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The Science of Gamification

You spend hours preparing for an upcoming workshop, studying the subject matter, collecting and analysing artefacts, only for people to zone-out when they turn up. But what if you could effectively engage the whole room, ensure every attendee’s voice is heard, and spark the creativity and perspective-taking needed to arrive at the objective of the workshop? While there are many important skills to facilitating a workshop that might come into play, we’ve found that bringing games into the workplace can effectively achieve all of these things in a process known as gamification.

So what is it? Applying game mechanics to a traditionally non-game context to engage an audience or solve a problem. This process creates the same environment we find appealing in games of all kinds: challenge, connection, competition, and feedback.

Why does it work? Games are engaging because they create what is known as intrinsic motivation. This form of motivation generates long-lasting engagement that effectively drives learning and behaviour. Intrinsic motivation relies on meeting three key needs:

  1. Autonomy - being able to make our own choices, to feel in control.

  2. Competence - creating the right amount of challenge (but remember, if a game’s too easy, or too hard, it won’t be able to meet this need).

  3. Relatedness - to foster connection and support with others.

These three needs can all be met via the mechanics of a game, when introduced into a traditionally non-game context, like your next workshop!

So what are these "game mechanics" that we need to incorporate into our “gamified” workshop?

  1. Goals - every game needs them, so that the players understand exactly why they’re playing and what they’re working towards;

  2. Rules - to define the boundaries and restrictions of how you play;

  3. Challenge - from the interaction between goals and rules we create conflict, and this is where we can play around with different goals and rules to create the perfect mix of challenge; and

  4. Feedback - immediate feedback on the consequences of your actions makes the experience feel tactile and drives much stronger reinforcement and engagement.

Because games can also help remove a lot of the jargon and formality of a typical meeting, problems can be stripped back to their core, with solutions offered up more readily by more participants.

Leveraging the amount of human capital in that workshop room is a missed-opportunity for most projects, but when it is taken advantage of, remarkable solutions can be achieved.


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