4 Effective Strategies Candy Crush Teaches Us about Gamification for Corporate Training
Chances are you're already familiar with the phenomenon of the online game, Candy Crush Saga.
The basic game play is simple. You match three candies of a kind and something happens - you win points, you clear the board, etc. There are fancy ways of matching candies to create striped, wrapped, or candy bombs with additional powers. But at its core, it's just a simple matching game.
The one and only goal of Candy Crush Saga is to make the game developer, King, money. Lots of money. It's been wildly successful, generating upwards of $600,000 a day in revenue. And, mostly, that's earned at 99 cents a pop, which is the standard “buy up” for a Candy Crush game.
The genius of Candy Crush is in what game developers call the “monetization” strategy. From King's perspective, the most important thing is to get and keep people playing (and paying). In fact, King’s developers are constantly analyzing user play to come up with new ways to keep people engaged.
You can download and play Candy Crush for free. But Candy Crush games have built in limits (e.g., number of lives, number of moves, time limits, etc.). In the early levels, these limits doesn't pose too much of an issue. You can usually beat a game by being patient. But, as you progress through the levels, most games are difficult to beat unless you buy additional lives, moves, or time, or candies with special powers.
In fact, the entire design of Candy Crush drives off the impulse (or frustration) purchase. "I just want to beat this level. It's only 99 cents. What does it hurt?" Well, multiple impulse purchases a day at 99 cents each, and you're quickly spending tens or hundreds of dollars without really realizing it.
What can the Candy Crush phenomenon teach us about gamification design for training? 4 Strategies for Learning Games
- Define Your “Monetization” Strategy
How does having a monetization strategy apply to corporate training? Well, we typically call this return-on-investment (ROI). What business goals are you trying to meet? What performance is needed to meet those goals? How will you know when you've achieved them
Yes, I know that ROI is the “holy grail” for corporate training and performance improvement, and it's often hard to define and measure success. So often we default to completions (virtual butts in seats) as what gets measured. But think about this...most learning games are custom designed and built. That's expensive. If you don't have a clear set of goals and a clear way of measuring against those goals, you could spend lots of money with no way of determining your success. Game developers, like King, wouldn't dream of doing that. Why should you?
- Focus on Content Mastery and Job Performance, Not Game Play
In any learning intervention, we want learners to become with fluent with the content (be it product knowledge, new system tasks, etc.). Then, when they've mastered the content, we want them to translate that knowledge into actual job performance.
A question that sometimes comes up is how many times learners should be able to replay a level (or the game as a whole) to improve their scores in learning games. Candy Crush is designed to allow for unlimited replay, as that means potentially more lives or moves purchased and more revenue for King.
I think the considerations are different for gamification used in learning interventions. Certainly, you need to allow sufficient replay so learners can master the content. But, unless your learning game has a vast amount of content, most learners will have exhausted the possibilities after three or four tries.
If your learners continue to replay after achieving content mastery, that's actually counter-productive to your business goals; it’s time taken away from job performance. It may be fun to replay for “bragging rights” as the high scorer, but unless that contributes to the business in some tangible way, I wouldn’t design it into the learning game. I think that once a learner “beats” a level, the game should move the learner on.
- Make Sure Learning Game Reward Systems Translate to the Real World
Design your learning game mechanics, such as your reward systems, to translate to the real world. Point values are an example. Typically, point values are abstractions, and the conventional wisdom is that more is better. So, earning 1,000 points is more motivating than earning 100 points.
I think it's better to align your gamification design and reward system to something tangible, recognizable, and translatable to the real world. For example, if I'm designing a learning game on product knowledge, I'd build it so that learners have to “sell” XX widgets to “win” at a particular level. Even better, I might design my points as the commissions a learner would generate for making those sales. Yeah, I may not be able to achieve a 1:1 match to the real world, but it gets the idea in learners' heads that knowing the products translates to revenue for the company and money in their pockets.
- Think Outside the Game “Box”
Think broadly about how you define your learning “game.” With Candy Crush, not everything happens within the four walls of the game interface. At certain times, Candy Crush players are encouraged to reach out to friends via Facebook, for instance to earn additional lives. It extends the game event beyond what's happening on screen.
At the end of the day, you want to tie the game's learning to the real work. So, think about how you can integrate your company's existing tools into your gamification design. It might be social media tools, like Facebook or Yammer, or productivity tools that you “pull in” to the learning game. For instance, if you're using a learning game to build speed and accuracy with your customer service reps, you can let them “level up” inside the game once they've achieved a certain level of real performance on the job.
As designers of gamification in learning, we can – and should – pay attention to trends in the wider world of gaming, and find the “sweet spots” we can apply to performance improvement and meeting business objectives using learning games.
Interested to learn more about the effectiveness of gamification in corporate training? Check out this interactive gamification infographic from SweetRush: 4 Reasons Games Work.
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Cindy McCabe brings a unique combination of high-level strategy, tactical hands-on development, and exceptional creativity to her dual roles as senior gamification/instructional designer and senior account/program manager for SweetRush. With a law degree and a master’s degree in instructional technology, she has expertise in learning games and simulations, multimedia, marketing communications, and instructor-led training, as well as large-scale program management and SAP implementation. For more insightful articles on gamification and learning design, see Cindy’s blog at SweetRush.comWebsite: www.sweetrush.com