Karl Kapp, instructional technology professor at Bloomsburg University and author of The Gamification of Learning and Instruction, explains in the preface to the Guild’s latest research report, Gamification, Games, and Learning: What Managers and Practitioners Need to Know, what we already know but too often don’t do. He says, “The future of eLearning cannot be boring courses lacking engagement or emotional response. Instead they need to be interactive, engaging, and full of passion and enthusiasm. In short, the future of eLearning must include games and gamification. Games provide a ‘built-in’ level of interactivity and engagement.”

For example, Hideki Narematsu, the human resources manager for McDonald's in Japan, uses games to train new hires and he says it cuts new-hire training time in half. The game teaches new employees the basic skills of assembling burgers, making fries, and cleaning their workstations via video games (Figure 1). McDonald's Japan reportedly spent approximately $2.2 million on the game development and two Nintendo DS systems for each of their 3,800+ stores. This may be more than some training organizations want to spend on a single game so using game elements or gamification may be a more cost-effective solution.

Figure 1:
McDonald's Japan using the Nintendo DS to train employees

(Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/video/58792564-mcdonald-s-japan-teaches-burger-making-with-nintendo-ds.html)

What is gamification, anyway?

Gamification is about applying game elements and game mechanics to non-game activities to make everyday activities more compelling. Here’s an example. Adobe Systems uses gamification to increase usage of their software as well as to solve one of their business challenges: getting buyers to become users.

Using a plugin to apply gamification to learning

Many people have pictures from vacations, the company picnic, outings with friends and family, and their children’s band concerts or dance recitals and they want to do some photo editing. Let’s say they download a free 30-day trial for Photoshop CC and open the application. Now what? Do you think they are somewhat intimidated with the software? Many are. Adobe wants to solve this business problem with Adobe LevelUp (http://success.adobe.com/microsites/levelup/index.html), a free plugin that applies gamification to learning the software program.

LevelUp lets new users go on a series of missions, such as reducing redeye and removing unwanted elements from their pictures. As the new users successfully complete each mission, they earn points and badges. Figure 2 shows the first mission, reducing red eye. It’s worth 30 points. The best way to learn new software is by doing real tasks, not by learning each of the menus. The game element makes LevelUp truly engaging because each of the missions is realistic, fun, and helps the learner gain skills they want to gain!

Figure 2: Adobe LevelUp—mission one
(Source: http://www.creativepro.com/article/adobe-launches-levelup-photoshop)

The LevelUp game also includes chances to win prizes and leaderboards (Figure 3) that lets new users see how they rank compared to others.

Figure 3: Adobe LevelUp monthly leaderboard.
(Source: http://success.adobe.com/microsites/levelup/monthly.html)

Gamification can do more than one thing at a time!

Adobe is using gamification for multiple purposes. They are helping users become more proficient in a fun and easy way. Users are learning the core features of Photoshop in a much more engaging way than typical software training. But there’s another method to their madness. They are also solving a core business need, that of turning tryers into buyers into users. Smart! As we all know, users become evangelists and evangelists often buy other products that work well together.

Does gamification work?

Do games and game elements work? The previous examples should provide good insights. Karl Kapp explains that research has shown again and again that people engage in content when they are challenged to learn rather than simply given answers, and that bulleted lists are less effective at teaching and recalling facts than is a story that includes those facts. Traci Sitzmann, an assistant professor of management at the University of Colorado’s business school, conducted a well-known meta-analysis of the instructional effectiveness of computer-based simulation games. She discovered that when they presented training in the context of certain types of simulation games, learners had 14-percent higher skill-based knowledge level, 11 percent higher factual-knowledge level, and 9 percent higher retention rate.

The research report contains many more case studies and research about games and gamification. Download it and read it!