Podcast 22: What can we learn from our environment for gamification design?

Welcome to this week’s Question of Gamification. My name is An Coppens. I am the Chief Game Changer at Gamification Nation, and this week’s question of gamification is one I have. I suppose it’s in light of all the global politics that are going on everywhere. It made me question, are we just all part of one large strategy game by a certain amount of players? Before I go into that, I want to draw analogies to strategy games, and what’s happening around this, both in the world of politics and the world of business, because that’s how, A, I see business but also, B, I think there’s a lot we can learn from it. It also encourages you, and that’s my hope that I can inspire you to think critically.

Okay, if you were in charge of that game, how would you play it? What cards would you play, and what would winning mean? What’s the win condition? Is there a win condition, or are we just heading for a zero sum game where there are no winners, only losers?

I guess it’s probably out of I would say frustration or desperation. I don’t know. It’s a blend maybe of the two. As you know, I’m a European working a business in the UK, and with Brexit looming we have a workforce that’s all spread over the world. For me, being a global business was always the way I wanted to play the game. I never thought of my business as being just a British company. I actually always felt it was a company playing on a global scale, but now currently the strategy of the politicians is potentially pushing a major, I suppose, spanner in the works, let’s just say. It’s making me adjust my strategies in order to still continue to play the game I wanted to play.

Then I also wonder if I’m only part of the larger playing field. I mean, we’re a tiny company in comparison to some of the big names in industry, but in the end of the day we all have a role to play in the strategy game whether we’re a low-end small business or a high-end major player like an Apple, an Amazon, an IBM, a Google, whatever. We all have a role to play, but also politicians have a role to play because their sense of government’s lack of or insights and wrongdoings can have major impacts. I mean, trying to grow any business in war-based countries is no mean feat. Trying to do business when your company or country is at war with other countries is not so simple.

Very realistically, I’ve had one client refused a platform I advised to use because of the company or the country they were from. They said, “Well we can’t possibly, as a Muslim nation, do business with a company from that particular nation.” It’s real, and I would say an oversight by maybe or maybe not politicians in the UK is that EU companies will choose an EU company to do business with as opposed to a British company unless the British company is the cheapest one on the market and offering lower values, which if you think about, I suppose the EU as a governing body, it has a lot of good to offer. It offered the whole continent of Europe peace for nearly 50 years. It brought about lots of rules that are actually good for business, good for humans, and good for the planet.

Do we like them all of the time? Of course not. That’s the nature of rules. Just like in any game, we don’t like having to stick to rules and having some ways they may impede us from doing how we wanted to do certain things. Yeah. I mean, in a strategy game you will always pivot and choose a different strategy based on the feedback you get from the market, the feedback you get from the game, the choices that are left to you. In the current political climate, I’m having to make choices, and the first choice I made was to wait and see. Now with an impending leaving the EU or Britain leaving the EU after all, unless a general election comes up, which is also still a possibility, it may mean having to set up the group entity, increasing the cost space by having to do double accounting and double offices and double everything.

It’s a realistic choice, and until we have to, we won’t action it, but it is something we are researching. It is something that we are looking into. Why? Because I wouldn’t trust the UK government to get it right. Especially in the last three years, they haven’t got much right. It would need a drastic change for my mind to be changed on it. Hey, that’s me, just one person.

If we think about politics as a strategy game, then the question is who are the winners, and who are the losers, and at what level or how much dissatisfaction do you need to raise in order for the top to change their minds and adapt their strategy? I have a place I’m going with that.

If you look at the situation in Hong Kong, that’s one scenario. People are very unhappy and protesting consistently to change rules that they don’t like. Government so far hasn’t changed their minds. The question is how much dissatisfaction does there need to be before governments change their minds? If you look at the UK, the people are split on leave, remain, and anything in between. Some people are much more leave oriented than they ever were. Some people are much more remained than they ever were. Some people have switched sides, and it’s nearly like there is no such thing as a middle ground anymore. It’s like you’re either one side or the other side, and it’s effectively very polarizing. If you see what’s happening in the US, similar boats.

You know the leadership is very polarizing, and when we look at it from a strategic perspective, who are they playing with, and are they playing for personal gain, or are they playing for game and must, must win? Because right now it looks like politics is an ego game where there can only be ever one winner, and maybe that was where we made the rules, and we’ve made them wrong. It could be politics were politics way back in the day, and they’ve always been there, so there’s always been some influence or other that was good, some influence or other that was bad.

I would say having a think about, “Okay if you were playing politics…” One of my favourite games was Sim City. I played it a lot in college where you have to become the mayor and build up a city. Now, one of the things in the game, and it’s a resource management game so you have to manage the various resources from trade to natural resources to people, and if you didn’t do and build certain things, then your people would get unhappy and would actually start riots and would be damaging to your particular city.

I think in society we see the same thing happen, but a lot of people have lost, I suppose, the spirit of fight because nothing has changed for quite some time. Politicians for the world over haven’t proven that much that we need to believe in what they say, for one. For two, we still question if they’re in it for the greater good of all of us or rather for the greater good of themselves. I suppose that’s the fundamental question. Is politics just an ego game or is politics something that we need in order to manage companies, in order to manage countries, in order to manage the world? Have we maybe become, as part of globalization, maybe national governments are obsolete? Maybe it is a different construct that’s needed, but by having a different construct, we may have even less people in power, even more ego tripping.

Maybe there is a fundamental, I suppose, question we can’t answer, but it does raise the question at the same time. Where am I going with this? What does it have to do with gamification? Well, actually a lot and a little on both sides. Personally for us, see, or for me as a business owner, it has a lot of implications. For gamification design, I’m looking at this and sort of seeing, “Okay, so what game are politicians playing?” If I look at the Boris Johnsons and all his friends in cabinet right now, I see a whole bunch of self-serving and often not fair players in the game. If I look at the opposing party like a labour, I see player that haven’t really got a strategy. If I look at then maybe some of the green shoots that are popping out, you have extreme strategies. On one side, you have a Farage on the other side or Brexit party better. On the other side you have a Liberal Democrats who are very clear that they are a remain party.

You have I suppose some political parties have been forced to take a stance, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Then it’s up to us as people to choose, “Okay, who do we want to elect for us to be representative of our own ideology?” Now our own ideology, if you think about it, is always based on limited inputs, limited information. Just like in any strategy game and just like in business, you make the best decisions with what you know at any given time. You look for as many inputs as possible, but you’re not going to make the best choices all of the time. You will have some mistakes. You will have some wrong choices, but if I look at that in a leadership context, having a clear strategy in my view, and that’s my personal view, is probably better than to have no strategy at all.

If I look at the game Johnson played is, he had two strategies before going into either campaign. He could have gone remain. He could have gone leave. He went leave, and now he’s used it to self-promote, and he ran a very successful strategy. You have to give him that.

Is he going to make it? I’m not convinced because unless he makes it for the greater good of everyone including the EU, then I think he’s on a losing streak. But, hey. That’s only history will tell us that, and that’s not up to me to decide. I think there’s so many factors at play that I couldn’t possibly figure that one out.

But, if you look at it from a strategy play, he hedged his bets. He had two cards, and he chose one, and then he completely stuck with that strategy and went for it. You have businesses that do the same. They pick a strategy, they stick with it, and they execute.

I think where the previous government went wrong, they didn’t execute. One way of another, any maybe they didn’t have enough of a tactical plan to back up the strategy. Because in the end of the day, strategy on paper is only idealism in any case. But, strategy and execution and tactics, that’s where the games are played in a strategy game unless you take your team to battle and you actually battle.

The best theory is always on the sidelines, same with any soccer game, with any tennis game, with any card game. Unless you play the cards, you’re not in the game. So, we have to keep playing. We have to keep adapting and pivoting in order to stay in the game, and I think that’s only natural. It’s, I think, how it works.

But, yeah, in the gamification design perspective, a long-winded way of getting there, I often have to ask many strategic questions in order to crystallize why do people want gamification. Why do they want to use a game? What is the benefit in it for them, but also the benefit in it for the people? What does it enable? Do we do some gamification designs for marketing?

I always have to keep asking the question, what’s in it for the customer? Why would they want that? Does it help them, or does it impede them? Most organizations actually do genuinely want to have their customers feel that they’re being helped, that they’re getting places, that their goals are being met. Most companies are not ripping off people on purpose. And I say most companies. There are always outliers, just like in politics. You always have outliers who are in it for themselves and not for the greater good.

I think, as gamification designers, we do have an ethical obligation to ask those questions. We signed up to a code of ethics, which I’m very thankful for that Andrzej Marczewski put together. The code of ethics is to always be as inclusive as possible and to have good ethical thinking behind that.

Now, some companies drive that further than we do, or they refuse business of certain industry segments, et cetera. We take a commercial approach to most things, but at the same time, we wouldn’t do something to harm people. But we won’t also refuse companies unless they don’t pay us, for example.

So, there’s different strategic choices you always have to make. You can change your minds, of course, on most things. Maybe not as often as some of the politicians in the U.K. have done in the past three years. But, it’s interesting.

And I guess, from a corporate gamification design perspective, imagine your company setting a vote for a particular benefit or a particular rule or a particular practice that you want to introduce. You need to have a cut off point. Is it the 50-50 or 51% votes in favour? Do you take if 50, or should it be a 60-40 for it to be a clearer majority?

In university in Belgium, you passed at 40, but you got honours only from 60 onward. So, there is different grades, different rules. In some schools, you only pass with 50%. In some schools, it’s 60. So, you set the rules. We’ve worked on gamification designs where the pass rate was 70% because of the highly critical nature of what people were having to do in the role if they were pushing a job.

So, although politics is a bad analogy or maybe something, as a business owner, I shouldn’t engage it. But, if you follow me on social, you know where I am on that. So, I guess there’s no place to hide.

But I did want to draw it out to showcase, actually think about it. If politics is a game, then who are the winners and who are the losers and who are they winning for? What are the rules? Are they sticking to the rules? Are they just making the rules suit them some of the time and not some of the time?

So, if you think about it, the U.K. as an example, they were actually quite instrumental in drafting up a lot of the rules that the EU currently lives by. A lot of the great legislation has actually come from the U.K. as well. So, to then turn around and say, “Oh, we hate the EU because they have bad rules.” Well, that was quite a percentage that you proposed, and they accepted.

If you take away all of EU legislation out of the U.K. law system, you end up back in feudal days, so that’s quite a roll back. Do you really want that? Equally, if you take away the joint of nature of performing like a block of nations, in no game do I see a collaboration of 28 nations being less strong than one nation on its own.

Any gamer would tell you that. If you collaborate with a bunch of people, surely the sum total of everything gives you better buying power. It gives you better deals around. You also have more clout against certain individuals who want to rip off your society anyway. So, yeah, it baffles me that this is not seen. But, hey. That’s just me thinking out loud, I guess.

From a small company’s perspective, I join up with associations like [Ayuki 00:06:50] and Atiga because they represent our industry as in the wider gaming and digital enterprise industry and stand our ground in front of politics. Why is that important to me? Well, actually I don’t have a voice as one individual, but if I group together with all of the other small businesses in my space, we can hire someone that then represents the whole lot of us, and that, I do value, and I would encourage all of you to make sure that the associations that you’re a part of know what you want globally. And if there is an association that represents your industry but doesn’t actually lobby at governmental level, then question what they are doing for you because it’s usually much more of a self-serving scenario. So, question it.

So, from a strategy design perspective, politics is teaching us a lot right now. I would say look at it, think about it, learn from it, and then decide, okay, for my business, for my company, for my people, what would I want? If I’m doing a vote, should it be a 50-50 split, or should there be a bigger majority? If it is binding or not binding as a vote, is it just an opinion poll because opinions can be sought at any given time in employee engagement.

It’s one of the most favourite tools. People get asked the employee survey once a year or maybe more often. In some of the employee engagement tools, you get asked every five minutes. Mood analysis is a thing. So, I sure wish politicians would use that more rather than self-serving interests, but hey. Maybe they are using it. What do I know? I’m not a politician.

So, what I’m trying to say is we live in a very interesting time. I hope that as governments go and as businesses go, that we don’t turn back the clock so far in time that we end up in that horrible situation where we become worn torn nations battling because the generals of our societies have decided that that was a good idea. And for those countries already living in these conditions, speak to anybody that comes from there, and they will tell you the story.

I would say in the last number of weeks, I’ve had the honour, I would say, to sit in cars with people from nations where war is basically a fact of life, and people say, “Well, actually, there was no point. There was no future.” Is that what you want? Most of us actually don’t want that for our people. We want to give them a future. We want to give them a step up.

In our business, we have one gentleman who is a former refugee who escaped, but his family is still in danger. So, it makes you think. It makes you really appreciate what you do have, and yeah. I would wish for all gamification designers, game designers, and people in business and politics, to always think about the greater good of all of us as opposed to the greater good of me.

We all have ego talks at some point. We all do things that probably are more self-serving than self-serving for the greater good, but is that the right thing? And maybe it isn’t, and maybe that’s where we then need to pivot back and strategize for the majority as opposed to for a small minority, and in some cases, even a minority of one.

So, a bit of a reflective question of gamification. It was my question in the first place. I hope that you can appreciate where I’m coming from. I’m not aiming to transform your visions or your thoughts on which side of politics you should take. I’m just merely saying observe politics and observe what’s going on around you, and think of it, and I suppose take the higher level view. And so, okay, okay, if this was a strategy game and I was a player in it, would I play the same way or would I not? And because you’re actually impacting real consequences for real people, and if you’re a manager deciding to spend budget on gamification, this should be on your agenda too.

Then, consider deeply, who are you serving? What is in it for the people you are serving? Can you lift them up to their next level of greatness? In which case, great. If you can’t, then you need to question, is this the right step forward? Is this the right thing to do, or am I just sticking to a strategy because I chose to polarize, or I chose to go down one route and one route only because it suits me and my objectives?

So, I leave you with that thought. I hope you can enjoy the spirit in which it was said, and I hope to talk to you, probably a bit more business-focused next time. And I thank you for listening to A Question of Gamification.

 

 

 

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Podcast 21: What are kids learning from games?

Welcome to this week’s question of gamification. On this question, I get asked a lot by parents, “What are my kids learning on video games, on computer games, on mobile games?” “Should I limit their time on it,” is typically the second question. “I am worried about my kids playing too much.” It’s a very frequently asked question by managers in many organisations with children at home. They see that their children are playing and playing a lot, and I suppose with the World Health Organisation, you’re marking gaming as a disorder as well. There’s a need to explain why and what the case may be with games and what it brings or doesn’t bring to your children or young people that you know.

The first thing I will say is as a person growing up, my parents were quite protective and we were not allowed games at all in the house. So when I was growing up, I was always borrowing somebody else’s games in school in order to play. In fact, I think at one stage my dad thought that Pong was going to blow up the television. And if you don’t know Pong, look it up, it’s a very basic game with two balls knocked to the side of the screen and you have to sort of play table tennis on the TV screen. So my uncles had to uninstall it quite quickly after it had launched.

What we did do, however, is we had a lot of board games. We had a lot of card games. We were all involved in sports. Although computer things were banned, we still got to play. Actually all of my children’s parties were sets of games. Most of them I dreamt up. I was lucky to be born in June, and often then the weather in Belgium was quite nice and quite fun. We typically had really fun things in the garden, in our house.

The little puddle pool was used as the hinderness that you had to overcome or the obstacle that you had to overcome rather than the hindrance, which is nice Flemish word for that … it’s an obstacle. One group of the party people had to defend the obstacle and either make you go through it, which gave you immunity, or you had to be cunning enough to distract them and run past them super fast and get to the other side. Things like Tug of War, you name it, we did it.

For my confirmation we had this massive life-sized board where you had to roll the dice and you move forward, and based on where you landed you had to go find the clue in the woods and perform whatever task was related to that clue. If the person that was minding that clue thought you had passed you, you were allowed to continue back to the board and the dice. Things you had to do in order to get over a clue were things like dress up and take a photo, solve a riddle. Sometimes you had to find things. There were always fun, cool stuff that happened.

So although I never actually got to own a console of any denomination of sorts, I did love to play and my parents did definitely encourage that. Even though when I asked about a career in gaming, my dad was very adamant that there was no money in games. I guess it was a good … I would have been seven, so a good couple of decades ago. Let’s just say that.

Today’s kids I think have a bit more of a privilege or access ability, I think. And maybe that’s also my worldview of a relatively well to do middle class background, because gaming, let’s not forget, this is not cheap. So a lot of kids from the lower end of the market families may still not be able to access any game consoles or just purely because of costs. And if they do, they might have to work really hard to earn access to it. So I think if your kids are gaming, you’re already in a nice place and you probably have enough money to help them do certain things. So that’s one thing.

But what are they learning? So think about it this way. If your children are playing as a team with other kids in their class, in their neighborhood, but even with other kids online that they have never met, like is the case in the large games like World of Warcraft where a whole tribe comes together, forms a team effectively, they learn how to work in a virtual team with remote coworkers following instructions. In some cases the 12 year old or the 14 year old or the 16 year old is the leader of the tribe. So they’re leading people, they’re giving instructions, they’re giving feedback. If you think about it in the workplace, essential skills, right? So if they’re engaged in that sort of play and they are really good at it I would say encourage them.

What I would also say if they do that to the detriment of having any friends in real life, then yes, pay attention to that. That’s when it is potentially an option. So anything in moderation is relatively good. But if for example, the friends online are much more important than their friends in real life, then the question needs to be raised, are they going down the line of ruling everything else out in favor of play. And that’s when you’re entering the realm of addictive behavior.

Now, most games come and go. So you’ll have children go through phases of today, Fortnite is the big thing. Fortnite has become mainstream. I saw it on the news yesterday that there’s the Fortnite world championships coming on. There’s world championships in most games. My partner plays in European championships and world championships in Othello, a board game, I used to play when I was a kid.

There’s world sports and world games for pretty much anything, and maybe not enough in management. Maybe there should be such a thing for the workplace. Maybe there should be games to prove who’s the best manager based on resources. And maybe in some way we do that because we do measure companies based on their performance. If, let’s say, the stock exchange is how management teams are rated, then you have leader boards and you have indicators of resource management because whatever money you have left, whatever money you have in the bank is at play in the world of business success.

There’s a number of things that you could draw analogies with. What else are kids learning when they’re playing games? They’re learning to solve problems. They’re learning to overcome obstacles, and they’re learning that winning is not always a guarantee. And in today’s society I think that that above all other things is an essential skill. Resilience is something all of us that have made anything with our lives have had to learn the hard way. We’ve had to probably come through some knock-backs, some setbacks in order to make it to where we are today.

I see failure. I see losing a game as feedback. Yes, not nice in the moment, but very essential for us to grow and to become a bigger and better person and to do better next time. Winning first time round and winning all of the time is for only a lucky few the way things work.

If you look at any major sports person, whether it’s a Venus Williams or a Federer, a Messi, a Hazar, whoever you interview, these guys and girls have had to train hard, they’ve had to take failure and they’ve had to be resilient in order to keep moving forward. Yes, they may have come with a talent, but unless they nurture that talent and focused in on it and became better at it with coaching, with training, with probably researching how they could get better, with analyzing how they could improve, they would never have made it to the top. And I would argue that the gamers of today, the kids that are rocking it on Twitch, the kids that are rocking it in e-sports, have actually got very similar traits. They are learning the hard way to take hits to take knocks. They practice a lot and they are also applying analysis on strategy and often have coaches to get them to play at top levels.

A few years ago I spoke at South by Southwest in Texas together with two of my fellow gamification ladies. I went to a seminar on e-sports, and about the team and how team managements are structured, how the progression is, I found it fascinating. So at age 12 that’s when you enter professional e-sports or e-sports that are going places. By Age 14 to 16 you’re at your peak. By age 18 to 21 you’re actually losing the flexibility in your muscle responses. Your responses become slower and that’s when these kids become coaches.

Now a pro-team that’s at the top of their game in e-sports, plays probably eight hours a day. The rest of the day they do exercise, very specific exercise to keep the body going but also exercise that helps them to enhance their reflexes in a game. They also have to look after nutrition, sleep, etc. So it’s not just a very one track sport. It has to be seen as the global person.

They know from research unless you are physically fit and switched on that you wouldn’t necessarily make the top level in e-sports. Which I found fascinating as well, because a lot of the thinking about parents who have this fat kid sitting up in the dark room playing video games until the night is over basically, a lot of parents have this really negative image of what gaming is and what gaming can be. And actually I think there is a lot of very good things happening as well.

Yesterday on the news they showed the first female gamer with disabilities doing well. The fact that she can play in a level playing field because of an adapted system I think is amazing. She doesn’t play in a different league. She plays in a regular league against the boys, just purely because her disability didn’t matter anymore. Her console is adapted to her playing to the best of her abilities. And she’s rocking it. And I thought, “You know what? Kudos to the gaming industry because that is also something that it provides. That is something that us in the workplace have not cracked yet.”

So I think there is a definite case for inclusion and a definite case for showing up as who you choose to be and being the best you can be in that role, that’s coming through kids in gaming. I guess I’m slightly passionate. I’m also slightly biased and you could say that.

But I suppose the things to watch out for when is it an addiction? When is it not an addiction? Well, it’s an addiction if a kid doesn’t play with their own friends anymore. It’s an addiction when actually the game becomes more important than everything else in life. Just like comparing it to alcohol or drugs or anything, if the fix becomes bigger than living, than everything else, than people, than looking after yourself, then it’s time to probably look out, “Okay, let’s tone this down. Let’s have a conversation, seek professional help and look into it.”

But the reality is for a lot of kids, the game of the month will be a different game next month or three months from now. For most kids, it’s part of growing up. It’s part of learning. It’s part of just socializing. So if you can afford it, let them engage, let them play. If you can’t afford them, let them go to the friends that have the games and they can play and see what you can do. I think games today are becoming more economically viable for most of us, so it doesn’t need to be exclusive. Even though e-sports may still be for the privileged few, just like elite sports on any level in any game is probably much more for the elite few than for the masses.

But games, they have rules. Kids learn to behave according to rules. Strategy games and multiplayer games encourage them to learn about teams, sometimes even teach them to manage teams. In all games there’s communication. In all games there is learning from losing, learning from winning, thinking of, “Okay, how can I do better next time.” And focused attention for long periods of time is what we say young kids don’t have anymore until they sit down at a computer game. They show that they actually do have it. So pushing them in other areas in work to engage in really good engaged work is also parts of the realms of possibility. A good book can do the same, a good movie can do the same.

Kids haven’t lost that ability. We just have lost the ability to encourage them to do it. And maybe that’s our fault as adults to not engage at the right level with the right bits of feedback. The one thing that games do do is give instant feedback. Learn in the moment. So learning is becoming much more rapid in a game, then for example, three or four months down the line or weeks down the line, you get feedback on the work you did two weeks ago. So there is something to be said for that.

Being a manager myself, it’s not always easy when you’re juggling many tasks on your to-do list, but also many tasks for your team and many priorities for your business, for your work, etc. And as a parent that’s no difference. So where can you use games and gamification to make their lives better is what I would say. But then I have a vested interest in that.

What can your children learn from games a lot? So let them play. Play with them, because for some kids that’s the only interaction they have with you. If you’re attached to your smart device, attach to their smart device. Learn their game, or at least engage in a game that you have in common, because they may not appreciate if you’re totally bad at Fortnite, don’t go playing Fortnite with them because they’ll only laugh at you and consider you a nuisance. But there may be other games.

We always had board games in our family and we still do. There’s nothing wrong with that. I used to always be delighted if we could play a little game and weren’t told to go play by ourselves. So engage, engage at their level and find the common game that’s yours and that makes it family time so that you can engage.

So yeah, will people learn? Yes, absolutely. Do Kids today need games? Totally. Just like we did. We’re no different in the end of the day. Motivations have actually not drastically changed over time. We all still want to be loved, respected, and appreciated for the talents that we bring, and encouraged when those talents don’t reach far enough or we got it wrong. We need second chances.

Either way I would say don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. What did you learn when you were young? What did you play with when you were young? And yeah, if the symptoms are not drastic and not in any way negative than just let them play. Let them learn. Ask them on a regular basis, what are they learning? Who are they playing with? What are they playing? What’s the best game on the market today? And look it up. There’s always kids doing live streams of the games they play. So that you understand what they’re dealing with. So that you understand how the game works and what potentially they could learn from this game. I would say, yeah, let it be, let them play and play with them. Join them. If you can’t win, join them.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s question of gamification, and I hope to have you back on the podcast very soon and talk to you in a couple of days. I love it if you would give us some positive feedback. So if you like our podcast, absolutely give us a good rating. If you don’t like it, let me know. I’d prefer if you let me know personally as opposed to publicly. And also if you have a question that you would like us to answer, by all means send it my way. Thank you for listening.

 

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Podcast 20: Should gamification be part of a larger strategy?

Welcome to this week’s Question of Gamification. I’m An Coppens, I’m your show host, and I’m also the CEO or Chief Game Changer at Gamification Nation. This week’s question is asked to us from a variety of clients, and it typically goes something like this, is gamification or should gamification be part of a larger strategy?

When we get asked that question, it’s typically because people have heard that gamification is a thing. They like the concept, they like the fact that we can bring some of the game and play-like feeling into an organisation. But often it also means that they haven’t thought through why they want to implement gamification in the first place.

Start with why

I would say or answer that question with, yes, gamification should always be part of a larger strategy. In fact, I would even say strategy comes first, as opposed to gamification comes first. Now, gamification can be the strategy. I mean, that’s also possible. But in the end of the day, you need to have a reason why you are engaging in gamification, why you are even going there. You need to understand if it fits for your culture, if it fits for the type of problem you’re trying to solve.

Although I feel that gamification has a lot of power and a lot of benefits. It doesn’t fix every single problem that you may encounter in an organisation. Sometimes it’s simply a case of revising benefits, revising employee rules, or even very simple things as changing things around in an environment. It could be interpersonal related. The one thing you can’t gamify is your boss, typically speaking. At best, you can gamify the process, but gamifying people is another story altogether, and gamification in the best form should always be voluntary.

Make it voluntary

If it’s imposed, then as soon as that becomes known, it also causes a backlash of why people don’t want to engage or they rebel against it, or they game the system, etc. When you’re looking at gamification as a part of your employee facing strategy, I would definitely say it needs to be part of a well thought out strategy, whether that’s employee engagement, whether that is a very specific onboarding call, an onboarding strategy, whether that is showcasing how your organisation is a leader in the field. There’s a variety of reasons and a variety of things you may want to do as part of a strategy, and gamification could be one.

What we see gamification do and where it plays in and ties into strategy, is that it enforces or reinforces the message of your strategy.

Gamified on-boarding strategy example

Let’s give an example. Usually examples work better than me talking about the conceptual side of things. Imagine you have an organisation where people thrive when they’re self-sufficient, when they’re self searching for answers. Now, when people join the organisation, they didn’t always know that. Gamification was introduced to help them through and teach them from day one, “Actually, in this organisation, it’s up to you to make your career what you want it to be.”

What did the organisation do? Actually, they looked at staff turnover and they saw the ones that thrived were the ones that had adopted and became self-sufficient. The ones that left, and left quite miserable in some way, felt that they were left to their own devices and didn’t know what to do. They were never taught that, actually, self-management and self-sufficiency is the way to success. That was the strategic input then, that basically made the company decide, “Okay, we want to apply a gamification strategy to solve this.”

Now, they did test out other strategies as well. What they came up with was, from day one, and I think it even started before, the person joined the company, they were sent access to an app. In the app you received instructions, a little bit like a treasure hunt: “On day one, please find X place in X building, and meet person Y.” When they met person Y, person Y scanned their app, and basically they were given the next clue, the next instruction.

That way, they figured out that actually in order to succeed and in a very subtle way, they were being trained to say, “Actually, to get places in this company, this is what you have to do. You have to find your way. You have to find where things are, who the people are I need to speak to,” and sometimes it’s obvious and sometimes it was a little bit harder, sort of hidden encryptic clues and all of that.

From a design perspective, that’s an ideal scenario to design with, because we have a very clear strategic objective, we can measure the before and the after, and you can set very clear indicators. Having people go through the onboarding adventure or quest or whatever you call it, gives you an idea of whether they’re able to make it to the very end because some of them may struggle. The ones that struggle are the ones you can immediately flag, “Okay, we need to mind them a little bit more than maybe the perfectly self-sufficient ones.

The perfectly self-sufficient ones probably got there anyway, and would have made it regardless, but they also give you a good indication that they might be that high potential person that’s going to thrive in this environment, because we know from previous analysis, that that was the kind of person that would. In some sense, making gamification the tactical approach to the strategic objective, I think is where it works best.

Gamification in learning should have choices and consequences

As a trainer and coach, I often used games and gamification as a tactic to bring more difficult concepts home, and to make people realize actually how you behave in a certain situation will have an impact on how you’re perceived later on. Strategy games, role playing games, so many on the market, will guide you through a whole number of dilemmas choices, and in the game they always have consequences. I see the same happen in a work environment. There’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t have consequences in a workplace-based gamification for onboarding, for promotions, for learning, you name it.

There should be choices in it, some that are more ideal, some that are less ideal, and some that are outright not desirable. Those chosen ones, if choices are made, there should definitely, by all means, be a consequence. Whether that’s a loss of a life in the game, or what it does, actually, deduction of some points or privileges, those things should be there. I think in today’s society, a lot of young people get nicknamed with old, under-privileged, et cetera, but think about it the other way.

Most of the kids that are entering the workforce today have played games at some point in life. Whether they’re actively playing online games, computer games, mobile games, or they’re engaged in sports, in my view, they all qualify. In each of those scenarios, they have learned to deal with failure, they have learned to deal with consequences.

Yes, they may have come through a softer part that they got to, where they needed to go with less struggle than maybe their previous generation or back in the good old days or whatever you call it, the war story that’s being bandied around, but they also have learned through the play that, in some cases, bad decisions have bad consequences.

Don’t, I suppose, put them in cotton wool, don’t hold back. If there are desirable behaviors and undesirable behaviors, let them know which is which. Because in the end of the day, we’ll only ever learn if we fail, and maybe that’s too harsh a statement. Some people learn from others very well, and learning from their role models, but a lot of the firsthand experience has given us insight because of the things we did wrong. Usually, it’s not because of the things we did right, because there, we don’t know for sure if we actually did it right or we were just lucky. Consequences feedback should be part and parcel of it.

Is gamification part of a strategy?

To answer the original question: is gamification part of a strategy? Yes, it should always be, and where possible measure it. Any good strategy usually comes with some element of resource management, some element of choices, that you’re weighing up. Then, if you weigh up, that gamification may be a good strategy to follow or a good tactic to follow, then it should have been made because the culture was right, people are open to play. The thing in the work environment, gamification will very often just look like nudges or an app that encourages you. It may not look like a Full On World of Warcraft or Monopoly or whatever other game you can think of.

It’s always way more subtle than that. It’s often just a simple guidepost through a process that gets you places. When you think of play in the workplace, I would say, don’t drive it too crazy. I saw one thought leader recently mention on LinkedIn, “Nobody comes to work looking to play.” Well, maybe. I would say, most of us come to work to do a good day’s work. If that can be done in a fun and an exciting way, that’s so much more appealing than if it has to be done in a really boring and non-exciting, non-motivational way.

Where I see gamification fit into that equation, is that it can actually make a process more interesting and encourage behaviors that you see as useful for the organisation. I mean, yes, we borrow concepts from play, does that mean it’s a Full On game? No, it doesn’t have to be. It can be, but absolutely, it doesn’t have to be. It has to be fitting with whatever culture you have going, has to be fitting with the people that you have, and it can be collaborative, it can be competitive, it can be any which way.

Those are the strategic choices you should be making when you’re deciding that gamification is part of a strategic mix, and when it’s part of the strategic mix, which of the things are you enhancing, which of the things would you like to put lesser focus on, how are you going to roll it out? There’s a whole strategic set of questions that comes with implementing gamification. It’s part of a strategy, usually an overarching strategy, that’s bigger than gamification itself.

Then you need strategic decisions at gamification level also, which are more choices around, “Okay, do we go collaborative? Do we go competitive? Do we go inclusive? Do we go specific groups? There’s a lot, a lot of choices that need to be made when looking at a gamified process delivery and gamification in the workplace.

I hope that answered the question, and I look forward to our next question. If you have one as burning and that you haven’t really dared to ask, by all means, send it our way, and I will do my best to answer. If you like our podcast, by all means, give us a great rating on whatever system you listen to us. Thank you for listening to the Question of Gamification.

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Inclusive design 101

I wanted to bring the feminine voice to the world of gamification when it was largely dominated by men in 2012. One of my reasons was that a lot of the designs I saw early on were very competitive and didn’t appeal to me. I then researched whether this was just a hunch of one female or whether this was more widespread. In fact, it is more widespread and not even exclusive to women to not want to engage in competition all of the time at work. What I also found is that women are harsher judges of their abilities which will prevent them from entering a competition. Feeling feminine and masculine seems more of a spectrum rather than a gender rule and as I keep being told in projects it depends on the situation.

When embarking on inclusive design, the following basics give good guidance:

Inclusive environments will:

  • be responsive to people’s needs
  • be flexible in use
  • offer choice when a single design solution cannot meet all users’ needs
  • be convenient so they can be used without undue effort or ‘special separation’ 
  • be welcoming to a wide variety of people, making them feel they belong
  • accommodate without fuss or exception those who have specific requirements

The key to getting the mix right in gamification and user experience design is to engage with your users. I still find it fascinating that a lot of organisation in our work, do not believe in consulting their target audience. For us, it is an essential part of our process and it is what get’s us better results.

So here is my question for you, where can you be more inclusive in your workplace based on the simple pointers given above?

 

https://www.gamificationnation.com/inclusive-by-design/

 

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Podcast 19: How to use our Gamification Card Deck?

Rough and ready transcript of the podcast to date, just to get it out. We will improve it in the coming days with a bit of human touch.

Welcome to this week’s a Question of Gamification. And this week’s question is a question from Remco one of our clients who bought a gamification card deck. It’s our physical card deck that we designed a while ago, to help us to explain what game design is all about. For those people that don’t like games don’t play games don’t understand the beginning or the end have anything to do with game design. And also for an awful lot of people who just basically want to level up their skills and practice their game design. So both audiences buy our gamification decks, actually, to be perfectly honest.

For us, it was very much a solution to a need, because a lot of the time when I did HR workshops, and learning and development workshops, I had people in the room that actually admittedly said, I don’t like games. And I’ve never played games, or only when I had to when I was younger, did I ever play games.

In order to address that, and still bring them along on a journey, where they could actually end up doing a gamification design for their company, I needed a tool. So that’s why the gamification design card deck was born. And the first thing I always say is to find out what it is or aim your design at someone.

Now for the purpose of workshops, the other challenge was that typically, many people came with such a diverse set of audiences, that it was really hard to design something together. So I needed the card set that would address that.

So the first card sets that I would focus on is either it’s aimed at learners, in which case you have learner types. And it’s either aimed at employees, in which case you choose employee types, or the gamification is aimed at customers and then you aim it at customer types.

So let’s imagine we are working on something for our employees, which means we have the green cards in front of us. And we just decide, okay, which of these are most likely to be the employees that work for me in the company or work with me in the company. So let’s say we have the corporate career makers that work in the company. So I’ve chosen one card.

Now, typically, I say, you can choose however many that apply to your audience, and apply to the people that you have working for you. Now, so because we’re dealing across customers, learners and employees, one is ideal to start with. You can choose more than one, if you’re already a bit confident. Once you have three different types all playing together, what I would say is consider having specific experiences to suit each and every one of those audiences, because what you need for each of them for them to make sense and for it to be good and useful, maybe quite different.

So for the purpose of today, we have a corporate career climbers, so that’s our target audience, then every game needs to fit in a category. So that’s where the type of game cards come in. Now, I’ve listed 13 different kinds of games. But there are more and you know, mashups can work. So what I would suggest here is that you can pick up to maximum two of the type of game types.

If you’re an absolute beginner, you can pick only one, reason for that is you want to keep it simple when you start out, because the game mechanics once you start mashing them up makes the game more complex, makes it harder to create, makes it harder to do many things. So imagine that for this purpose. For our career makers, we have a resource management game.

Now, a resource management game is a game where you have to collect items, nurture items, and you have to make sure that you have enough resources to do everything that you need to do. So things like Sim City, things like Farmville are the types of kind of resource management games that we’re talking about here.

Now, for a corporate career maker, what could be the types of things that they would love to collect? Maybe it could be experiences, as in, you know, experience to do different types of things within the organization’s, level steps up on the ladder, because if they want to go from A to the top dog over the top position, you basically need to help them get there. And by giving them things to collect along the way, you may actually provide them that path to get you there. So once you have the game type, you know who you’re aiming it out, the next thing you need to choose is the win conditions.

So effectively, every good way game has win conditions. Now you don’t have to stick to the ones that are completely fitting to your game, you can be creative with that. And that’s why there’s a whole lot more than 13 of win conditions.

Let’s say I’ve picked winning streaks as one of my win conditions. And the second win condition is control. So I’ve chosen control. So again, up to two or three win conditions are manageable. Anything way beyond that becomes hard. Effectively, you only need one target audience, one type of game and one win condition. And you you have the bare bones of a game. So effectively, you could stop here. And you could say, well, actually, I have resource management with winning streaks and control as the leverage points and that’s enough. So in this case, what we would have is a game where if they have enough winning streaks and winning streaks are things that you get through regularity through consistency. So for example, showing up on time, every every day for six months, practicing a bit of learning every day for an expected an amount of time for an employee could be delivering all your projects in on time, on budget, etc.

So whatever the case may be that’s relevant to your end user. So always pick tied back to your end user. So our corporate career climbers will want to know what are they measured in terms of the winning streaks so that they can climb the ladder so they want transparent, so we need to be able to show, okay, if I do that I get done. So that’s something they definitely want. Now, the other wind condition I chose here was control and control is an interesting one. So it basically tells you the power to control the territory of the game or power over others. And the virtue of leveling up in the corporate career actually would mean that, you know, you gain that element of control. But it could be a lot more trivial. It could be you can deliver karma to other people as in some something good. Or you can take away some things or negative, you know, you can again be playful around that. So they do these are game mechanics that give the feeling of progress that give the feeling of achievement. That’s why they’re called win conditions.

Every simple game from a puzzle to Candy Crush to World of Warcraft, to Fortnite to Minecraft have some elements of win conditions, they may be self imposed, or they may be explicit. So for example, completing a puzzle is effectively the win condition for a puzzle game. Minecraft, it may well be that you have built a fantastic looking item and it’s you that judges and it’s built. And then you have to hope that nobody comes and crushes it. In Fortnite, it’s a lot more finite. So it’s it’s you know, you you get basically ruled out by other players being the last one standing, the one that can do the victory dance is effectively what you will want in a Fortnite situation. So as it stands, we’ve chosen a customer type. So an employee type, customer type or learner type, we’ve chosen a type of game, always chosen to win conditions. So 112 so far.

And then you have these lovely, I think it’s about 60 something game mechanics. Now game mechanics, is what makes the game interesting. It’s what makes you come back, it’s what makes you play more often, it’s what engages you to take that next level step. Typically, what I do in workshops is I say you can pick as many as you like, but imagine that each card and each game mechanic costs you 10,000 of whatever money you’re in. So let’s say we’re in the UK, we have pound, so 10,000 pounds per card. In the EU, it’s 10,000 euros in the US it can be dollars in you know, you take it to the currency and make it a meaningfully high number. So let’s say we can pick five because our budget is 50,000 with a bit of extra for setup, and you know, the other game mechanics that we didn’t count for. So let’s say we have played Joker, bit of a treasure hunt, we have unlocking of new items, a bit of a team quest. And then let’s say we want the boss battle. So that’s my five. That’s my budget spend.

Now, realistically, you can use all as many as you like. And what I would do in a workshop with a client is we look at Okay, what are the game mechanics that are going to attract people in as an invite to come and play your game? Then the second step is what are the game mechanics I get them started. So there may be tutorial game mechanics in is your maybe little things you get them to do to have that initial boost and happiness that comes from hoo I won.

So what is the first first next step? Then there are game mechanics in the deck here, keep people engaged and coming back for more. So you know, you may have a couple of those. And then you need to decide if there is an end game.

So for example, in Minecraft or in Lego, there is no end game unless you choose there is an end. But in games, like Fortnite, there is a winner. So there is definitely a winner or loser. So if you are designing games for work, also look at what’s the part of the loser can they play again? Is it serious? Is it just trivial? Or is it just a game that keeps refreshing every quarter every month every year. So you know, there are more than one consideration to take into account when you’re using this for business. But let’s say we have the player Joker. So in a corporate career, you may have moments where you’re so busy, that you may have to play Joker not to lose your place. And because we had these winning streaks as part of our game, it might be really important to have a joker so you can keep your position in the control sense of things.

So the player Joker is to keep your standing in the ranking as it is, then I also picked unlocking of new items. Now these can be hidden, they can be unlocked through the things you do so imagine and it’s you know, you’ve succeeded at 10 winning streaks in a row or you have achieved 10 consecutive days of achievement. And you know, guess what, that works quite neatly with the control game element that we already had as a win condition because the unlocking of new items can actually give you the control over an area for example. The same with the treasure hunt. So I like treasure hunts, I think they’re they’re kind of cute. You can do them with augmented reality, you can do them in reality with clues, you could do them on email, you can do anything any, you know, completely digital. So they actually suit a lot of good things. So if you have a new communications campaign coming out treasure hunt, could be great fun. But a treasure hunt may also be a way of earning that control in your game. And in resource management. It’s a tool that unlocks may be special effects, special boosters, because effectively you are collecting treasures on some level, because we have a resource management game. And that could be competencies, or could be very job related items that unlock more responsibility, more abilities as such.

Because we’re dealing with corporate career makers, I added in a bit of a competitive element of boss battle, who knows most or who is best. And that’s where you invite maybe a colleague to be in a duel with you. And you decide on, you know, how you battle it out how, who’s the better of the two of you in a chosen area. So it could be about consistency, it could be about control. It could be about knowledge, it could be about projects, you know, you can set it as the game master you you set the controls. But you can also leave an element of freedom to the players where you can say, well look, you know, within reason you can have a boss battle once a quarter on, you know, who knows most and it could be a tournament style.

The one I usually include in game designs for companies is a team quest, where some of the achievements that you earn to win control or to have a winning streak is that you do something for the team. Most organizations I know depend on the team to deliver and to achieve the results. So therefore, team quests work really well. So that’s my five, that’s my budget spend. So now it’s off to design studio to make the game.

That’s how we would use the gamification design card deck. I hope that explains it a little bit, what we’re going to do is we’re going to create a challenge. And once a week, we’ll post three cards or maybe more to have you decide on what kind of game would you create for those cards. That way you’ll get the flex the muscles will take part in this we’ll get my team to take part in it. And what we’ll do is we’re going to get you to post ideas, and worked out game play based on the different cards that we choose.

In this case, we would have chosen the card called the corporate career makers, we would have chosen a resource management. And we would have chosen a win conditions of winning streaks and control. And then the five game mechanics, and one was to play a joker the other was boss battle team quest, treasure hunt, and unlocking of new items.

Based on these cards, what would you make? What kind of game? What’s the gameplay? What’s the narrative? How would you make that out? Where would you use it? Your call. So each week will set a different challenge. And you can join us in our group to give your version of what you would do with those cards with those names. And you never know. There may be prizes. They may not be, you may just enjoy it. Anyway, thanks for tuning in on this week’s Question of Gamification. So thank you for listening. Thank you for tuning in. And I hope that you enjoy taking part in our challenge. And if you enjoy listening to me and to the nuggets I hopefully share with you. Let’s hear your questions. Let’s have a review of the podcast on the system that you are listening to. We’d love to hear from you. And we’d love to answer more of your questions. So if you have a burning question about games vacation, send them my way. Thank you for listening,

 

Top 5 questions to ask before embarking on a gamification project

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