Play to Learn – How Gamification Helps Adult Learning

Are you a gamer? Ever played a video game? And no, I don’t just mean those of you who have lost entire nights or weeks to “Call of Duty” or “World of Warcraft”. I mean any of you who have played Candy Crush Saga, Angry Birds or any of a million games available on Facebook and smartphones around the world. If you have, you are not alone.

Over 75% of people are gamers. If you have ever played video games, chances are you will attest to the fact that these games can be mightily addictive. Games hook you in. They look innocent, but before you know it the clock is spinning past, other things become unimportant, and the ‘one more turn’ refrain is spinning endlessly in our heads. But what if that ‘wasted’ energy could be harnessed for good? The goal of gamification is to bring many of these qualities to the world of adult learning.

Guilt-free gaming?

The fact that so many people are gamers is testament to how much fun games can be. Badges, trophies, quests, levels and bosses. The vocabulary and set-up of games is designed to make them addictive. Great games are really easy to get into, yet propel the player forward, step by step, with the promise of more challenge, more excitement and greater reward. And, as a gamer myself, there is nothing wrong with that! Except, sometimes, the slight guilty feeling that perhaps I could have spent that time doing something more constructive. Chilling out and relaxing is all very well, but…

And that is where gamified adult learning comes in. Using the principles and structures of game mechanics we can create an accessible and rewarding way of learning – learning that people actually want to do!

Here are 5 reasons why games are possibly the best way to learn:

1. Gamed adult learning is just more effective

Why is it that there is so much talk about gamification in adult learning? Simply because other learning methodologies are less effective. Research shows that adult learners recall just 10% of what they read and 20% of what they hear. If they observe someone else doing a task, they might recall up to 50%. But adult learners remember up to 90% "if they do the job themselves, even if only as a simulation.”

But what else can gamification bring to the world of adult learning?

2. Gamification of learning inspires learning

We all know that growth and learning is important. The world we operate in is ever shifting: what got us here will not be enough to take us into the future. But learning can be hard work sometimes, right? Gamification takes the hard work out of the adult learning experience, by making learning fun and engaging.

3. Gamification allows the creation of new adult learning experiences

A big part of many games is role play: a fantasy element which allows the player to take on the role of, well, pretty much anything! Games encourage gamers to try new things and see things from a different perspective. This helps with adult learning too. Sometimes learning experiences are a little too close to home. Gamification allows for us to try new things and accumulate different experiences.

In career terms, gamification can help to prepare you for your next role. By trying out many of the skills that role might require before you get there, you’ll be better prepared to both get the job and excel!

4. Gamification removes the risks

Taking risks with your career and your job isn’t always advisable. That can get you fired. Games allow individuals to try new things in a fantasy world, where getting things wrong has no real-world consequences. Learning in a safe environment encourages individuals to try new things, to take risks: risks that might not be practical or desirable in a real world environment.

5. Gamification makes adult learning accessible

Lastly, gamification makes learning accessible. Not everyone has the time to take a semester long course, or take a few days out of the office to pick up new skills. In the same way that games such as Candy Crush work for people who need a couple of minutes to get their ‘fix’, gamified adult learning is doing similar things. Duolingo, a language learning game, allows individuals to play for just a matter of minutes and still feel that they are making progress.

The gamification of adult learning is designed to make learning fun, accessible, rewarding, and yes, a little bit addictive. If we’re to spend our spare minutes (or hours!) playing a game, we might as well make that game worthwhile, don’t you think?