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New Version gamification
IT & Tech

Gamification as a trend in The Hague

When talking about gamification, you might expect an article listing off the growing number of game developers and game companies in The Hague and the Netherlands. However, we are not here to talk about game companies or new gaming trends. We are here to talk about an underexplored yet vital topic that touches every industry, the gamification of work and the growing trend of gaming as a hiring and recruitment metric. To dive into this topic, we sat down with Huib Langbroek, an applied psychologist and gamification expert and co-founder of IamProgrez.

Huib’s work focuses on fun as a motivator, after he worked with underprivileged youth to help find their talent in The Hague. Trying to find out how to engage youth (between age 12 and 21) in his organization's programs led him to research different psychological motivation models. But he had an epiphany after watching a nature show focused on monkeys. As the monkeys played in and around a fountain, the narrator described how their “play” was actually training their abilities, how to climb, how to jump further, and how to grapple. A quick look would reveal the monkeys as nothing more than playing, but after a closer inspection, the fun is built on learning new skills and training their abilities. 

When we have fun, we learn new things. And gamification is applying game techniques, where we normally have fun, to non-game situations. From our chat, we identified four main trends in gamification. 

  • Gamification for Assessments

The assessment industry is full of boring questions, bad interfaces, and a strong lack of fun. If you have done a job assessment or skill assessment, it was more likely than not that you had a very dull and forgettable time. But it’s been shown that when you are comfortable, you are able to show more of yourself and your abilities. We always perform better in our own element. So, when we are assessing skills, it's important to put people in the best position to succeed. This means creating fun and interactive assessments that feel like a victory when completed instead of leaving the assessee completely drained. As per Huib’s suggestions, chop up the assessment into smaller, more manageable bite sized sections. Add visible progression indicators and maybe even add in traditional game mechanics like the ability to level up as you progress. 

The goal is gamification, not just making it look like a game. That simply won’t work. When companies ask Huib to make a  game, that’s not gamification. When a company asks this, Huib simply responds, “why do you think you as a company could ever make a game that would be as great as one of the big companies like Ubisoft or EA? Do you think that your target audience would actually be interested enough to play it by itself?” The simple answer is no. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, especially when you’ll more than likely end up building an inferior wheel. Simply take the lessons we’ve learned from years of gaming to improve your current systems with gamification. 

  • Using Games People Already Play to Find Skills

When someone returns home from work, kicks off their shoes, and opens up a mobile game, do you ever think of that as them training important skills? Well, it more often than not is. A manager who works forty hours a week and then manages a virtual city or farm in their free time is actually continuously improving their management skills. A lot of games nowadays, especially mobile games, are made for an older target audience and require strategic thinking, resource and monetary management, and problem solving skills. How can we change our mindset from seeing games as non-productive time to a way in which we can train important skills? 

Games are also a way we can learn about our colleagues and a way for us to improve our interpersonal skills. Does your colleague arrange his inventory in a neat and organized way or do they leave a clutter? Does your colleague play a certain role in a game that is in front of the pack, leading the way or do they provide support and backup? A game like League of Legends, which Huib describes as a team based and strategic modern chess on steroids, can be the perfect indicator of how someone functions in a team under multiple conditions. 

When working with the Dutch Military, Huib advised against creating a game in line with what the American military had done, costing millions of dollars and potentially achieving nothing. Instead, they looked at what their target audience was already playing. Contrary to what most people think, this did not focus on shooter games for the most part because a lot of military jobs actually require a logistics and administration skillset. Factorio is a perfect example, a hardcore logistic game where players control multiple automated factories. Factorio’s players are efficiency junkies with high aptitude for strategy, who Huib sees as being able to function in some of the highest-paid and most demanding jobs around. 

  • Jobs Looking Like Games

In our discussion, we covered different games and the skills that they can show. All of those games have something that most jobs don’t, an aesthetically pleasing atmosphere and UI that is tailored to their user. So, how can we make our jobs look more like games? How can we integrate progression, adaptive user interfaces, and rewards for completing tough challenges into our daily tasks at work? App developers are frequently turning to tools that allow them to feel immersed in their environment and comfortable with their settings, rather than a blank text editor of the past. Officecore (games that simulate traditionally mundane jobs) is an entire category of gaming, so why can’t the reverse be true? The more a job is able to look and feel like a game, the more attractive it is to potential workers. Plus, those workers will be able to have more fun. 

  • Instant Feedback, Learning to Fail

Darks Souls is a famous game built on the idea that you will fail, you will fail spectacularly, and you will fail again. How our education systems are built, failure is to be avoided at all costs. In games, we fail constantly and are better for it. In education, you might have a progress report three months in that gives you an idea of how you are doing. Imagine a game that only told you that you were failing after three hours? That would be crazy! Games are great at telling us instantly when we are doing well and when we are doing poorly. This also allows us to fail and quickly get back up because it’s only a minor setback, not a catastrophic event like receiving a failing grade. The ability to fail in games shows resilience and that the player is ready to take on a tough challenge. In games, we are allowed to fail and it makes the learning process more enjoyable and puts our resilience through the roof. In games such as Dark Souls or Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the game may give you a new sword but the game definitely does not get easier. As you go through the experience, you learn from your mistakes and YOU get better. Our progress is felt and our improvement is something we can celebrate. Our lives, education, and work should be a reflection of this. Instant feedback should be constantly available and our failures should be celebrated as learning experiences that we overcome.

Huib puts gamification into a new light, where “gamification is more of a philosophy than a method or a goal we can achieve.” And where games can be seen as spotlights onto potential skills and career paths. Gamification is more than a trend and without implementing the lessons we have learned, we may start to fall behind.