Errol Price with title - 415 x 275James Bowen, a leading expert on gamification has said:

“Games are a way to experience the world in ways not possible in reality and thus tap into a natural learning process and enjoyment. In education, gamification can create learning environments that condense the learning time of key ideas…”

Companies worldwide recognise that in order to stay competitive, they must constantly innovate and adapt. To achieve this, their workforces must be continuously trained, upskilled and kept abreast of what is happening in their markets. Effective training methods need to match new technologies and feel familiar to a workforce whose demographic profile is rapidly changing. This requires that such training be fast-paced and capable of being segmentized so as to fit with busy work schedules.

Many Australian organisations as well as industry bodies have been questioning whether widely-used training methods are actually achieving the desired objectives.

Striving to make workplace training more engaging and seeking techniques which will enhance the retention of information, and achieve a sustainable change in behaviour organisations are increasingly looking to ‘gamification’ as the formula of choice.

There is a firm scientific basis for believing that learning through game-playing can frequently be superior to the traditional didactic form of instruction. Gary Marcus, a research psychologist of New York University believes that the pleasure centres in the brain consist of multiple pathways which can be selectively activated by games and other forms of “pleasure technologies” such as movies and music.

Almost everyone is naturally attracted to some form of game playing so that games can, if properly used, help focus a learner’s attention and cement knowledge. In a world characterised by unpredictability and even randomness games are appealing because they are based on well-defined rules, promote interactivity and have a definite outcome. Considered from a process perspective they utilize our natural tendency to compete, to aim for identifiable goals and exploit our desire for self-expression, role playing, problem solving and of course, winning.

Game playing responds to and reinforces a number of basic psychological impulses which are vital to learning: motivation – people need to have a motivation to learn, practice – which must take place in a relevant context and be as closely related as possible to the actual situation that will be faced; timely feedback – immediate feedback on what is being done well and what is not and the ability to retrieve and repeat segments which have not been adequately internalised.

In the USA game-based learning is well established. According to the research firm Gartner Inc., gamification is currently being applied by many Fortune 500 companies to customer engagement, employee performance, training and education, innovation management, personal development, sustainability, health and wellness and a growing list of other areas.

Gartner further states “… by 2015, 40 percent of Global 1000 organisations will use gamification as the primary mechanism to transform business operations”

‘Serious’ workplace games are essentially of two categories: firstly ‘simulations’ which place the learner in a situation which mimics reality and in which the learner can act and make decisions with the aim of obtaining real time feedback. This feedback accompanied by the ability to repeat the process in a risk-free environment prepares the learner to make better decisions in a real-life situation.

‘Gamification’ on the other hand uses the methodology of game playing with appropriate rules, rewards and objectives in order to engage and inspire the employee to become immersed in the learning process.

Over the past decade Symmetra has been one of the leading proponents of game-based education in the Australian workplace and globally. After producing a number of face-to-face computerised training games, it is now poised to launch what is possibly the most advanced on-line gamified training platform available in Australia.

Symmetra’s experience has shown that games can successfully be used not only to imbed knowledge on hard technical subject-matter but can also be used to foster skills dealing with diversity and inclusion, counteracting unconscious bias as well as to modify behaviour in relation to troublesome work place behaviours such as harassment and bullying.

Employees frequently find passive learning an exercise in boredom and unsuitable to prepare them to meet the real world challenges which they encounter daily.

New entrants to the workforce have grown up with the internet and playing digitized games is second nature to them. Technological advances enable employees to engage in learning at almost any location since the relevant applications can be accessed through tablets and mobile phones. Flexible game engines are available which reduce the need for custom made applications.

The time is ripe for Australian business and other organisations to seize the benefits and opportunities offered by gamified learning. As the Australian economy transitions from a supplier of basic resources to one focused on providing services and expertise, the need for flexible, high-tech workplace training will certainly increase and game-based education will undoubtfully be a significant contributor.