Gaming as a cross-cultural phenomenon

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eLearning Gamification

Games are amazingly portable across cultures and are widely recognized in providing learners with better engagement and higher retention and completion rates.  In this article, we will discuss why you can rely on the mechanics of a game for international portability and focus on the fundamentals of engaging content.

First, consider Brian Upton’s book The Aesthetic of Play, here he outlines the reasons why we can rely on the universal mechanics of gaming:

“More important, everywhere we look, how we play is the same. As long as I take a few minutes to learn the rules, I can play a game that originated in Germany, or Ghana, or Peru, or ancient Mesopotamia, and it will function properly for me as a game. It will contain the same mix of obstacles and affordances that all games do—the arbitrary restrictions that block easy progress, the obvious opportunities for meaningful action, the delicate balance between knowledge and uncertainty. As a beginner, I may not play well, but the experience of playing will nevertheless feel comfortable and familiar.”

So, if we all play the same, the instructional designer is free to focus on the fundamentals of building an engaging design around the content.  Here are several things to keep in mind when considering gamification.

  1. Who Are Your Learners? It may seem simplistic, but all too often trainers or instructional designers build content that is not specifically designed for the demographic of the learner.  Whether it’s their age, gender, language, or their locale, you must begin building content with the learning audience in mind.  This will allow you to build in options that make it more relevant to them.  Think in terms of the simple choice to allow the user to choose an avatar that is female or male; that is white, Asian, or African-American.  These choices allow the learner to be more engaged by removing artificial obstacles.
  2. Set Objectives. Define the goals for the experience.  Break these goals down into bite-sized chunks that can be digested by the learner in various segments and challenges.  These challenges are crucial to the learning process and serve as keys to engagement.
  3. Progression, Leaderboards, and the sense of Challenge. Basic game design elements can lend themselves to an immersive and engaging experience—compare yourself vs. others, get better at an initially challenging task, and “win”. If you look at assessments through the lens of gamification, they are final levels or mini-games.
  4. Balance Learning Material with Fun.  The learner will only stay motivated if the content is interesting and fun.  But, don’t overdo it.  Too many gimmicks or tricks can cause distraction and loss of focus on the core material.
  5. Rewards are Key. Getting a badge might not always mean very much, but there are other ways of showing a special status or recognition; you already use them in other parts of business, this is no different. A top-scorer board for example or a world-wide championship with a prize or trophy. You can and should be creative, that’s the best part about gaming.

Global eLearning understands the complexities of elearning through gamification and even better, how to localize this content for a global audience.  Contact Global eLearning today to discuss your globalized elearning initiatives.

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