Hey, everybody. Katie Markovich here. You might remember me from that one post where I talked about how much I don’t like games. I still feel that way, in case you were wondering. But now I’m back to talk about, you guessed it, more games! Life’s funny that way. This time, it’s come to my attention that there’s some pretty bad gamification advice spiraling around out there, guidance that could potentially alter the way we design and play games—and not in a good way. I want to throw my two cents into the pot, as a person who is totally biased, yes; but also as the person who gamifies your content and honestly wants the best for your learners.
Confession: I got some help with this one. My colleague and good pal, Matt Young, recently wrote a great post about 4 major gaming mechanics that can both help and hurt e-learning. Because NogginLabs believes in the power of collaboration and teamwork, allow me to totally jump on the bandwagon he’s already driving and further expand on the stuff I found most interesting.
IF IT LOOKS LIKE A GAME...
Games: You know them when you see them. (That’s what that phrase is in reference to, right?) But maybe that isn’t always the case. There seems to be a general assumption that because something looks like a game, it must be a game. If there are bright colors, timers, or moving parts, then that’s a game! These assumptions create some problems for us, though, both as e-learning developers and as people who care about your learners. We aren’t in the business of making your content resemble a game. We will, however, work with you to find creative solutions to your gamification requests. We don’t want to force learning that’s not intuitive—trust me, neither do you.
AND IT'S FUN...
We also aren’t into tricking your learners into learning under the guise of having fun. This reminds me of a certain comedian’s wife who’s made a living off of writing cookbooks that focus on hiding vegetables inside of other, “fun” foods. Brownies are delicious, sure, but imagine how deliciously deceptive they are when spinach is hiding inside!
This feels like a move that could alter trust and expectations for your learners. Your job as an e-learning manager, and our job as the developers, is to temper those expectations. If you have fun interacting with gamified content, then that is of course a huge win for us. But our goal here is engagement. We want a learner to walk away from an experience feeling like they interacted with the content in a meaningful way. Some people might not find this type of thing “fun,” but we can tell you from experience, fun doesn’t always equal success.
IT STILL MIGHT NOT BE EFFECTIVE GAMIFICATION
Whoa, I really sounded like a 1950s dad back there! I guess it can just get frustrating for someone like me, a bona fide game hater, to let my guard down for a second and then realize the game you had in mind just isn’t going to work. Or the game that we create, which is challenging and engaging, is hated by your learners because they don’t think it’s “fun,” and that’s what they were expecting. Finding the right training is hard, and we get that. But if you want to gamify your content, remember to consider the needs of your learners—and the feelings of your e-learning developers while you’re at it.