7 Gamification Best Practices To Keep In Mind

7 Gamification Best Practices To Keep In Mind
Supavadee butradee/Shutterstock.com
Summary: Gamification is quickly becoming a must-have feature of eLearning programs. Its widespread popularity combined with its engaging design can significantly increase the efficacy of learning objectives. Here's how you can be sure you're correctly implementing this tool, and not just adding extra flashy icons.

Gamification Best Practices For Your Business

The concept of gamification is not new. It was introduced in 2002. However, it did not begin to earn widespread acceptance and application until around 2010, when its value to inherent, deep-level user engagement and motivation was realized.

So, how does gamification apply to eLearning?

Well, the first step in understanding how to incorporate gamification into eLearning is to know what, exactly, it is—and what it provides its users.

According to Gartner, the world's leading research and advisory company, "Gamification is a tool to design behaviors, develop skills, and enable innovation". And when combined with other technologies and trends, gamification can promote innovation, employee performance management, education, personal development, and customer engagement.

As such, game design should reflect the users’ journeys. Every stage should apply a deep understanding of its users’ needs and objectives while giving him or her an engaging educational experience. If the goals of gamification are to achieve higher levels of engagement, improve performance, and stimulate collaboration and innovation, the opportunities it affords businesses are great—it leads the way in eLearning tools to engage employees and enhance the learning experience to ultimately optimize performance.

In the ‘Gamification 2020: What Is the Future of Gamification?’ research report, Gartner predicts that gamification, in conjunction with other emerging trends and technologies, will have a significant impact on:

  • Innovation
  • The design of employee performance
  • The globalization of advanced education
  • The gamification of personal development
  • The emergence of customer engagement platforms
  • Preparation for discontinuities

Gamification is a key tool for driving engagement with accelerated feedback loops, clear goals and rules of play, compelling narrative, and leveraging tasks that are challenging but achievable.

So, in order to incorporate gamification, consider these 7 best practices:

1. Define Success

Before you gamify, make sure you define success. Because if success is not clearly defined, it’s hard to determine when—or if—success is achieved. Success can, however, be changed and evolved over time, so just be sure to define it with each iteration.

2. Incorporate Business

While all training and learning initiatives should be tied to the needs of a business, it’s especially important in gamification. Make sure that you are measurably addressing business needs—and not just using gamification needlessly to support content that is inapplicable to the organization or individual.

3. Use Storytelling

A powerful way to motivate individuals is to flesh out actions and ideas by framing them within an appropriate context. Explain why the learners are trying to earn points, who they are trying to save, why they are searching for treasure. Give learners reasons for why they should want to interact with the content.

Bonus Tip: Don’t forget to reference Bartle’s Taxonomy of Player Types.

4. Leverage Advanced Learning Theory

There are 2 powerful mechanisms for gamification efforts; spaced retrieval and retrieval practice. Spaced retrieval involves providing learners with a quiz or course content spaced over time, establishing that the greater the amount of spacing between retrieval events, the greater the potential for retention.

Retrieval practice, on the other hand, requires learners to recall information rather than simply reread or listen again, and can provide improved recall performance by as much as 10-20%.

5. Use Reward Systems

Currently, badges and leaderboards are often considered the new sweepstakes and loyalty rewards. Badges are visual rewards earned as learners progress through a course or curriculum. They help display progress and make incremental learning more visible. Whenever possible, provide a place where learners can prominently display badges to leverage the social effectiveness of gamification.

Bonus Tip: Gamification should be inherently social and seamlessly integrated with social media so users cannot only share their achievements but motivate their peers, too.

6. Keep Rules Simple

Complexity is not an ally in continuing education—or any education for that matter—but even more so in gamification. There is a tendency to add complexity unnecessarily—so avoid that temptation. Be sure to provide a tutorial so that learners are able to absorb the rules at the onset of the game when they have little-to-nothing to lose. The goal is for learners to retain the content of the course, not the specificity of the rules.

7. Leverage Microlearning

Microlearning is a method that uses small moments of learning to drive performance, engagement and development. People naturally seek out information in little chunks and snippets; everything comes into the brain very quickly, and it comes in small pieces. And the same should hold true for gamification. A complex 100-page manual is palatable when you only provide the minimal amount of information needed to proceed to the next step, otherwise known as the cascading information theory gaming mechanic.

It’s been suggested that ‘gamification is 75% psychology and 25% technology’—and it couldn’t be more accurate. Because ultimately, gamification isn’t just frivolous video games branded with your logo; it blends the fun of playing a video game with learning a new skill.

Gamification has established its reliability as an effective instructional method, providing all the elements of engagement and increased performance and, if leveraged correctly, can propel businesses and its employees to succeed in a competitive landscape.