Growing with Games
And Gamification

Published on 30.11.2016

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The Use of Games in
Museums and Science

Joseph Wilson, Spongelab Interactive

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Growing with Games

While games have become more prevalent in various levels of education, the core accessibility of video games has not yet been used to its full potential when it comes to growing your organisation and help reach your goals. Now of course, you likely won’t be playing Mine Craft in your next governors meeting, but there is much value that can be gained in adding games, and game-based mechanics aligned with your organisational goals to your programs. These games can be designed to facilitate faster and more engaging training, encourage funding, or grow your reach.

What is a Game?

A precise definition of what constitutes a game has been the subject of much debate. Definitions range from the broad: "A game is a form of play with goals and structure," by game developer Kevin Maroney, to the prescriptive: "A game is a system in which players engage in an abstract challenge, defined by rules, interactivity, and feedback, that results in a quantifiable outcome, often eliciting an emotional reaction," from game designer Ralph Koster.

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Video games are usually competitive in nature, whether you are competing against other players (World of Warcraft), against the computer (Angry Birds) or against the clock (Tetris). Games of chance are another broad category that includes roulette and Bingo. When competing against other players, you unite with another person to extend the boundaries of the game world outside of a computer monitor or phone screen. Good games can't be too easy or too hard. They need to rest in that sweet spot where we're being challenged but not discouraged. They tap into the reward centre of our brain. Every time we solve a new puzzle or successfully deploy a new strategy, our brains reward us with a jolt of dopamine. Millions of years of evolution that has made us a curious and creative species. Game-play is such a natural part of what we do that it’s often difficult to tease games out from the background noise of living and working.

What is Gamification?

Gamification is often confused as being the same as game-based learning. Unlike game-based learning, Gamification is the application of game-based ideas and mechanics into traditional environments. Adding rewards, badges, leaderboards or social boasting are forms of Gamification. Sometimes tasks are necessary, but not particularly exciting. Gamification attempts to leverage people’s natural tendencies to socialize, seek competition, strive for mastery and reach achievements to increase engagement and compliance.

The Princess Margaret Home Lottery essentially Gamified their funding process.

Although games can be a part of a Gamification, they are not always necessary to meet the spirit of Gamification.


Games in Training and Education:

Most tasks in the world share a common factor; the repetition of specific actions to accomplish a goal. Often dynamic thinking and problem solving are required to accomplish these goals. Variables from within each goal can change how we approach the solution. Training for these types of tasks usually shares the same approaches: read a book or a diagram, watch your mentor do the task, try it for yourself. This series of tell, show, and do are common across all training communities. It’s sound to believe that most people generally fall into one of these three learning categories: audile, visual, or tactile.

Video games can manage all three sensory paths simultaneously in a way that can rarely be duplicated in a real-life scenario. A well constructed game contains all the audible cues, and all the visual representations while also allowing the user to physically complete a task or a virtual representation of it.

On top of this mixed push of information to the learner, one of the advantages of gaming is that it allows us to collect critical data on how that learner is engaging with the game with each action taken. This is not something you can easily do with traditional training programs. The data collected from each learner allows us to gauge critical thinking and problem solving, and build a database of information to both personalize the experience with the learner, as well as reiterate the material of the training.

The other component of games that is overlooked in training is the ability to try, fail, restart, and fail again until we figure out a solution that works. Airline pilots must complete training in a virtual simulator before receiving their licenses. They are subjected to a variety of variables, often some that are not reproducible in real life, and are tasked with reacting to these changes and scenarios in a “safe” environment.

Games in Outreach and Fundraising:

Games and Gamification have also found their way into fundraising and outreach. Some groups, like the Princess Margaret Hospital have taken to gamifying their entire fundraising platform, with their annual home and calendar lotteries. They’ve raised engagement, and lowered the feeling of risk, even though the average donation commitment of $100 is more than the average person might consider giving on a normal basis. The chance of gaining a return on investment for your donation is enough encouragement.

Other approaches are to build awareness of organizational goals or ideals directly through a gaming experience. A game like That Dragon, Cancer brings awareness of childhood cancer and its effects on family life in an ambitious, art-like experience. This War of Mine applies relatively straight forward game mechanics to demonstrate the harshness of war to help raise funds and awareness for War Child.

That Dragon Cancer, raising awareness for childhood cancer.

Videos games can also be used to poll specific information in a fun, out-of-the-box way. For instance, if you support research for a medical condition, a game can be designed to judge a person’s awareness of that medical condition. This adds value in a manner that often not only gets a higher level of participation, but also produces more useful data because of this more immersive style of retrieval.

Each of these methods uses games in one form or another, aimed at producing measurable results for their specific organisations. They allow each of these organisations to reach more people, often in untapped markets.

Depending on your goals, there are many functions that both gaming and gamification can accomplish for your organisation. Leveraging this growing market to make your organization stand out, collect better data, reach more people, or engage your staff and volunteers is becoming more and more accessible all the time. Carefully evaluate how these principles can help your organisation grow.

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