Serious games to serious gains


Games and gamification aren’t going away.

It has gone beyond the point where serious games are just another fashionable hot topic for the training cognoscenti to gossip about, soon to go the way of Google Glass or Second Life. This time there is a real, underlying trend that is going to impact on training.

by 2018, just two years away, over half the UK working population will be part of Generation Y

Games and T&C though?  Where and how does that fit?

Hold the scepticism for a second and consider this one fact – by 2018, just two years away, over half the UK working population will be part of Generation Y, the collective, also known as ‘Millennials’ and categorised as being born between 1980 and the early 1990s. That is half of your employees requiring T&C interventions who will be part of this dominant group.

To what extent you think games are relevant to T&C and compliance will probably depend on whether your approach to these is more ‘tick box’ in style, or sit as part of a wider, essential culture of changing and reinforcing behaviours and standards.

As we know competence is defined by the FCA as “having the skills, knowledge and expertise needed to discharge the responsibilities of an employee’s role,” and includes achieving a good standard of ethical behaviour. For retail there is the CPD consideration to factor in too, while the FCA’s directive on maintaining competence simply states, “firms should make sure appropriate training is provided so employees remain competent.”

Behaviour, ethics, expertise, knowledge are all deep-rooted cultural elements in reputable firms. What is ‘appropriate training’ is then up to your interpretation as to how you can best achieve these outcomes. As far as Gen Y is concerned there is significant evidence that games and gamification can have substantial benefits in embedding behaviours.

Gen Why?
A recent PWC study revealed, above all, Millennials value training and development as a career benefit, over cash bonuses, greater holiday allowance and higher wages. Yet while this demographic will soon account for the largest percentage of the working population, the majority of existing workplace training is not specifically designed to target them.

Current T&C and compliance materials often present a mundane task requiring little to no engagement to complete and providing a lack of incentive to do more than just the minimum required.

Millennials are the first generation to have been brought up immersed in a world of digital; they are tech-savvy, constantly connected and accustomed to instant information being at their fingertips, as a 2015 Comscore study revealed…

  • Over 91% of Millennials own a smartphone
  • 82% of time on smart devices is spent using apps
  • 96% have at least one social network account

This is a generation empowered by technology.

Therefore understanding the expectations and context of Gen Y can help to develop and deliver more effective training methods that lead not just to greater knowledge retention but application, genuine expertise, changes in behaviour and the entrenching of ethical cultures and standards. So why use games?

Game on
The ability of games to provide an immersive and engaging environment is key to their effectiveness in delivering impactful training content.

Last year Unicorn invested significantly in a strategic partnership with Amuzo, the multi-award winning games studio. Amuzo’s approach to developing serious games is based on Kearsley and Shneiderman’s Engagement Theory (1999). This provides a structure for technology-based teaching and learning, which champions the experiential learning and self-direction associated with the independence and self-reliance characterised in Gen Y.

Amuzo use four key points to direct their serious game development.

  1. Point of engagement – where content must offer a challenge with measurable success, have aesthetic and sensory appeal, be a subject or activity of interest (includes novelty) and allow the user to try again.
  2. Period of Engagement – during play the user gains new or enhanced skills and knowledge, receives regular feedback (praise) on progression and interacts and has direct control over their learning.
  3. Encouraging re-engagement – by revisiting the game, the player improves their knowledge retention and application through such mechanics as being offered a guaranteed in-game reward for returning, rewards offered at random not sequentially (the chance to ‘be lucky’ on the next go) and a social challenge, to compete with others.
  4. Calls to action – after each game the player is prompted to act and the more they play, the more obvious the action becomes. The next step in their training is a click away.

T&C and compliance training may be unavoidably serious subjects, with the eyes of the regulator scrutinising every outcome ensuring it feels even more like something you don’t want to play with.

Yet typically ‘serious’ has equalled ‘dull’. It doesn’t have to be that way and you don’t need Call of Duty style budgets to achieve it, just an understanding that even the most basic game principles can heighten engagement and lead to more enduring outcomes.

Serious games work as a powerful training tool as they encourage the persistence required for effective learning. This may be through being immersed in practical situations – focusing on behaviour not just factual knowledge, which, after all, is the essence of compliance, or through simply applying gaming principles to make a learner’s journey more enjoyable.

Full circle
Most games content is now being delivered over mobile platforms. Whether you’re a Candy Crusher, Minecrafter or a Football Manager, many of us now think nothing of opening up an app game waiting for the train, for example  – games are part of our psyche.

The same smartphones, tablets and apps have added a new dimension to training delivery. Regular reminders, reinforcement and mini-challenges delivered in a ‘snackable’, just-in-time (JIT) format are proven to improve retention and overcome the infamous ‘forgetting curve’. Mobile devices enable an employee to undertake their training when and wherever the like, off or online. The work-life crossover has blurred as people use the same mobile devices for both and workplace BYOD is growing.

But in the ever-changing, high-pressure regulatory environments of T&C and compliance, it is no surprise that ‘fun’ takes a back seat. When it comes to creating serious games there will always be a fine balance to introducing a spirit of fun without it becoming distracting.

Yet the tools that enable serious games to be built are far easier to use and much more economically viable than they have ever been, and it can often create far more effective results to focus training on the practical application of knowledge and skill that can be achieved through games rather than on dry facts in ‘click next’ linear ‘tick box’ courses.

This is all possible without losing the ability to manage, monitor and report on compliance and regulatory training. The new xAPI standard enables learning experiences outside an LMS to be tracked, with data passed back in a standard format to an LMS. SkillsServe, for example, is xAPI compatible and already has apps for offline CPD and learning on-the-move.

From the outside T&C and games might not appear to be natural bedfellows. But as Gen Y, and the generation behind them and the generation behind them, become the employees not just of today but the employers and recruiters of the future, creating a meaningful connection with this core audience is essential. Don’t be afraid to play the game.


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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