Category Archives: Jane McGonigal

What the heck is “gamification,” and did you even spell that right?

Please share with your community:

playing_video_game_1600_clr_11641We talked a bit about intrinsic motivation before, but have you ever really jumped into a topic that brings teamwork, rules, metrics and motivation all together? Soon, you may be wondering why even more people aren’t exploring this area. Trainers know that appropriate games work great in a learning environment. Gamification is partly that, but it can also extend outside of the classroom. I have only been exposed to the tip of the iceberg (using games in training, which I have done), but am ready to take a look at what is below the surface. A lot of resources exist online to support this topic, but my favorite take-away is applying it’s usage in dynamic learning activities (DLAs).

Something HU Training related that I can do for you

I used gamification concepts for the past two Human Performance DLAs I authored, one was for creating a film festival, and the other was working with known distractions. Both were created from the ground up and both were well-received using the gamification concepts. I will send anyone who is signed up for this blog information on these DLAs if you also send an email to with your request. Time permitting, I will also coach you through creating the DLA with your work groups. We also may be able to arrange a phone or video chat to answer any questions you may have. Both DLAs were awarded for Best Practice and Outstanding Achievement in the Workplace Learning and Performance Outcomes category this year from the Kansas City chapter of ATD.

Can you tell me a little about gamification as it applies to video games?

I have been to several ICMA conferences  and in 2010 had the opportunity to see Jane McGonigal give a keynote in San Jose, CA, on gaming and a prelude to her book called “Reality Is Broken,” which I have since purchased. It was eye-opening for me to see what kind of work people are doing for the good of the world using social media games. Some advice taken from’s review of the book:

Reality is Broken explains the science behind why games are good for us–why they make us happier, more creative, more resilient, and better able to lead others in world-changing efforts. But some games are better for us than others, and there is too much of a good thing. Here are a few secrets that aren’t in the book to help you (or the gamer in your life) get the most positive impact from playing games.

This practical advice–5 key quidelines, plus 2 quick rules–is scientifically backed, and it can be summed up in a single sentence: Play games you enjoy no more than 21 hours a week; face-to-face with friends and family as often as you can; and in co-operative or creator modes whenever possible.

How old is the concept of “gamification?”

The Grandfather of Gamification is noted as “Chuck Coonradt” who wrote an awesome book called “The Game of Work” in 1984. At this link he tells an awesome story how it all started when his perception changed. Check out this podcast on gamification which features Chuck and some real meaningful examples to drive his points home. His examples are what impressed me the most – it made the content very easy to explain.

To sum up his story (which is also shared also on the Game Changer podcast mentioned and linked above) the motivation of recreation needs to be compared against the motivation of work.  In recreation:

1. Feedback is more immediate

2. Players know the score while the game is in progress

3. Goals are more clearly defined

4. Coaching is more consistent, mainly because the rules do not change in the middle of the game

5. Higher degree of personal choice

If you want to explore these motivations further, click here.

Some say that the difference between work and recreation enjoyment is primarily the feedback.

Where can I see gamification related to human performance tools in action?

On the nuclear side of human performance training, NANTeL (National Academy for Nuclear Training Electronic Learning), shifted the human performance modules this year to interactive and “gamified” computer-based training, instead of clicking through some slides and watching some videos. This was well-received by an industry with a broad range of ages, backgrounds, and critical people with the highest expectations for quality training. The training puts you in a city called, “Winchestertonville,” where you get to practice a human performance tool in a non-work environment (like in an ice cream shop, a drive-thru, etc) and after you demonstrate proficiency, you are transported to the nuclear plant where you get to practice the same tool. The goal is to restore power to the town, and your success rate is measured. Congratulations to Maureen and her team for putting this product together for the rest of us to learn. This went live for nuclear industry usage in the first quarter of 2013. I am positive there will be more to come from NANTeL teaching this way.

Thoughts on the future of gamification and a little bit about me

“Gamification” is a word that spell check doesn’t recognize, yet, but I predict it will in the near future. As more Millennials enter the work force, this type of training will almost be mandatory. Statistics are abound with a negative picture of American worker engagement (not sure about other countries), so how are we going to engage them? What other idea is out there? Different leadership techniques? Maybe… But I personally see gamification as closing that gap. As my kids enter the workforce in about 15-18 years from now, imagine how to keep a “Digital Native” engaged in any activity. It is hard to wrap my head around a childhood where the internet, smart phones, tablets, and large flat screens have always existed. I remember being 12 years old in 1984 playing 45rpm Disney records on my little record player (it looked similar to this) and being engaged with the content. My call on the most (gamified) engaging toy of my childhood was a robot called “2XL” – click here if interested in  going on this tangent. I played with 2XL so much I wore out the 8-track tape head – very fond memories.