Most people don’t enjoy the training that they’re assigned by their employers, so the L & D industry has spent a lot of time talking about “gamification” over the past few years. Because who doesn’t love games? Of course, the training itself is still compulsory, so just making it more “game-like” is unlikely to make it more fun. Why? Because doing something that you don’t want to do isn’t fun. We know this, right? Whatever game they made you play in gym class was never as fun as the one you made up on the playground during recess.

Imagine this scenario. Every week you’re expected to take out the garbage. You don’t like it. Taking out the garbage is not fun. You would rather be doing just about anything else. OK, so let’s say Mom decides to pay you for taking out the garbage. It’s still not fun, but you have more incentive to do it. That works for awhile, but it’s not so much money that you really care. So, Mom ups the ante and says that she’ll give you twice as much money if you finish your chores before your sister does. That works for awhile – you enjoy beating your sister at anything, and you appreciate the extra cash. But it’s less fun when your sister starts beating you, so you lose interest.

But maybe you begin to notice just what is in the trash you’re taking out, and you start wondering why there is so much of it. Maybe you begin to think of ways to reduce the amount of trash the family produces. You find ways to measure how much trash you take out each week. This makes the whole process take longer, but you don’t mind because you’ve set yourself a challenge. Soon emptying the garbage is something you look forward to instead of dreading. You no longer think about beating your sister or monetary rewards, you think about solving the problem you’ve set yourself.

Companies gamify training to incentivize students to want to take it, rather than making the training intrinsically more fun. Points, badges, and leaderboards are no different than getting paid for doing your chores.

What the best training developers and game designers understand is that what the user brings is more important than what the game provides. The game provides the problem to solve but we apply our ingenuity and perseverance to it. We learn best when we want to learn, and when we find the answers for ourselves. The same is true for games. They are most enjoyable when they provide the optimum level of challenge – too easy and we lose interest, too hard and we become frustrated. We stop playing games when we master them. With the best games, it truly isn’t whether you win or lose, but how you play.

About the Author: Mindy Walls is an inspiring Instructional Designer. Please visit her website for more information about her services.

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