Summary by James R. Martin, Ph.D., CMA
Professor Emeritus, University of South Florida
Gamification refers to games-based learning. Games have been used for many years in academic and business organizations. For example, military and airline pilots learn how to handle emergency landings with flight simulators. Accounting firms such as Deloitte and KPMG have used games to transform lectures into interactive learning solutions. However, game-based learning can be effective or ineffective. The purpose of this article is to discuss several examples of how games have been used, to explain why games work, and to provide the steps necessary for designing a successful learning-based game.
Examples of how Gamification has been Used
Training employees - Examples include simulations to train employees to deal with vendors, to deal with bribery, or a crisis such as a fire, and to learn to work as a team.
Engaging customers - Examples include games designed to promote insurance by helping people to plan for unexpected events, and games designed to promote awareness of the need for investment and retirement planning.
Achieving organizational goals - Examples include games designed to promote cost-saving suggestions, and games to promote safety, productivity, attendance and quality.
Engaging communities - An example in this area includes a game designed to promote public learning about complex community issues.
Examples from LeanOhio Gamifying Government
The standard pig exercise - Players are instructed to draw a pig. All the pigs are very different. Then specific instructions are given on how to draw a pig. The purpose is to provide a lesson on standardization.
The batching exercise - Players are divided into two groups who are given post-it notes for team members to sign. One group is instructed to sign the notes and pass them along one at a time. The other group is instructed to sign and pass all the notes in one batch. The group that passes the notes one at a time always wins. The purpose is to show how batching slows down the process.
The red bead experiment - Players are instructed to use a scoop to remove only white beads from a jug full of both red and white beads. The purpose of this nearly impossible task is to show that the problem is a process or systems issue, not a people issue. (See http://maaw.info/DemingsRedbeads.htm for a more involved explanation).
The marshmallow game - Teams are instructed to build the highest structure possible using spaghetti with a marshmallow on top. Frequently teams spend too much time planning to find out later that learning by trial and error produces the highest and strongest structures.
The Golf game - Players use different balls and surfaces to putt golf balls. Then they develop a regression equation to predict the best combination. The purpose is to show how different variables produce different results.
Why Gamification Works
Players get the feel-good hormone when they are rewarded in some way such as scoring in a game.
The feel-good hormone improves the players attention and short term memory enhancing the players ability to learn.
Presenting activities as a game increases motivation.
Confronting problems in a game, where progress is easy to see is easier than confronting problems in real life.
Games promote the elements of motivation, ability, and a trigger that are needed for learning.
How to Design a Game for Success
Designing a successful learning-based game requires three important steps:
1. Avoid pitfalls - Games can't be used to make unappealing products or jobs appealing. To be effective, games must be enjoyable and make an emotional connection with players who trust the game.
2. Mastery and purpose must be built into the game. This requires answers to the following questions:
What and why does the game designer want to gamify?
What does the designer want to achieve?
What are the measurements for a successful design?
After it is designed, is the game enjoyable and easy to play?
3. Measuring Success - Success should be measured with the answers to the following questions:
Did the players like the game?
Did the players learn from the game?
If the game is used for training, did managers link the game to employee performance?
Has there been a desired change as a result of the game?
How can the game be improved?
Accounting professionals should consider gamification to enhance organizational goals acknowledging that to be successful games must align with the organizations strategy and goals in a fun and captivating way. Games must make an emotional connection with their players.
Deming, W. E. 1993. Chapter 9: The Funnel. The New Economics For Industry, Government & Education. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Advanced Engineering Study. (Summary).
Martin, J. R. Not dated. Chapter 8: Just-In-Time, Theory of Constraints, and Activity Based Management Concepts and Techniques. Management Accounting: Concepts, Techniques & Controversial Issues. Management And Accounting Web. Lee's JIT Flo Toy game
Martin, J. R. Not dated. Goldratt's dice game or match bowl experiment. Management And Accounting Web. http://maaw.info/MatchBowlExperiment.htm
Martin, J. R. Not dated. The Beer Game. Management And Accounting Web. http://maaw.info/TheBeerGame.htm
Martin, J. R. Not dated. What is the red bead experiment? Management And Accounting Web. http://maaw.info/DemingsRedbeads.htm