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better gamification

I’m old enough to remember when PacMan was played on a stand-up console in grocery stores, gas stations, and arcades.  I was smitten immediately with the challenge of maneuvering that little yellow chompy head around mazes to consume dots of power while avoiding wide-eyed ghosts.  I can also remember the after-school days at a buddy’s house playing Super Mario Brothers and feeling astounded that such an experience could happen right in a living room! Even further back in my memory is the Atari console that had me strategically placing shots from my battle tank to rebound off walls and obstacles as I tried to strike my opponent.  I’ve been hooked on digital gaming most of my life, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

What’s the Big Deal with Gamification?

From Pogo-playing moms to Candy Crushers to FPS enthusiasts, we all share a common passion for the challenge of the game.  The games are where it’s at! I have often asked myself—why this allure? What is the draw for me and millions of others who were hooked as kids and still find time as grownups to game on our phones, tablets, computers, and consoles?

An argument could be made that games are fun and having fun is addictive, but I think it’s deeper than that.  Games create pretend worlds that offer escape inside of interesting and whimsical landscapes that push the limits of our imagination, but I think our fascination with gaming is even deeper than that.

The Two E’s to Better Gamification

Skilled eLearning designers and developers know the secret, it’s all about two powerful “E” words:

  1. Experience
  2. Endorphins

Malcolm Knowles, the father of adult learning principles, unwittingly described a key element that applies to the experience of online engagement, “Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning events.”  When this fact is combined with the release of endorphins that accompanies an achievement in an experiential game, something awesome happens—learning becomes fun and sticky!  It’s powerful when an eLearning course combines content that has a direct impact on a learner’s day-to-day job tasks with an endorphin-inducing challenge.

Online learning games can and should be so much more than throwing a bird at some pigs or lining up dots in a row.  Abstract meaning can be derived from the course content and applied directly to an interactive learning game that teaches a concept or reinforces a key point.  A bowling game, for example, becomes an interviewing exercise where the pins are 10 taboo questions that should never be asked of a candidate and must be eliminated.  A Try Your Luck (random buzz game) becomes a policy and procedure activity where managers have to avoid the lawyers that pop up to ask annoying questions!

Malcolm Knowles also emphasized, “Adult learners are goal and relevancy-oriented.”  Now, may you use these nuggets of wisdom to your advantage as you apply the two E’s to better Gamification in your eLearning design and development adventures!

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