How video games can help employees learn

Gamification will further increase in popularity this year according to Forbes contributor Jeanne Meister. She supported her prediction with a forecast from Gartner, the IT research company. This suggested that 70% of Global 2000 organisations will have a minimum of one ‘gamified’ application by 2014.

“Gamification could become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon,” according to Brain Burke, research vice president.

A similar trend may be emerging in New Zealand. Stephen Knightly, director of gamification consultancy InGame, has noticed a strong uptake in recent years.

Knightly distinguishes between game-based learning, in which you teach new skills using a game, and gamification, in which you incorporate game mechanics into a non-game activity. He identifies numerous strengths with game-based learning: experimenting in ways that you wouldn’t or couldn’t in real life, simulating hazards to teach employees how to react, providing clear and timely feedback, and tapping into our digital literacy.

“The power of game-based learning isn’t that it’s a game and games are fun and sexy and cool with the kids these days,” Knightly said. He argued that they are a better pedagogical tool in many cases, since they demonstrate the consequences of an employee’s actions, poor or otherwise. “That’s one of the strengths of e-learning, and of games in particular – you can fail safely,” he said.

One example of this is a game that Knightly worked on to teach employees crisis management. In the game, you played the CEO of a camping goods company who had to manage a product recall and speak with a journalist. “It was really just a conversation with a whole bunch of branching choices that you would make, similar in many ways to a ‘Pick-a-Path’ adventure book,” as Knightly described it.

The player could choose to answer questions honestly, evasively, or to give context. “After a few minutes of conversation you could see whether you had a front page crisis in the newspaper or happy customers,” Knightly said.

The game was produced in the style of a comic book, so that employees were encouraged to play. “That’s not about it being frivolous, that’s about giving the employee the permission to experiment and to take risks and so it actually helped avoid wrote-learning,” Knightly explained.

Research appears to support the efficacy of game-based learning. A literature review undertaken by the University of Colorado found that trainees who participated in game play had 11% higher factual knowledge levels, 14% higher skill-based knowledge levels, and 9% higher retention levels than those in the control.

This article by Rose Sneyd originally appeared on HRM Online magazine.