Gamification and Game-Based Learning: Why It Matters?

“Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life” is something either Confucius or Mark Twain said, although there is no clear evidence which one (if either) did. Regardless of who said it, the quote emphasizes something very true – if you are passionate about what you do, you will do it with joy! Spending eight hours in a classroom (virtual or real one) learning complex concepts or skills (being new language, how to setup a VM in Azure or what to expect on your first PI Planning) is the opposite of the idea of having fun for most people. This is where gamification and game-based learning come into play. You may ask “Aren’t terms describing the same thing?”. The answer is both yes and no.

The concepts of Gamification and Game-Based Learning

Gamification is the application of game elements to encourage activity. Think of receiving points, having fun rules of doing mundane tasks or those shiny badges that you post online to show off your achievement. And can be as simple or complex as needed – from simply giving out points or badges to developing entire game-like systems to encourage behavior. On the other hand game-based learning involves learning through play. In this method, the games themselves are designed with educational purposes in mind. They are typically goal-oriented and provide some form of feedback, making it an engaging way to learn new concepts or practice skills. Game-based learning can take many forms, from traditional board games to digital games and virtual reality experiences.

The Power of Games in Learning

Both those concepts tap into innate behaviors and learning patterns established in childhood. From an early age, children engage with the world around them through play, which becomes their primary method of exploration, problem-solving, and learning. They are drawn to the clear objectives, structured environments, and immediate feedback that games provide. As they interact within these playful structures, children naturally develop skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, persistence, and adaptability. Game-based learning and gamification capitalize on these ingrained behaviors by incorporating elements like rewards, goals, narratives, social interaction, and fun into traditionally non-game environments. By aligning these elements with users’ intrinsic motivation and natural predisposition for play, these strategies can effectively drive engagement, enhance learning, and influence behaviors in both children and adults.

Why We Need Gamification and Game-Based Learning Now More Than Ever

For the past few years, we’ve gone from resisting through denying and finally accepting our “new normal” where we communicate far more often online than in-person. This trend of course affected the field of education as well. Walking into a classroom full of business professionals and pondering on complex concepts of IT Service Management, Agile practices or automation processes is intimidating, but doing so through your monitor can quickly become boring. What we’ve lost most is our engagement with one another. Introducing game-like elements into learning is helping us to make courses more fun and engaging. I’ve been involved in facilitating dozens of simulations on ITSM and found out that they mostly follow the same pattern:

  • At 9:00 we see a bunch of people in front of their monitors, sipping coffee and waiting to have an eight-hour monologue on something.
  • At 10:00 they went through Icebreaker, discussed music preferences and got into a bit of theory, but they already know – the day might be a bit more fun than expected.
  • At 11:45 they already went through a few rounds of play and are passionately discussing their strategies, mistakes and plans to pass each other on the scoreboard.
  • At 17:00 the session should be ending, but people are asking if they can continue to play and sharing feedback on how fun the experience was. I kid you not – I’ve seen people continue to play what is supposed to be an eight-hour game for days.

Motivation in Gamification and Game-Based Learning

Gamification and game-based learning also utilize different types of motivation. The rewards system motivates players through gaining points, climbing leaderboards, or obtaining other tangible validations of progress (extrinsic motivation). They also find motivation in mastering new skills, like solving complex problems or achieving high scores (intrinsic motivation). It’s crucial to strike a balance between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation in well-designed learning experiences. Overemphasizing extrinsic motivation can lead to a focus on rewards rather than meaningful learning. Overemphasizing intrinsic motivation can make the experience challenging and remove the game element. Additionally, game-like learning experiences provide social motivation, allowing players to engage in friendly competition and discuss ideas and strategies with peers and colleagues in a safe environment.

The Power of Active Learning Through Gamification and Game-Based Learning

Another positive of adopting gamification and game-based learning is encouraging the process of active learning. Especially with game-based learning, students evolve from their passive role of recipients to the active role of participants in the training. Interactive engagement, solving problems and taking decisions help them better understand abstract concepts and complex practices. They often receive almost immediate feedback on their decisions reinforcing correct understanding and providing timely corrections, leading to better retention of the skills trained. This active approach of learning encourages learners to take ownership of their own training, driving them to engage more deeply with the material.

From Tom Sawyer to Digital Transformation: Learning through Play

Let me circle back to the beginning of this article and Mark Twain in particular. In one very famous chapter of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, Tom is assigned with the task to paint a fence as punishment for his antics. Not exactly the way the boy was imaging spending the day, he starts scheming his way out of it. Tom pretends to enjoy his task so much that his friends beg him to let them try. He even manages to get them to trade their treasures for “the privilege to paint the fence”. In a sense, Tom turns work into play, making it appeal so much that everyone wants to participate. Here’s the lesson we learn: we can transform learning into an enjoyable experience by reframing complex tasks and difficult concepts, putting them in play, and altering our perspective.

Transforming Your Learning Journey with ITCE: Connect with Us Today!

Here at ITCE, we strongly believe that learning is valuable, interactive, and enjoyable. That’s why we put so many of the concepts we teach into business simulation and gamification scenarios. We dive into Agile with our Lego4Scrum simulation – tackling concepts of defining vision, multi-team collaboration, developing transparency, progress tracking and user story mapping with blocks of Lego. With The Phoenix Project, we lay the foundations of understanding DevOps on corporate level – encouraging effective team collaboration and communication and breaching barriers between business and IT. With our Digital Transformation Simulation (DTX-i) we put our students in the shoes of Transformation Director and leading a company through a complex Digital Transformation. Here we combine practices and principles from ITIL® 4, Agile and DevOps to showcase how different methodologies work together to form a complete successful strategy. In the words of Neil Perkin – “…there is no single methodology that is always best…”

All of these solutions are both highly flexible and scalable to fit the exact needs of your company or team. And we will be happy to discuss with you how to apply them to the challenges you face. Reach as at businessdev@itce.com for scheduling your consultation with us.