I have to admit I laughed when I saw my blog topic for the week was gamification. Look, I think games are fine. But NogginLabs is crazy about games and sometimes I feel out of place for not being as crazy. I get competitive about things like movie trivia or loudest lip color worn to the holiday party or my mom liking me the best, but not games.
And in the age of collaborative games, the “next big thing” in gaming, I’m even more likely to huff and puff my way through an experience that feels more like group work than it does a fun activity. I’m eye-rolly at the mention of board games, or mobile games, or video games, and I know it’s a knee-jerk reaction, but I guess it’s who I am. I am a game-o-phobe.
But many of our clients want to gamify their content, and this puts me in a precarious position. I understand their impulse, and I happily go along with it, but why do we just assume adult learners will respond more effectively and immediately to games? Some sleuthing was in order.
MASTER CLASS IN HAPPINESS
Jane McGonigal is a noted game designer and advocate of play. You might recognize her as the presenter of the now-famous Ted Talk, “The game that can give you 10 extra years of life.” She also writes extensively about the ways in which game play in daily life can provide us with a greater sense of worth, more positive feelings, and better mental health. McGonigal posits that our ability to figure out the rules, become adapted to new environments, and gain greater skills throughout the course of game play triggers the pleasure centers in our brains, making us feel great and thirsting for more. This actually checks out for me, now that I think about it. I’m generally not big into video or tabletop games, but I do enjoy card games. Nothing feels better than throwing down the right bower in a game of Euchre when your adversary thinks he can pull a fast one on you and partner. Games make people feel good? Okay, I can get down with that.
GAMING BY NUMBER
Feelings seem a little too esoteric of a meter for measuring efficacy, though. If only there were some data on game play. Oh! What have we here? The Entertainment Software Association releases annual numbers pertaining to who plays games. This study only takes into account video and computer games, but the numbers are still quite interesting. I encourage you to investigate the entire PDF—I mean it, it’s pretty cool—but let me sum it up by saying this: A lot of people play games. I mean, a lot. And the more I think about it, I spend a ton of time on my phone playing solitaire. Anytime there is a spare moment for finding patterns among the numbers and colors, I do it. Oh, and the average age of gamers? 35 years old. So if you’re wondering if your learners would even be interested in playing games in order to learn, the answer is statistically yes.
Now that I’ve shared my truth with you, I almost feel like I should take it back. I guess I do like games. And the competitive behaviors I admitted up top are kind of like games, they just happen to be with myself. But more than that, I guess I really like it when learning is made fun. Life’s too short to grumble your way through e-learning, something for which NogginLabs has been re-writing the rules for years.