Gamification: A fad or the future?

Photo of individual participating in online game.

On the professional LinkedIn group, Learning and Development, Eng-Sing SOON from Singapore initiated a discussion by asking if Gamification was a passing fad or the future of learning.

It was not surprising that the discussion quickly jumped towards defining what gamification meant.
Kenneth Camel from New Zealand stated first with, “The process of gamification means using gaming techniques in developing learning events, not necessarily making a game out of learning. Gaming techniques use engagement, teaming and communication to reach an objective. This brings different types of learners together to solve problems (scenarios, role playing and practice). The techniques have been around for a long time. (war gaming, D&D, board games, learning maps, lean manufacturing).”

Jack A. Loganbill from the Unisys Corporation was quick to note that he found that there is a wide difference in opinion of what exactly gamification is as it applies to training. He went on to responded to the question by asking the question “Is it turning the training into a game? Or is it applying gaming attributes the principles that make games so attractive, to the training.

For those who read my recent blog, I too have noticed that when working with different organizations I realized the term gamification has very different meanings to different people. So I opted to simply used Wikipedia’s definition. “Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems and increase users' self-contributions. Gamification has been studied and applied in several domains, with some of the main purposes being to engage, teach, entertain, measure[, and to improve the perceived ease of use of information systems.”

Personally, I think Katin Imes, from Expedition 21 Media, Inc. provided one most clarifying definitions when he stated, “I want to point out a word-transformation that is happening. The term "gamification" means really different things in different domains. The current term is "on fire" in sales, media, online "customer engagement", and corporate offices but there it means:
- adding track able, effectible metrics to simple customer actions
- presenting those metrics to the public or to a subgroup in a themed, "fun" way that provides competition or rewards
- providing prizes, rewards, freebies, or recognition awards to the highest-metric participants.”

“When a learning professional hears gamification in a sense of applying it to training or learning, the term is much more to do with providing exercises ("games") that directly include the skills or knowledge being learned to be applied in a system ("rules") that provides a clear outcome ("win or lose", "measurable benefit or loss", "rank"). Quality games provide problems or resource situations that cannot be solved well without the skills or knowledge being learned, and allow participants to experiment and "tweak the dials" to experience the outcomes and effects of different strategies and factors or sequences.”

Once you settle on a definition for the term “gamification” you can go back to the question that the title asks: Gamification: A fad or the future of learning? Hopefully your interest has been peaked. There is a general consensus developing among those participating in the discussion on the LinkedIn Learning and Development Group that you can follow. I however will not provide a spoiler.