The two sides to gamification

Way back in 2002, a British computer programmer named Nick Pelling coined the term ‘gamification’ when building a game-like user interface for commercial electronic devices. Thus, a revolutionary and disruptive industry was born.

Gamification is a ‘deliberately ugly’ term that refers to the simple concept of stimulating learners by adding objectives and rewards; by capturing the rush of emotions that exists in most video games. Where clicking ‘next’ fails to capture our attention, gamification gives us a reason to progress.

And yet, there is much confusion about the term.

So when it comes to developing digital learning solutions we have set about defining our own clear and simple division, it is either:

The addition of playfulness


The addition of competitiveness

An early experience of playful gamification for some us took place long before the turn of the millennium. The Mavis Beacon touch typing skills application used a variety of engaging tasks. Type too slow and an adorable penguin crashes into the water; mistype, and a cranky chameleon’s food will run dry; keep your words per minute above 100 or a guillotine falls on Mavis (just kidding).

Simply put, your typing practice had an associated incentive.

Playful gamification: the joy of learning

By combining the learning experience with playful elements, it has been proven that learners perform better at long-term recall. Think of it as an adventure playground for the mind: your brain is happy to proceed because there have been regular injections of fun as opposed to endless streams of information. Playful gamification encourages you to take on a challenge by manipulating the brain’s reward centre to work in your favour: not only will it fuel your motivation, it will also help you to absorb information.

Sure, a lot has changed since the days of Mavis Beacon. However, in the last two decades, soft gamification has grown to become a staple in digital learning experiences – not only for children, but for adults in a business environment.

Recent studies show that 79% of learners say that they would be more productive if their work was made to be more game-like. This shouldn’t come as a surprise: after all, we all get a kick out of the healthy dopamine rush that follows the completion of a level, winning in some friendly competition, or even just saving Mavis from an untimely death.

The element of fun inherent in games enhances the learner experience, creating an informal environment in which we have room to grow, develop and try again next time.

Competitive gamification: learning for the win

Some minds respond to the sporting challenge to win against their peers. By introducing a competitive element, you can engage even the most stubborn learner. Be it a leaderboard, a prize or an incentive, these elements can be powerful drivers for eager learners. Healthy competition motivates us to reach a higher standard and allows us to benchmark our skills against others, to understand how far we have left to go in our journey towards the goal. With one of our clients, a global financial services business, we used competitive gamification to huge advantage. The interactive product training, which used a peer leaderboard, was undertaken by 87% of the learners within a fortnight. A record. But better still, 90% of the learners felt much more confident with the products they were selling as a result. And as we know, confidence helps in selling.

Is gamification right for your interactive training?

If the average video gamer in the UK is 35 and only 26% of all UK gamers are under 18, it makes perfect sense to reverse engineer the engaging elements of video games and integrate them into a business environment. Gamification can be a powerful tool within your L&D arsenal, but implementing it throughout your organisation can be a tricky proposition. Be warned: simply throwing game-like aspects into a solution and expecting results won’t get you far. Before diving in head first, take some time to gather good data and begin with some small pilots to determine what works for your organisational culture.

To find out more about how your L&D strategy could benefit from gamification, call us on 0117 440 1000, email us at hello@fenturi.com or use our contact us page.