The latest eLearning Guild research report features a video conversation with Karl Kapp, one of our industry’s leading experts on games and gamification for learning. He shares an anecdote that has stuck with me since our conversation several weeks ago, partly for its bigger-lesson message as well as the fact that I was in the trenches when the situation he described took place.

Prior to everyone having PCs those of us doing writing tasks or general office work used typewriters with traditional keyboards, and our hands never left them as we simply pressed down keys with our fingers. Early computer users, likewise, had been accustomed to keyboard-only work with command-line input. Then PCs brought with them the newfangled mouse, which required lifting hands from home keys and enabled new functions, among them clicking , dragging, and dropping items. In 1990 Microsoft added Solitaire to Windows 3.0. In many organizations management reacted swiftly, believing the game to be just a timewaster and dispatching IT staff to remove it from machines.

But the game wasn’t intended to be entertainment—or at least, not only that. It was the stealthy means of introducing the mouse and taught people how to double-click and drag and drop. And what happened after Solitaire was taken off of PCs?

We offered training in how to use a mouse and how to click and drop. Hours of it. Courses in it. People had to leave work to go to computer labs to learn to drag and drop. Really. As Kapp says, “Everything could have been solved with game-based learning. Sometimes we get ahead of ourselves [and what we do] takes four times as long.”

And from there we tried to replicate a fun game (Solitaire) by casting drag-and-drop interactions as “engaging” eLearning course items regardless of their resemblance to workplace performance. (Truth: A colleague said her manager had fallen in love with drag and drop and mandated a drag/drop activity every five minutes.) As with many things, drag and drop had its place but didn’t need to be everywhere.

As discussed by Kapp, a good game—like Solitaire—is challenging, motivating, and rewarding when you finally get completion. There is satisfaction in mastery and the feeling of winning. And a well-crafted learning game can often achieve more quickly what more formal instruction cannot.

More highlights from the conversation with Kapp: He discusses the game elements that matter most, strategies for launching a game-based initiative, and the importance of understanding the use of games and gamification as part of an ecosystem. He also provides insight about the research and suggests ways of approaching it as a careful connoisseur. See more in the video report “Karl Kapp on Games and Gamification”.

Ready to learn more?

Be sure to register for Designing Digitally's Serious Games Summit at The eLearning Guild's Learning Solutions Conference & Expo in Orlando. This one-day Summit on Monday, March 30, 2020 explores the basics of serious game development and provides insight to ensure effective game-based learning implementation and delivery. Register for the Summit and the Learning Solutions Conference by Sunday, February 7, 2020 and receive a discount on the registration fee!