Play the game

"Games give purpose, ritual, meaning, excitement, belonging, combat without killing, dangerous experiences without dying, skill building and more. Games, like stories, are often totally undervalued and misunderstood when people say, 'it's just a game'.

'Alive: Digital Humans and Their Organizations' Paul Ashcroft & Garrick Jones

Successful organisational transformation journeys require broad engagement with the organisation and plans that rapidly develop the capabilities and skills required for the new reality. In the digital realm, games and structuring game like experiences are powerful tools for informing, engaging, developing and inspiring. We would argue that they are the fastest mechanism for shifting the culture and understanding of a group of networked people.

As Ashcroft and Jones say in their book 'ALIVE: Digital Humans and Their Organizations', being human and the playing of games is inextricably linked. They are in the fabric of our species and an essential part of being alive.

Games bring us together, help us learn complex behaviours and make life fun. In the digital realm, even if we are not playing games directly, many of us regularly experience them, whether we are learning a new language, pushing for a goal on a fitness app or earning frequent flyers rewards.

Why people engage in games – the research

Games are powerful mechanisms for engaging people as they explore stories, experience new concepts and test ideas. Many games these days combine several formats realise different objectives simultaneously. They might be designed to provide the player with experiences such as achievement, pleasure, curiosity or challenge.

Play can reinforce some of our most crucial social and life skills – how to play fairly, how to compete, how to win and how to lose. Research has shown that 'games promote deep memory and higher retention among learners' according to Dr Ib Holm Sørensen (2017). According to gamification expert An Coppens (2019 - Ludic Insights Podcast), we retain 22 times more information if we use a story or a game. We relate to stories and games. Traditionally people like to play to explore their environment, whether in a business or personal context. It is no coincidence that as we seek to make sense of the new digital world and understand its potential, we are creating more and more games to do so. The fastest growing aspect of game playing is the emergence of massively networked, collaborative games that allow people all over the world to connect with new friends and play together in competitive teams.

Surgeons who play digital games in their spare time have been shown to have 7% better surgical skills than their contemporaries who don't.

Statistics presented at the 2018's Game Developers Conference, reveal interesting figures for the games industry, with smartphone and tablet taking over the global games market, taking up 34% of the global games market share in 2015. (NewZoo, 2018).*

There are currently over 2.5bn video gamers from all over the world and the global market for video games was estimated to reach $137.9bn in 2018, an increase of 13.3% on 2017 and it is estimated to reach $180.1bn by 2021. (Newzoo, Jun 2018). According to PwC, the global video games market is set to grow considerably in the period to 2022. The largest segment will be social/casual games, generating over $80bn by 2022. (PwC, Jun 2018). **

What is "Gamification"

Gamification, which is a widely used term and a buzzword at the moment, is the process of applying elements of game thinking and game-design to the way content engages, motivates and rewards people. It typically improves engagement by making content more visual and explorative. It motivates by providing instant feedback on activities, creates community and rewards desired behaviors and results.

Gamification also transforms educational content into fun, motivational learning that deepens the retention rates and memory of the content. It offers an experiential element that is far more impactful than textbook learning. Whether it's enhanced reality, simulation, role-playing or a board game, games enable us to explore and learn on our own terms.

Gamification in the digital world is neither a gimmick nor a kind of luxury that has crossed over from the advances in the gaming world. It's the 21st century version of how we have always learned. If you want to see an instance of complete engagement, then ask a teenager to stop playing their PlayStation after hours of immersion. Games are one of the ways the new generations are engaging with their worlds.

Today's digital humans almost certainly have grown up with gaming and are predisposed to the idea of games in the workplace. Even if that's not the case, they are likely to be experiencing – and embracing – the gamification of their everyday lives on an unprecedented scale. Airmiles, loyalty cards, rewards points and online tools such as Amazon and ebay are all examples of the ubiquity of gamification in our contemporary lives.

Organisations at play

Organisations are realising that playing games is more than a pastime. They can have significant business results. In fact, some organisations use gamification to differentiate themselves in the market, such as Nike with its wearable fitness tracker NikeFuel, with which it gamified the entire fitness industry and reinforced its position as the world's most valuable sportswear brand.

Following examples like this, the world's largest organisations, in their effort to digitally transform, are building games that define, simulate and test new ideas and concepts. Games are used to raise awareness on various topics, build the capability needed to enable them to get to the next level of their transformation journey and activate their people to make the shift to digital.

Game design

A simple but useful approach for analysing and designing games is known as MDA (mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics). It was developed and taught by Robin Hunicke, Marc LeBlanc and Robert Zubek as part of the Game Design and Tuning Workshop at the Game Developers Conference in San Jose (2001–04). Ashcroft and Jones (2018) further analyse the game mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics in their book, while also discussing it in their recent Ludic Insights Podcast Series, Episode 5: "Why organisations should play games", in conversation with An Coppens.

"As with any design process, we have found it is best to start first with the user experience we intend to create, working backwards from the aesthetics, through dynamics and finishing with the underlying mechanics", state Ashcroft & Jones. "We have been developing applications of games in organisations in many forms to help with the shift to digital. We have built a business that creates games to implement strategic change rapidly and sustainably. Our teams built a Challenge Cup game that reinforced all the new behaviours required to work to realise the value from a shift to a global shared service centre. Our client achieved their value goals two years ahead of schedule."

Next generation gaming

Our involvement and experience with games is going to intensify, as virtual reality becomes more widely available, particularly once the new mobile standard, 5G, brings ultra-high definition within reach of everyone everywhere.

These next generation tools are already making a difference to the lives of digital humans, young and old. Virtual reality and 3D printing are transforming the medical industry. As well as games themselves, whether virtual or real, the techniques that lie behind them are being used to make learning experiences less abstract, giving them more context and clearer goals. Through this process of gamification, we are interacting with content in a way that is more playful and immersive.

Ashcroft and Jones have invested in their Ludic Film Studio – a team who are experts in VR and Interactive Film. Interactive films gamify the viewers experience and allow them many paths to choose to enjoy the stories they want to hear within the film. It provides opportunities to return to the film many times to enjoy it again in hundreds of different permutations. Participants rather than viewers.

It's all in the game

Playing games can significantly power up learning and engagement to activate organisations. The mechanics within games can be applied to the content of a wide range of business challenges. It can reinforce and scale up learning. It encourages more engagement. It can be used to solve problems and generate new ideas. It can support the development of new behaviours. With gamification, organisations can breathe new life into teams.

The process of gamification addresses users as players, putting them at the centre of any experience and creating the architecture of a game around them. Instead of supplying content to be consumed, it provides a competitive experience in which everyone takes part and contributes. Instead of consuming abstract learning, digital humans learn by doing and are encouraged to experiment. Because it is fun, involvement is largely voluntary and self-driven. Points and rewards are given for different forms of activity, giving individuals and teams instant and constructive feedback. Through this process of playing, we can scaffold learning with more complex tasks, compete on a leaderboard and aspire to become experts. These experts become knownwithin the playing community and can be easily connected to share their know-how. As the participants move through each level, the gameplay and tasks became more intense and complex, players complete team challenges and individual activities over a specified period of time. To move to the next level, they need to prioritise and make decisions, each of which has a different impact on their journey.

For digital humans, gamification allows them to take control of their own learning, track their progress and gain satisfaction from performing well. For groups, everyone can operate within a community and build new relationships, as notifications are posted on activities, updates and leaderboards.

Personalisation and artificial intelligence are the next big shift in gamification, achieving better results for the individual, as the games will be adaptive to users' behaviours and preferred styles.

Play the game to make the successful shift to digital. Engage your people in powerful and impactful game experiences that motivate them and activate your organisation's full potential.

* Source: https://www.wepc.com

** Source: https://ukie.org.uk/ 

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Sunday, 17 November 2019
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