Why It Will Never Be Game Over for Game-Based Learning

by Carole Bower | Posted | Learning

Why It Will Never Be Game Over for Game-Based Learning

Gamification – also known as game-based learning – is still in the top list of learning technology trends. A hot topic in L&D for several years now, nearly two-thirds of L&D professionals are either already using or are considering using gamification as part of their learning strategy.

Using gamification or game-based design principles is about creating learning experiences that engage learners. And when learners are engaged, sustainable behavioral change is possible. Gamification can even make mandatory compliance training – which can have an unfortunate reputation for being dull and tedious – engaging and interesting.

In fact, using Saba's game-based approach for compliance training, one of our clients achieved a 95 percent course completion rate (well over target!) and 98 percent of learners said they would recommend the program to others.

Can you imagine nearly all of your employees recommending compliance training? Let's explore the technology and approach that makes this seemingly impossible feat attainable.

Game-Based Learning: What Makes It Work?

As we've enhanced and expanded our award-winning learning experience design services, we've continued to explore what an effective, engaging game-based approach looks like (and what it doesn't look like). We've created game-based frameworks, developed our own design models, and delved into the behavioral science principles of game-based design.

Here are just a few of the things we do to power up our game-based learning design and delivery:

  1. We create reusable frameworks.

    Game-based approaches can involve bigger budgets compared to other digital learning interventions and may also take longer to create. To work within the constraints of limited budgets and timeframes, we look to get some reuse from our game frameworks.

    But we don't want to just replicate the same game each time. So, each game has a different theme, but the underlying game mechanics can be repurposed.

    Thinking about game mechanics is a good way to approach a games-based project. Essentially, you can create different games with the same mechanic. Take Tetris®, how many different reincarnations of that game now exist? Games like Candy Crush and Bejeweled are popping up everywhere with different themes but they all have similar rule sets.

  2. We use our own models to understand the key elements of game design.

    Games involve a lot more than applying a visual theme that looks like a game or just awarding a few badges to reward learner progress. Our learning experience designers use our own models to think about the key elements to include – and ultimately, it's about ensuring people want to play (and replay) until they have achieved the required level of mastery.

    You can't assume that everyone will be hooked by the same thing. You might need to consider alternative ways of tapping into different motivations. For example, if a competitive strategy is not going to engage some people, a collaboration or joint problem-solving approach might work better. The hook could even be a simple reward, such as tokens or level progression.

    We use a memory aide – "STARFISH" – to help our own learning experience designers think about how to drive engagement, and to ensure everything works together and feels like a game (and not just a game theme overlay). I'll be talking more about this approach and how to find your hook on our upcoming webinar, Power Up Your Game-Based Learning.

  3. We tap into behavioral science insights.

    We want our audience to get hooked and that often means focusing more on how people will fail rather than how they will succeed within a game. The right amount of struggle is important – who ever got hooked on games that were too easy? In fact, a lot of games are designed to increase the level of difficulty as the game progresses.

    Adapting concepts from neuroscience, we apply behavioral science principles to enhance game-play elements and highlight the importance of struggle in learning. So, why is a bit of struggle important for learners – and the effectiveness of your L&D program?

    "In a really exciting experiment," Charlotte Hills, Saba learning consultant and neuroscience expert shares, "Lara Boyd's team scanned an area of the brain which is partly responsible for hand-eye coordination before and after their volunteers played a game. In this game, they had to physically catch an asteroid and throw it into the sun thousands of times. In short, they found that the more the players struggled at the beginning, the faster they learned later on, and the more their brains changed."

  4. We play games.

    If you don't know where to start when designing a game, there is one overall golden rule: Play games, understand them, and pay attention to how they make you feel. As Simon Rupniak, head of design for Saba Studio says, "Good games tap into our human desires. They re-frame the most boring, repetitive tasks as exciting, emotive experiences."

    And remember, games don't have to be complex. The Walking Dead by Telltale Games, for example, is essentially a series of multiple-choice questions with a compelling story. Once you understand what excites you when you play a game, you will get closer to working out how to design a successful game-based solution with the right level of struggle and appropriate reward.

Harnessing the Power of Games in Learning

At Saba, we are devoted to expanding the game-based approach because we know it's an excellent way to make learning stick. Our customers have also seen real success when using it, resulting in a recent award from Brandon Hall Group for our game-based learning solution.

And while game-based learning might seem complex, it doesn't have to be. For a deeper dive into the key elements of game-based learning design, register for our upcoming webinar, Power Up Your Game-Based Learning. You'll learn how to apply behavioral science principles to drive learner engagement and outcomes – and discover how games can take your people to the next learning experience level!

Power Up Your Game-Based Learning

Use the power of games to create a learning experience that engages your people.


Register Now
Cover of the book
Cover of the book

Power Up Your Game-Based Learning

Use the power of games to create a learning experience that engages your people.


Register Now


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