Archive for the ‘Learning Games’ Category


Why Games Won’t Cure the Common Cold, but They Will Solve a Lot of Other Problems

by Rich Mesch

Welcome to the next stop on the blog tour for Karl Kapp’s new book, The Gamification of Learning and Instruction! Hop off that blog bus and shake the dust off.

When reading Karl Kapp’s new book, I was pleased to see reference to Jesse Schell, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center. I remember seeing Jesse deliver the keynote at last year’s Learning 3.0 conference where he, too, discussed gaming and learning. One of the points that Jesse made was you don’t need to “gamify” learning—games have inherent properties that lead to knowledge, growth and behavior change.  So to gamify learning, what we really need to do is identify what makes games such effective tools, and incorporate that into our design.

His point was that games are good, but applying games to every kind of learning won’t automatically make them better. And to drive his point home, he asked: what if we focused on Chocofication—adding chocolate to everything? Chocolate is tasty, so wouldn’t it make everything better? And to illustrate, he offered many things you could dip in chocolate—some delightful, some unusual, and some downright disgusting.


You can see Jesse’s presentation from Learning 3.0 here: 


It won’t have much impact without Jesse’s narration (like most good presentations, it’s mostly pictures with very few words), but you can enjoy looking at all the things that Jesse wanted to dip in chocolate (including his stapler).

Schell briefly made many of the same points that Kapp makes in-depth. Gaming isn’t for every learning experience. Simply dipping learning in game sauce does not automatically make it better;  in fact, randomly applying vaguely game-ish attributes to learning (like points, badges, and levels) can trivialize the content.

So why all this talk of gamification? Like most aspects of learning, it comes down to motivation, engagement, and behavior change. There’s a reason we’ve been playing games for thousands of years. They engage us, they draw us in, they make us want to gain skills and improve our performance.



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by Rich Mesch

Other posts in this series: 1 2

Do you want your learners to collaborate? To demonstrate leadership skills? To drive towards a goal? To evaluate and analyze situations before committing to a decision? To value the perspectives of others?

Then you definitely want them playing games.

Most of us have probably played Monopoly. You know, the strategic decision-making, asset-leveraging, and negotiation skills tool?

What’s that you say? Monopoly is a kid’s game where the biggest decision you make is whether you want to be the thimble or the dog? And it’s just a game, because you roll dice, and the dice determine what happens?

Well, let’s think about that. Yes, Monopoly has an element of luck (so does real life!). But what drives a winning strategy in Monopoly?

  • Strategic decisions on what assets to purchase
  • How to leverage those assets by improving them and driving larger ROI
  • Building alliances that enhance your ability to compete
  • Negotiating with others until you’ve maximized your revenue stream


In fact, the winner of a Monopoly game is usually the player who has the greatest strategic vision (which properties to acquire and improve) and the best negotiating skills (at some point, you’re going to need to sweet-talk other players into selling or trading you their properties).

Does your audience need any of those skills?

But let’s not stick with old school board games. Today’s Role-Play Games (RPGs) and Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) are not the single-user joystick games of years past. They require collaboration, team building, smart use of resources, strategy, and follow-through. And the most successful RPG players also tend to be great leaders and team-builders.

So am I recommending that we commit large swaths of business time to playing Monopoly and World of Warcraft? Not really (although that would be fun!), but I am recommending that we identify and utilize the elements that make these games so effective: (more…)

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 by Rich Mesch

Other posts in this series: 1 2

I first started talking to businesses about using games to improve performance way back in 1985. Back then, I was working mostly with mid-level and senior mangers, so talking about games required hushed tones and euphemisms. After all, busy important managers couldn’t spend time playing games. They had big, big decisions to make. And so what if the game was designed to help them be even more effective in making those big, big decisions? This was serious business. They weren’t games; they were “experiences,” or “competitions,” or “challenges.” Or maybe you just didn’t talk about it at all.

What a difference a couple of decades make. We no longer have to apologize for using games for performance, and there are a few organizations that actually champion them. But we’re not out of the woods yet. With many organizations, the business case for games as a performance improvement method remains to be made. And even in organizations that support games, there is still the question of how to design and implement effectively.

In this series, we’ll look at several aspects of gaming for performance, including:

  • The reasons that games are an effective performance improvement methodology for almost all audiences—even senior executives. Especially senior executives.
  • Some common myths about gaming; your audience may be more receptive to games than you think; and getting a great game experience doesn’t have to be hard.
  • Aspects of effective learning games; there’s a good reason why some people are still talking about the experience months and even years afterwards.
  • Types of games; computer-based games are great, but technology isn’t the solution to every challenge. Think you’re too grown up for tokens, cards, and dice? Think again.

 Up first: in the next post in the series, we’ll look at 5 reasons games are an effective performance improvement method. See you then!

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by Dave Darrow


computer gamesFor the longest time, we’ve had to avoid using the “g-word” when describing things like business simulation and virtual worlds. As proved by Clark Aldrich and Karl Kapp, the tide is turning and the value in game-like experiences for learning is becoming more evident. This mindset is somewhat obvious for people like me who have played video and computer games since gradeschool so it’s nice to see it being validated. Because of this, I often try to look for common ground between game development and elearning design.

Recently, I read an article on The Escapist, a gaming blog, titled The Incredible Disappearing Teacher that described the challenges that game designers face in training end-users on how to play their games. The problem they faced was that the end-users don’t want to go through tutorials, yet would be unable to enjoy the game unless they obtained the information contained in the tutorial. With a catch-22 situation like this, they have devised clever ways to engage the end-user and keep them motivated to finish the tutorial. Sometimes the tutorials are woven into the storyline of the game, other times they are incentivized with in-game currency, additional in-game inventory, or rewards like badges of achievement. One particularly good example was Valve Software’s excellent Portal, which spends nearly half the game teaching you all the skills you need to complete the second half. It does not play like an extended tutorial, since the levels are carefully designed to help lead the player into discovering skills and solutions without spoon-feeding them the answers. This gives the player a sense of accomplishment each time, which does not seem much like “training”.

Do businesses face similar challenges? I think they do. Like game players, employees clearly benefit from the knowledge and skills they can learn in their employers courses yet are often reluctant to do so. If game designers have discovered ways to make training enjoyable, we should be examining them and finding new ways to do it for our own design challenges.

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