The growing world of games and gamification


Games and gamification are the fastest growth areas in T&C training as firms unlock how game qualities such as problem solving, in-play feedback, rewards, leaderboards and play can bring about a more engaging, memorable and enduring learning experience. Peter Phillips, Unicorn Training CEO, looks at the gamification of compliance training.

A recent research report projected the global gamification market will grow from $421.3 million in 2013 to $5.502 billion in 2018 – a compound annual growth rate of 67.1% !

While the only certainty about forecasts is they will be wrong, that research reinforces the notion that serious games and gamification are definitely a rising force in L&D.

Gamification, in this context, is the use of game design principles in learning activities to engage learners to change behaviours and learn new skills.

But to what extent are they relevant to compliance training?

The answer to this perhaps depends on whether you see compliance training as a tick box exercise or as an essential part of changing and reinforcing behaviours.

The costs of non-compliance can be enormous and, as we all know, compliance is not a matter of being able to pass a 10 question factual test, it is about making the right choices when faced with a real life situation, be that a potential conflict of interest or a suspicion of money laundering activity.

As advocates of the use of serious games for learning for over 25 years, Traditionally we have developed and run business simulations while also building gaming principles into eLearning through the use of interactive case studies, branching scenarios and mini-simulations.

The extraordinary rise of the smart phone and the iPad has added an exciting dimension, however.

These new portable technologies have taken computer games out of the bedrooms of teenage boys and into the pockets and hands of all of us. Billions of us, in fact, around the globe have now experienced how immersive and engaging well-designed games can be. I cannot claim to have seen many eLearning courses that command the devotion from their users of Angry Birds or Farmville.

Of course, many video games are developed with budgets that we in the T&C community can only dream of. But the underlying principles of engagement, immersion and design excellence could hardly be more relevant, and are remarkably simple to apply.

Here’s a simple real life example.

One of our clients provides financial services products to the motor industry. Before their sales agents can be authorised to sell, they have to be trained to ensure that they are competent, compliant with the FCA, and EU and UK Consumer Credit regulatory requirements, as well as acting in accordance with the high ethical and customer care standards of the brand.

It’s amazing how those boring facts come to life when you need them to solve a problem!

With the majority of learners being busy salespeople in dealerships and distributors, the training needs to be accessible, engaging and practical. It also needs to be adaptive, to enable the experienced and well informed to complete the training and assessment fast while the new learner has a more in depth and comprehensive learning journey.

The design approach we adopted was to put the learner directly into a “real life” situation, in this case a car showroom, with customers waiting to talk to them.

The learner is immediately faced with a challenge – as in real-life, the customers ask them questions. If they don’t know the answers, they are able to pop back into their virtual office at any point and search for the information using a range of interactive tools.

It’s amazing how those boring facts come to life when you need them to solve a problem!

In the virtual office, they can look in a filing cabinet, on their computer, open the folders on their desk, use the calculator and so on. Signposting is minimal as the course is designed to be intuitive. On completing the case studies, the student completes a final assessment.

One advantage of this approach is it enables more experienced learners and those using the course for refresher training to go complete the learning quickly. They can go straight to the showroom floor and only need to visit the office to study elements they are not familiar with, or to brush up on weak points.

This example is not a full-blown serious game, but it does apply several important gaming principles within the context of a modest development budget. These include:

  • Letting the learner explore, discover, make choices and feel they have control.
  • Encouraging learners to dive into a scenario or challenge before they have all the facts, then make the facts available in context.
  • Humanising the learning and introducing a narrative thread. We all like stories and characters.
  • Games continually tell you how you are doing. Try to find engaging graphical ways of measuring progress. You can often add to the engagement by having more than one progress indicator.
  • Don’t be afraid to let your learners fail. Think how long it took you to get three stars on every level of Angry Birds. Game players don’t mind ‘losing’ so long as they are encouraged, get positive feedback on their progress, and get challenged to try again. Build in the risk of failure – having to go back and start the case study again is a strong motivator to focus, especially if you ‘lose a life’ in the process.
  • Many of the best and most successful video games include the elements of humour and surprise. Why not eLearning? It may not seem easy to bring a good laugh into a course on financial regulation, but remember you don’t need to be ROFL funny. Even the mildest play on words can come as welcome light relief to the poor benighted compliance student
  • Adaptive learning. Games often use adaptive systems, adjusting the content, level of difficulty or choices to the level of the user. How relevant is that to compliance eLearning!

Many more gamification elements can be built into compliance training courses, including integrating social media tools to enable collaborative learning, leaderboards in the LMS, and more.

We’re so serious about serious games we have recently partnered with chart topping game studio Amuzo to bring World Class mobile and cross-platform game experience to educational games for the corporate sector.

New software tools and evolving mobile platforms are opening up exciting opportunities for T&C professionals to provide far more engaging and effective compliance training, and perhaps even making learning fun. That is quite a challenge, but one we are convinced is worth accepting.


About Author

Unicorn Training. Since 1988, we’ve created L&D and compliance solutions for the UK’s ever-changing financial services industry. We love what we do. You’ll love the results. Based in sunny Bournemouth and rainy London, our 25 years’ experience and award-winning creativity have helped us grow to be a market leader in our field. Quite simply, we give you what you want. We turn complicated language into everyday language and complicated policies into everyday scenarios. We don’t just teach you “what”, we explain “how”. No matter what your eLearning needs, we’ll listen to what you need and deliver an innovative solution just right for you. And to make your life easier, we can deliver it on our very own award-winning learning & performance platform, SkillsServe. The biggest compliment we’ve had from customers is that they keep coming back for more.

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