3 Ways to Bring Gamification to Your Training – On a Budget

When I was teaching high school, there was often nothing more important to my students than the upcoming BIG GAME. No, I’m not talking about football. The long-anticipated release of a new video game would often have gamers “coming down with the flu” on the big day to be sure they got a good place in line. Now that’s a big game.

People love games. According to Variety, Americans spent over $43 billion on video games in 2018. And you don’t want to know how much we spend on sports (I’m actually not sure anyone knows). We can’t get enough of competition, whether we’re playing or just watching.

Good trainers and instructional designers know the value of gamification strategies — they’ve been using them in instructor-led training (ILT) for decades, even centuries. How many times have you been asked to “team up” with strangers in a training exercise?

With the rise of online training, gamification in learning has become a way to engage trainees when live instructors aren’t present. And it works. According to eLearning Industry, games in training help us bring problem-solving skills to bear on learning, and successful learning is 70% “real-life and on-the-job experiences, tasks, and problem solving.” Here are a few benefits of gamification:

  • It evokes friendly competition.
  • It provides learners with a sense of achievement.
  • It leads to behavior change through an engaging learner experience.
  • It motivates learners to progress through the content and take action in the workplace.

Competing with Mortal Kombat

Unfortunately for trainers on a budget, the expectations for online gaming are sky-high. The latest games bring a personalized, interactive, and immersive experience to players that is incredibly cool — but also prohibitively expensive if you’re just trying to get a group of help desk workers to answer the phone properly. And it’s a legitimate concern that whatever game we put together for online training will be trashed before it even rolls out, cursed with the ever-powerful label of “lame.” You can’t come back from lame.

Related: Gaming Vs Gamification – Is There A Difference?

If you’re afraid to try gamification because you can’t be Halo, the good news is: you don’t have to be Halo. You just need some good old-fashioned creativity to solve this very new problem.

Games don’t have to be dazzling to be effective! 3 Innovative and Low-Cost Examples of Gamification in Training Click To Tweet

Remember why we play games in the first place: they’re fun! Here are three ways to bring games to your company’s online learning with a shoestring budget and a dream.

#1: DIY Gaming

When you look at the benefits of gamification, healthy competition stands out as a great tool to motivate workers. Of course, the competitive element is missing if players can’t see where they stand against others. If you look at virtually any game — online or IRL — you’ll find three important elements:

  • A scoreboard or leaderboard
  • A reward system
  • Instant point tracking

Players always know how they stack up against their competitors, whether they’re on the same field or the other side of the world. These scoring processes are automated, of course, and quite complex. If you’re training a smaller group, you may not be able to afford the programming costs.

So here’s an idea: Do it yourself. For any kind of small-to-medium group training, it’s not that difficult to develop all three elements and simply post the scores at predetermined times. If you want to go really simple and low-tech, you can even send out an email with the standings.

See how we showcased DIY instant point tracking during a month-long innovation initiative — our Back to School Challenge.

You can really ramp up the competition with DIY scoring and scoreboards, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Be sure it’s actually a small group. You don’t want to try to keep up with 200 people!
  • Be realistic about how often you post. Once a day is often enough. Don’t get yourself into a situation of having to post every five minutes! Set specific times when scores will be posted.

You can actually DIY many gaming elements if you have the time and the group is small. It costs nothing, for example, to have each player choose a character that they’ll “play” during the training. See this example of simple, low-tech gamification with just some good graphics, an idea, and a little work on the administrator’s part.

#2: Storylines and Quests

People love stories! One of the reasons modern online/video games are so successful is their great storylines — complete with interesting characters, riveting quests, and consequences for each action — all in an immersive environment. It’s easy to think, “I could never do that” if you measure yourself against Grand Theft Auto or Fortnite.

Again, it’s important to boil great stories down to their core elements. Can you think of some compelling characters? Can you imagine a quest those characters could embark on or a goal they must reach? Of course you can! Developing a story for gaming is well within your creative skill set.

And here’s the key: you don’t have to have an immersive environment. Try:

  • Creating a list of characters your trainees can choose from
  • Having a simple mission the characters must accomplish that’s related to your learning objectives

Those two elements are really all you need. Watch this sample video from a training game developed by ttcInnovations to see a great example of how to implement characters and quests in your learning materials.

#3: Master Your Authoring Tools

Having a great command of your authoring tools is your best weapon in developing advanced training like gamification. If you’re not at expert level in Storyline or PowerPoint, sign up for some online classes and make yourself the go-to person in your organization.

On-Demand Webinar: How to Design Your PowerPoint Slides like a Pro

Articulate Storyline

Storyline has great built-in tools for creating games. You can develop simple but effective gamification once you’ve mastered the program.

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Interactive PowerPoint

Many trainers don’t understand the depth and breadth of capabilities in PowerPoint for creating interactive training. If you don’t know how to create non-linear PowerPoints, this video will give you a quick tutorial. The ideas here are simple, but the possibilities are endless.

Time = Money

If you don’t think games can be cheap, consider this: you can buy a pack of playing cards at any store for $1. According to Quora.com, the number of possible games that can be played with 52 cards is “over ((2^((52+2n)^2))^(52^52))*(2^52)*8 possible n-player games, which is technically not infinite, but still so large that even writing it out would not fit inside the visible universe.” I don’t even know what that number means, but it tells me that the possibilities for training games is limited only by our imagination.

If you don’t have the budget to create dazzling games, you may have to dedicate some time to developing innovative ideas. And of course, you can steal shamelessly — look for ideas from other companies that will work for your group. Consider hiring outside resources to kickstart your gamification. Think of gamification on a budget as a wonderful opportunity to exercise your creativity.

Interested in outsourcing your next gamification project?

Contact us today to learn more about our innovative and interactive custom training solutions!

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About the Author:

Allan Dodson is so much more than a writer and instructional designer. He’s helped develop strategy in Fortune 500 boardrooms, and he’s taught acting skills to 4th graders.  He’s developed training programs for everything from hair highlighting to pest control to DSL lines, and he’s made presentations to C-level execs, teachers (tough crowd!) and all workforce levels. In short, he has the experience, versatility, creativity, and energy to move projects large and small, and he’s ready for any challenge.

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