Gamification and Immersive Learning
Why it is important to distinguish between them
There is a critical difference between gamified (also known as immersive learning) and gamification. Nowadays, gamification has caught on as a trend and many industries, including learning and development, have gravitated towards using it in one form or another.
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It is possible for a learning professional to see this and ask “Why does it matter? I’m interested in using games for learning”. However, it is relevant to understand the difference because they are used for two distinct purposes. Before I explain how gamification and gamified learning are different, let’s get a better understanding of the architecture and design that both of these methodologies are built on.
What is gamification?
Gamification is essentially a layer over a real life environment. It’s a little like the image above.
Its job is to augment reality, which means adding a game as a layer over what we consider “real-life”. One example may be the great Speed Camera Lottery where drivers were rewarded for driving below the speed limit. How does the game work? Drivers drive past a speed camera, their photos are snapped and the speeding drivers are sent a fine. The money generated from the fines is placed in a lottery pool for whom the winner may be picked from one of the non-speeding drivers. The average speed decreased as a result of this experiment was 7 km per hour. This is what is meant by adding a game as a layer over a real-life situation.
What is Gamified Learning?
This, however, is a whole different ball game. Gamified learning is a separate environment altogether and can be a little like this:
In gamified learning, the context, environment, rules, roles, natural laws etc are changed. Some games exercise the full extent of these levers while others, only a few. An example of gamified learning is Evolve.
This is a game used for leadership development in a closed and controlled environment. In Evolve, players are brought into a room where they are immersed in a virtual environment. They live, operate, make choices and deal with consequences in this virtual world which are not directly connected with the players’ real world. After the game play, they are then given an opportunity to reflect on their behaviours and learning crucibles are extracted from the experience the players had.
Applying gamification and gamified learning
As you can see, each is designed to achieve a different purpose. If your objective is to simply influence business and life outcomes (such as increase sales, lose weight, complete tasks on time etc) , then gamification is the way to go because it will enable you to influence behaviour as it applies in real-life. Consequently, this helps achieve intended outcomes.
The gamifier has to be careful to ensure that they are gamifying behaviours and not outcomes because players will always find a way to achieve the outcome without living the behaviour.
However, I would use gamification with caution. A good gamification solution has to be well designed and account for all the varied components within the player’s real-life world. The gamifier has to be careful to ensure that they are gamifying behaviours and not outcomes because players will always find a way to achieve the outcome without living the behaviour. Overlooking this and some other design principles in gamification design has led to gamification losing some popularity due to undesirable outcomes.
In a nutshell, gamified or immersive learning is used to drive change from the inside out and gamification is used to drive change from the outside in.
Gamified or immersive learning, on the other hand, can be used to enable learning through reflection in order to drive change in deep-seated behaviours at the sub-conscious level. By interacting in a virtual world which implicitly connects their real world, players are more likely to bring forth their natural behaviours. This opens the gateway for players to see how they might handle similar situations in their personal/professional lives and enable them to become more open to learning. The scope of learning in a gamified learning environment can extend from Emotional Intelligence and Strategic Thinking to Decision Making and Design Thinking.
In a nutshell, gamified or immersive learning is used to drive change from the inside out and gamification is used to drive change from the outside in. Both approaches have merit but usage should depend on what you’re trying to achieve as an end result.
If you’re trying to trigger a few short term changes for a project or an agile sprint which don’t require a long-term behavioural shift, a well-designed gamification system is a good idea. However, if your strategy includes a long-term thought-process and behavioural change, gamified or immersive learning is what I would highly recommend.
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Images courtesy Memcorp Learning and Performance Solutions
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