What Can Gamification Bring to the Enterprise?

Gamification increases employee happiness and motivation when applied to learning and training and increases customer engagement and awareness when it’s used in marketing. So what exactly is it?

Gamification uses principles and elements of game design in conjunction with non-game activities such as learning and marketing. According to the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, games facilitate a disposition toward collaboration, problem-solving, communication, experimentation and exploration of identities. These attributes promote success in a rapidly changing information-based culture, and contribute value to organizations that use gamification as part of the learning process. 

Here are some examples of gamification concepts and how they enhance enterprise learning programs and customer engagement.

Gaming Strategies for Learning

Gaming principles such as challenges, competition, rewards and personalization keep employees engaged and learning. The end result is experience, knowledge and the skills needed to solve real-life challenges that occur in an enterprise business.

According to Richard Ryan’s and Edward Deci’s Self-Determination Theory, human behavior is driven by the need for competence, autonomy and relatedness. Gaming fulfills those needs. Learners gain competence through the mastery of game challenges and what is called flow, a state of concentration or complete absorption. Autonomy is gained through the fact that games are usually voluntary, and players have control of gameplay. Relatedness is gained through interaction and competition with other gamers.

The challenge is to create a game that is challenging but not so difficult that it becomes taxing or boring. It also has to be engaging through the use of a point or level system, enticing graphics, the ability to compete and interact with others, and some type of reward or achievement system.

James Hadley, CEO of the cybersecurity firm Bristol, UK-based Immersive Labs, said that gamification has several benefits for skills development within cybersecurity. “At the heart of this is the need to build adaptability into a company’s front-line human assets,” he said. “Attackers never use the same techniques twice, so it is pointless to teach people to address fixed problems.” 

Improved Skills Through Gaming

Gamification helps people learn to solve problems and is a perfect fit for creative minds, Hadley said. That’s true of his industry, cybersecurity.

“Typically, these people are creative, and don’t like to be told what to do,” he said. “They want to solve problems on their own. For this reason, games are much better than static training, where people switch off and stop engaging.”

Cybersecurity professionals need to develop the ability to think on their feet and adapt quickly, often in a stressful environment. “This is why gamification is crucial,” said Hadley. “By presenting people with problems they can solve themselves in the form of games, they develop critical thinking and problem-solving. The more they do this, the better they get. It is like training a muscle.”

Shenzen, China-based Tencent, the largest gaming company in the world, reported net income of $13.5 billion in 2019, largely through the sale of mobile games. Although well known for its part ownership of Fortnite, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Battlestate Games, the company has also invested in “serious games” for education, science, health and other industries.

One example of a serious game is Sea Hero Quest from Glitchers, a British video game company, that was designed to help in the fight against dementia. When it is played for two minutes, the equivalent of five hours of lab-based research data is generated.

Tencent will be releasing similar games across five categories: traditional culture, educational knowledge, science and engineering, popular science and parent-child interaction. Although the games are designed to help solve real world issues, Tencent will use the data produced to improve and grow its services.

Gamified Learning Is Socially Distanced Learning

Gamification is not new to the U.S. Army and Marines. Both branches of the U.S. military have been using it to train soldiers since 1992 when Lockheed Martin developed the Close Combat Tactical Trainer (CCTT). CCTT integrates all of the aspects of combat vehicle operations to acclimatize soldiers to the scenarios they are likely to face on the battlefield. It enables units to train in tactics, doctrine, weapons systems, mission planning and rehearsals. The CCTT is described as immersive simulated training, designed to help individuals become highly skilled through the use of virtual, collective and gamified training.

The Army has been using games to provide training and maintain the skills of its soldiers during the pandemic and associated social distancing requirements. According to the Army, the Tankers of D Troop, 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division realized that many soldiers are avid gamers and selected games most suitable for their needs, which in this case revolved around tank crew operations. By combining games with a free gaming voice app, they were able to allow team leaders to use voice commands with their troops, just as they would in a simulator or real-life scenario.

According to the Army report, troop commander Capt. Mike Manougian said the decision to use gaming for training has helped tankers better understand the tactical decision-making of their leaders. Sgt. David Ose, a section leader with 1st Platoon, said it helps younger soldiers get a better idea of the bigger picture and enables them to understand the reasons behind what they do.

What Gaming Companies Have Learned About Motivation

According to a study of more than 3,000 gamers conducted by academic researchers in Hungary, there are seven motivational factors for online gaming: social, escape, competition, coping, skill development, fantasy and recreation.

Games provide players with degrees of interactivity that range from total freedom to tightly scripted, according to a research paper from Julia Brich at Ulm University entitled “Motivational Game Design Factors In Player-Game Adaptivity.” Freedom of control can increase a player’s perceived autonomy while a more restricted experience may be better for delivering meaningful stories.

It’s important to consider player interests before designing. According to Brich, for serious games, a player’s intent or motivation can initially be either to play the game or to use it as a learning tool. This intent affects the way the game should present itself and its contents which has an effect on motivation.

“One of the best ways to engage workers is to harness their innate competitive nature with gamification techniques,” said Peter Schnorbach, senior director of product management at Atlanta-based Manhattan Associates. “With gamification programs, as achievement increases, employees receive positive reinforcement through awards such as digital badges, medals and milestone markers.” 

Gamification helps keep employees engaged, focused and motivated, and can foster a more interactive and compelling workplace, he said. “Virtual rewards are given instantly, connections with colleagues are improved and seemingly mundane tasks are suddenly interactive and competitive, which boosts overall performance. Ultimately, gamification improves employee experiences, leaving workers more engaged and happier in their roles, thus reducing churn and improving productivity in any enterprise.”

Enhance Collaboration, Communication and Productivity

There have been several studies on the effectiveness of gamified learning to enhance collaboration and communication skills, as well as to increase productivity. Results indicate that gamification increases collaboration, course communication efficiency and reduced response times. 

Discord, a streaming and voice, video and text communication service with more than 100 million monthly active users, was created to solve one problem: how to communicate with friends around the world while playing games online. The founders of Discord, Jason Citron and Stan Vishnevskiy, knew that gamers like to communicate with each other while they play games. The service, which was created in 2015, can now boast of 13.5 million active servers per week and 4 billion server conversation minutes daily.

The gaming industry has long suspected that video games can increase productivity. A 2019 study by four information systems professors from Brigham Young University showed that newly formed work teams experienced a 20% increase in productivity on subsequent tasks after playing video games together for only 45 minutes.