be less effective as a learning solution than it otherwise could be.

Example 1:  Several years ago I designed a daylong workshop for a pharma company on single-payer systems (the rest of the world vs. a multi-payer system, which is the U.S. model). The day began with a 45-minute game/simulation called Access Challenge. The game objective was to get your drug onto a customer’s formulary. What made the simulation unique was that the pharma teams were selling to government agencies on different planets, who each had a different type of payer system and different population issues/concerns. The simulation was a level-setting experience for participants so everyone had a shared experience of working with single-payer systems before we got into the details of the day. After learners completed the simulation, we had an excellent foundation for the remainder of the workshop, which was not game-based.

Example 2: We recently were fortunate to earn a Brandon Hall Award in the games/simulation category, along with our client partner, ExactTarget. ExactTarget used Knowledge Guru to create a game called MobileConnect Guru, which was part of a training initiative designed to prep employees, resellers, and distributors on the launch of a new product. The game provided multiple repetitions of key content and was the last component learners completed prior to the product’s launch. ExactTarget’s results were impressive, but the game alone would not have gotten them these results. They designed a highly effective multi-method approach to helping people learn and remember. We describe this “recipe” for learning and remembering in a Bottom-Line Performance blog you can find here. 

4) Your stakeholders are often poor judges of what the target audience will like and find useful. Do not trust the stakeholder group to deem what should and should not be implemented. Your stakeholders are not your target. What they themselves are intrigued by might be deadly dull to your target learners. Conversely (in our company) what the product dev team likes might be way, way too game-y for anyone else in the company. Match the game to the audience, not the people paying for it. This is a tricky business, but it can be done.

5) Recognize the power of games in helping people learn AND remember. A well-designed game incorporates many elements that foster long-term retention. A well-designed game has high replayability, which means learners will naturally get numerous repetitions and practice sessions—which is essential to remembering. They provide frequent and voluminous feedback, which is essential to learning something correctly in the first place. They will incorporate a variety of game elements that foster a desire to play. Some games will even leverage a strong story or narrative, which has a high correlation to long-term memory. (Stories engage our entire brain; the brain literally “lights up” when a story engages it.)

Example: Cisco uses the Knowledge Guru game engine as part of its new sales association program (CSAP). Players consistently rate the games extremely high in terms of their value in learning AND remembering (4.93 on a scale of 1 to 5). A game can combine knowledge recall with scenarios that allow the player to apply the knowledge in a job context, which is a powerful memory-builder.

6) The more effort required to learn to play the game, the less cognitive space available to learn the content. If you feel strongly that you only have 30 minutes available for learners to play a game, then do not implement a game that easily requires 30 minutes just to figure out the rules of play.  Unless you are designing an immersive simulation, keep your game’s objective and rules pretty simple.  The game’s complexity needs to match the amount of time you believe learners will spend playing the game. If you are planning a complex, immersive simulation, then your implementation strategy needs to allow time for players to fully engage in (and learn from) the experience. This probably means 3 hours, not 30 minutes.

If you want a deep dive into learning game design, I wrote an entire white paper on designing learning games. You can download it here.

If you want more info on learning and remembering, check out my white paper titled When Remembering Really Matters. It talks about games and much, much more.

 

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Chance vs Strategy: Which Works Best in Serious Games?

Chance vs Strategy

If you are creating a serious game to help your employees improve their performance, the type of game you create depends greatly on the type of job your employees have. Are either of the following statements true?

  • Day-to-day work is highly reactive in an “anything can happen” environment. Employees complete tasks such as responding to varying customer needs or emergency situations.
  • Work is based on organization, planning and foresight. This might be the case for sales managers, executive leadership or even individual contributors who must carefully plan and execute project work.

Depending on your situation, you should include an appropriate amount of chance or strategy in your serious game that reflects the work environment. As always in game design, you’ll want to avoid game elements that are irrelevant to learners. Gadgets and gimmicks within a game serve as more of a distraction than an engagement tool.

Sharon Boller talks about this at length in her learning game design blog series. With so many different game elements and game mechanics to potentially include in a game design, instructional designers new to game design often struggle to find focus and direction. We think about the “fun” of commercial games we have all played and enjoyed and try to incorporate all of this into games for our learners.

The result? Games that are distracting, out of focus and ultimately ineffective for learning.

The two game elements most commonly misused are chance and strategy. The usual mistake? too much chance. Would-be designers add lots of “surprises” to their games thinking it will make the experience more fun. The other mistake is to include strategy or chance in a game when the real answer is to use neither. Sometimes, the best corporate learning games focus on just a few game mechanics and game elements so mastery of the content can be brought front and center.

Consider the following examples Sharon gives in her blog post on game elements:

  • Is my game unintentionally creating win states that are largely achieved by chance or a specific sequence of events? (This can happen more easily than you think. We recently played a board game where it became clear over several game plays that the person who got to go first—which was determined by age—had a much greater chance of winning than the person who went last.)
  • Do I blend strategy and chance in a way that mirrors the skill I want my player to learn, or the context in which they will have to apply the skill?
  • What control do players have  in the real world over decisions? How do I design that into the game?

Don’t forget that chance and strategy, while seemingly very important, are only two of the many game elements available to you. A game does not need chance or strategy to be fun or effective for learning.

game elements chart

 

Case In Point

Knowledge Guru’s game play is essentially simple and straightforward. Why? Each game is really a template of sorts for whatever content you put into it. If the game had too much chance, it would undermine scenario questions where learners must formulate a strategy. And if the game had a strategic focus, it would distract learners who need to learn how to respond to seemingly random situations in real time.

Instead, Knowledge Guru includes the following game elements:

  • Story
  • Aesthetics
  • Rewards/achievements
  • Levels
  • Theme
  • Competition

So, what about strategy and chance?

You probably already know if your learners’ jobs involve more chance or strategy. Whichever is more true for them, be sure to include the appropriate game element in the game they will play.

The bottom line: When designing a game, you should never include a game element or game mechanic if you do not understand how it is linked to the desired learning outcome.

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The Importance of Aesthetics in Serious Games

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First impressions matter in almost every situation – including game play.

Aesthetics are a huge part of the game play experience. If the game doesn’t LOOK appealing, then players won’t want to play even if the game has a great game goal and rules. Conversely, a game that may be “just okay” from a game play perspective can be elevated by strong aesthetics. This fact can be a plus in learning games where content might be a bit dry but a great theme and aesthetics can help create an enjoyable experience.

Compare these two game boards. Which one makes you more curious about playing the game?

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What about these game characters and images? Do they make you curious and want to play? What other information is being shared via the aesthetics in the game? (Answer: Progression, topic, what to do next, theme, overarching mood, etc.)

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Aesthetics do several things for you in a game (any game – including serious games).

For example:

  • Set a mood and reinforce a theme or a concept
  • Immerse the player into the game experience and help them suspend reality so they can play the game.
  • Offer cues that can guide performance and communicate a player’s status and progress.
  • Facilitate understanding of game play, making it easier for a player to figure out what to do.

Are you in the position of hiring out game design and development? Terrific! Our team would love to chat with you.

If, however, you are NOT in this position and are instead a team of one, here are some resources for you. If your skill set doesn’t reside in the graphic design arena, my first vote is for you to hire a graphic designer to help you. The hourly rate for a solo freelancer is typically around $75/hour. Ten to 20 hours of a graphic designer’s time can probably get you all the art assets you need for a basic game.

If you have no budget for a graphic designer, here are a couple of other options to check out for digital art assets:

http://opengameart.org — has some nice graphics bundles you can download and use in your digital games.

http://elearningtemplates.com/elearning-activities/ — has cutout people and graphics as well as some “game” templates (they aren’t really games, but are gamified activities.)

You can also check out this site to purchase game components for board games or card games at a reasonable price. Available items include tokens, dice, game boards, cards, chips, money, etc: https://www.thegamecrafter.com/parts

How Much Story Does a Serious Game Need?

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In serious games, story is a narrative that either weaves through an entire game or sets up the reason you are playing the game and elaborates on the theme. The type of story and level of detail you need will depend on your learning goal.

Some in the corporate learning field get nervous about using “too much” story for obvious reasons. Will the story be too “out there” for some learners? Will a story that is too detailed exclude certain learners or make them feel the game does not apply to them?

Should I use a story?

Sharon Boller wrote extensively on this subject in her Learning Game Design Blog Series. When deciding whether to use story, or how much story to use, it’s important to ask two questions:

  • Would story add to this game? Include story when you need to evoke emotion in players and motivate them to play.
  • Can story be used as a learning tool? Research shows that incorporating story and even fantasy elements into games can help embed memories. You also might be able to make the story mirror a real-life situation for learners, either literally or metaphorically.

 

Should I combine my story with a theme?

When we think of story, we often think of theme at the same time. A game’s theme is essentially a backdrop or collection of aesthetic elements. In the board game Smallworld, the theme is a beautifully illustrated fantasy island with many topographies. The story connects to the theme: you are one of many races vying for control of a small island that is not big enough for all of you. The game’s story is simple and intentionally vague, but it is effective because it is combined with a lovely theme and well-done aesthetics.

Smallworld board game, ® Days of Wonder

Smallworld board game, ® Days of Wonder

How much story do I need?

The level of story will depend on how immersive your game needs to be. For a complex game teaching high-level skills, you might require a level of story bordering on simulation-worthy realism. For a game teaching foundational knowledge and simple skills, a complex story might be unnecessary.

Each time we develop a new theme pack for Knowledge Guru, we try carefully to develop a story that is simple yet fun… and does not distract from whatever content users put into the game. We also carefully link the game’s story to the aesthetic elements of the theme.

Knowledge Guru theme pack

In the new fairytale-themed “Knowledge Hero,” players learn about a Dark Wizard who has locked up all the knowledge in the land.

These simple stories create a feeling of interest and novelty, yet have nothing to do with the actual content or “knowledge” the user has inputted into their game.

New Knowledge Guru theme packs

Even when the theme is pretty “out there” (like our new Space Aliens theme), the story is always fairly straightforward.

You should also consider how a simple story can be more business-centric, which will be more suited to certain players.

Knowledge Guru business theme

We created three different “business” themes that combine a corporate feel with fun and whimsy.

The truth? The type of story and amount of story you need completely depends on your learning goal. Make sure story is being used as learning tool and not a distraction.

How to Connect Games to a Corporate Learning Curriculum

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Thinking about using games for learning? You might want to question your motivations, first.

Using a serious game or gamification platform in corporate learning can be a great option, but it’s not the the right solution for every situation. We often ask our customers and clients some simple questions to determine if a game fits their needs:

  • Are your current learning solutions presenting challenges to people?
  • Do your solutions provide strong feedback?
  • Do your solutions motivate people to engage?

Challenges, motivation, and feedback are all characteristics of games that make them ideal in a corporate learning curriculum. And while other types of learning solutions can also provide challenge, motivation and feedback… games often do them best.

Behavior Change… or Check the Box?

So much “training” organizations create is really just a “check the box” exercise in company communication. In these situations, are games and gamification really needed? If we really are just complying with a procedure and are not attached to the outcome, it might actually make better business sense to not use an innovative learning solution.

On the other hand, if routine communication is important, we might seek a way to gamify the process and make people more engaged in the communication we are sending out.

Bottom line: if you don’t really care what people learn or remember, games are not the right choice. When job performance and retention do matter, you should consider game-based solutions. Let’s look at some scenarios:

When to Use Games in Corporate Learning

Here are four situations that take advantages of the innate strengths games have as engagement tools. They represent either use of a game or a gamification of the learning experience:

  • People need to know something “cold” (e.g. from memory, sort of like multiplication tables) and it’s not information that is enjoyable or easy – on its own – to learn.
  • People’s hearts and emotions need to be affected in order to open them up to new ways of viewing something or understanding something.
  • People need a safe way to evaluate their skills and behaviors – and to improve them. People who think they are stellar at project management can play a project management game and get an entirely new insight into how they ACTUALLY behave when faced with constraints or pressures.
  • People need ongoing motivation in order to stay engaged in a long-term endeavor (a certification process, a long-term company initiative).

Example: We worked with a global company this year to prepare sales reps for the launch of a new product AND their first-ever Android Smartphones. We created a mobile game that helped them build their product knowledge as well as build skills in navigating the phone and accessing information. They loved competing, achieving new levels, and seeing their scores go up. The game’s challenges and feedback kept them highly engaged, and by the end of the game, they were adept at linking product features and benefits to specific customer questions and objections AND in using their phones.

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4 Ways Serious Games Link to Learning (Free Download)

4 Ways Serious Games Link to Learning

A growing body of research supports the use of serious games in the workplace. And thanks to a year of successful implementations in corporate settings, some great case studies now point the way for organizations ready to use games for learning.

Whether you want to use a true serious game, a gamified solution, or a combination of the two… it’s a great time to do so.

While research shows that people learn more from games than other learning solutions, many L&D practicioners still do not know why games work… so they avoid using games entirely.

If you think you want to use a game for learning, you first must become familiar with the types of “fun” in games, what’s required for real learning to happen, and the ways games can link the two.

We’ve created a new guide to help you accomplish this. The content, researched and written by Knowledge Guru creator (and BLP president) Sharon Boller, takes the mystery out of using serious games in the enterprise. It’s a simple thing, really: become familiar with the ways people have fun in games, identify the common principles all effective learning solutions share, and then carefully map the two together.

And once  you map the “fun” elements of your serious game to the elements needed for learning, you’ll also want to employ some research-based learning principles to actually help people remember the content after they’ve learned it. Are your game mechanics and game elements actually mapped to the cognitive tasks learners need to perform on the job? Are you taking advantage of the latest research on how the human brain best commits knowledge to long-term memory?

The guide, titled 4 Ways Serious Games Link to Learning, is available as a free download.

4 Ways Serious Games Link to Learning

The 12 Corporate Learning Content Areas… and Where Games Fit

Corporate Learning Content Areas

When it comes to game-based learning, 2014 is the year of theory moving into practice. An increasing number of organizations are planning initiatives to include games in their learning solutions. The research has been validated and plans are being set.

But if you’ve never designed a game before, or tried to include a game in your training, where do you begin?

The answer, of course, depends on the type of training you are developing. The 2013 ASTD State of the Industry report includes a wonderful table with the twelve most common content areas found in corporate training. Some of these content areas are rather broad, but they are a great starting point for visualizing the types of training we frequently develop. The content areas are shown below:

12 corporate learning content areas

The type of game you might create will vary widely for each content area. I’ve included a general suggestion or two for each content area below, but the list is not exhaustive! Use the suggestions as a starting point.

Managerial and Supervisory:

Soft-skills training often (but not always) works best in face-to-face situations. Why not use a role playing game to give learners situational practice? Rote Q&A, points, and badges will be of less value.

Mandatory and Compliance:

This is the sort of information we need to know, or our organization needs us to know. Since it often requires memorization, compliance training can be tedious. Consider a game that puts the content in a fun setting and employs some research-based learning principles to help people memorize the information faster.

Processes, Procedures, and Business Practices:

Processes and procedures are often foundational knowledge, just like compliance. Gamifying the process of basic memorization will work well here, but make sure you add context when possible. Even a game centered around Q&A can have context if you add highly relevant scenario questions.

Profession or Industry-Specific:
This topic is admittedly broad, so our suggestion for a game should really be “it depends.” Assuming the subject matter is applied, your game must be a realistic simulation of the work environment, or at least of the cognitive task being performed.
Sales:
Sales training is often face to face because of the interpersonal element. Why not try a tabletop board game? If you need to train virtually, some vendors offer highly immersive digital games where players hone their negotiation and persuasion skills. These approaches can also be helpful, as long as they are not overly simplistic. Since you are designing a game for sales reps, why not make it competitive?
IT and Systems:
The subject is highly technical, and the information often must be memorized. Give learners a game that rewards them for being thorough and helps them reinforce their knowledge through the game’s mechanics.
New Employee Orientation:
New hire training is often basic and foundational. Elements like badges and leaderboards are helpful here because new employees can see how they stack up with others and even form some social connections.
Interpersonal Skills:
A tabletop board game is ideal for soft skills training… especially one that involves scenarios and active communication with other players.
Executive Development:
So many things go into executive development. Resource management and territory acquisition games are excellent for developing strategic thinking.
Customer Service:
A simple card game with customer scenarios can work well here. If the customer service environment is often rushed (such as for food service workers), consider adding a timed element to the game.
Basic Skills:
Basic skills are another type of training that often falls under “foundational knowledge.” Points, badges, and leaderboards are a good start, as you are trying to keep people motivated to learn what they need while knowing that the content itself is not so exciting.
Other (Quality, Product Knowledge):
People need to know it… and this type of training often involves either memorization or knowing where to locate the right information when needed. The game should either employ learning principles that help people memorize quickly (spaced learning, repetition, feedback), or reinforce where they should go to locate the information.
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