It’s no mystery why many people love games: they are fun, interactive and stress-relieving. Games stimulate both adrenaline and serotonin, meaning that they trigger motivation and competitiveness, and, at the same time, they allow the gamer an escape from a stressful environment. That’s also why game structures can be found everywhere we look: supermarkets, online stores and airline companies aiming to promote reward thinking, victory feeling and customer loyalty. These game mechanics can be effective for certain learners who prefer to learn in an interactive, gamified environment and who value friendly competition.
Games stimulate, motivate and help people decompress, so then why not apply them to tasks that can seem tedious and unappealing? That is the rationale of many companies adopting innovative eLearning systems: faster learning, higher retention and a boost of several soft skills like creativity, more agile problem-solving and augmented coordination skills.
There are many eLearning platforms on the market, but the most innovative are those that motivate, engage and immerse the users in a facsimile of reality, where they can experiment fearlessly, repeat and learn at their own pace.
Among the great variety of eLearning solutions on the market, serious games for business equip the participants with the necessary skills for certain organizational tasks in a format that isn’t perceived as a burden. The key to achieving this is by taking the serious bit out of the task and engaging the users in a fun and immersive environment where they can test themselves as many times as necessary until the retention process is accomplished. That is what serious games are pursuing — immersive, innovative and fun learning!
Serious games are innovative storytelling techniques that combine knowledge, game mechanics and learning strategies, using the structure of games to help the user assimilate new concepts and meet learning objectives. Serious games have proven to be effective when it comes to behavior change, higher engagement, motivation and fun at work.
Implementing a serious game training strategy involves seven steps that must be considered to be successful:
1. Set the Goal
Starting with the end in mind paves the way to success. Knowing this, the first step is to establish a clear goal, such as achieving low rates of accidents in terms of health, safety and environment (HSE), or maybe an increase in sales, followed by the strategic planning of the steps needed to attain it.
It is very easy to get the employees on board when communicating with clarity the main goal from the very beginning together with the benefits of such a training system. For the organization, this sets a clear structure and way forward while the clarity helps employees move toward key business goals.
Gain employee buy-in with crystal clear communication on the following key points:
- The goal of the game.
- The rules of the game and the rewards.
- The benefits of the game for the entire organization.
2. Ask the Right Questions
Once you’ve communicated the goals and established a plan, the next step is to gather data from the employees through surveys or questionnaires. Understanding their perception of serious games and the platforms they prefer, together with the skills they feel they should reinforce, is a good way of making them aware that their opinion is crucial for the implementation of this type of learning. This step also contributes to a higher interest of the employees when it comes to discovering the platform that is specifically designed for them, leading to a more personalized learning process and more involvement in the creation of the right content.
3. Adapting the Serious Game
Ensuring the content in the training platform is personalized to fit the employees’ needs, qualifications and abilities roles is essential to successfully implementing serious games. Having generic or unfit learning content that does not capture the skill gaps can be a fatal mistake that might shift the gamified experience into one of frustration. In order to avoid such a trap, ensure everybody within the organization is heard and all the training needs are covered within the game-based content. Once the basis is established for learning, it is fundamental to constantly adapt the story to new and upcoming challenges. That is the best way to transform everyday issues into gamified obstacles that are enjoyable and fun to tackle.
The adaptability of the game should be a key decision for the platform that you choose. If modifying the content to adjust it to the users will require extra support and resources, then it might be worth looking for a more flexible solution that requires little effort to add changes. This will ensure that the serious games for learning will constantly fit the employees’ skills and can be continuously updated.
4. Select an Accessible Game-based Platform
The market is saturated with gamified learning solutions that vary according to platform, ease of use, price and innovation rate. When selecting a serious game for learning, making sure it is straightforward and easy to use is a must. The chosen platform should be intuitive and not require special skills to understand and manipulate it, nor special program downloads. The user-friendliness and high accessibility of the platform promotes an inclusive working environment, encouraging audiences of all ages to engage.
5. Choose a Platform That Provides Useful Data Points
Without a serious game platform that provides performance results, analytics or statistics in real time, it is hard to determine success rates. Picking a platform that offers real-time data on the learning progress is crucial for understanding performance, engagement and time required to complete the training.
Therefore, making sure the serious game you pick does not end when the game ends but provides both the developer company and the customer with the performance statistics is extremely important for future adjustments to the program. This feature also contributes to incorporating new challenges that awaken a permanent interest in the users.
6. Less Is More
Keeping the training short and sweet promotes a higher engagement rate and more motivation when kicking off the game. Serious games that are more involved and time consuming can cause boredom and exhaust the users. Taking into account that attention spans have decreased exponentially in recent years, it is advisable to try to keep the training short, targeted and very focused on covering the most relevant key learning points. Once the high-level concepts have been covered, the next level can bring about more detailed aspects, gradually increasing the degree of difficulty. This will also motivate the employees to seek repetition and a desire to improve their performance.
It is preferable to have several mini-games covering a few topics rather than one long game that encompasses many themes.
7. Analyze Behavior Change
The cherry on top is monitoring the impact the games have on the overall organization once completed and implemented. The real work starts when the training ends. Making sure everybody has taken the training within an allotted period and paying attention to active behavior change are key to an efficient implementation and behavior improvement.
The best way to wrap up the game is to create a short survey that asks the users if they enjoyed the experience and if they feel the knowledge gaps have been covered. Once more, the flexibility of the platform comes into play, as there might be a need to update the learning content again to adjust it to changing developments.
The best part about this is that anybody in the organization could carry out those changes. The platform chosen should become the employees’ next authoring tool, which could contribute to cutting costs, decreasing new games’ development time and, most of all, empowering people. There’s no need to be a game developer or a software expert to change characters, clothes or dialogues to adapt the story to new situations.
Learning through playing speaks to the child inside all of us. It also supports a learning process that happens at our own pace, combining engaging game techniques with pleasing visuals. Creating a learning methodology that constantly adapts to the employees and speaks to their needs while offering them flexibility for completion in a collaborative space makes the whole learning process enjoyable, compelling, rewarding and fun.