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42 minutes | Nov 24, 2020
Podcast 44: Is gaming bad for my child?
Welcome to today’s Question of Gamification, the podcast by An Coppens. And today we have a guest, Andy Robertson, who also goes by the Twitter handle @GeekDadGamer, and he’s a video game journalist and the author of the book Taming Gaming. I’m delighted to have Andy with us today because we’re going to address the question of: is gaming safe for my child? And it’s a funny story how we actually met and how it came about, with me tweeting and re-tweeting some information that I sent out around #GetSetGo, a campaign by UKIE, who is the organization supporting the games and digital entertainments industry. I was basically quoting that, “Is gaming safe for my child?” Is probably the most frequently asked question I receive at the end of seminars or webinars when I speak about gamification because my audience tends to be adults. Andy, welcome to the podcast. Andy Robertson : Hello. Thanks for having me. An Coppens : Yes, delighted to have you. So, let’s delve straight in. Is gaming safe for children these days? Andy Robertson : Yeah, it’s a hot topic, isn’t it? And particularly during this period where the amount of games that children are playing is on the increase, and the amount of screen use. And so, often that comes with a bit of baggage, and so usually I’ll start to try and unpick it. There are various places we could start. Gaming classed as a disorder An Coppens: Yes, exactly. And I suppose the one place that triggered the conversation for a lot of parents in my view is when the World Health Organization classed gaming as a disorder, and definitely, that’s when I saw the increase of questions in this regard, “What should I be watching out for? Is my kid going to be addicted? Should I stop them?” So, do you see that the same way as the World Health Organization? What’s your take on that? Andy Robertson : I think it is a complex topic. And I’m not against having a gaming disorder clarified so we can talk about it. But I think the challenge is that some of how it’s reported was just like, “Now, finally, kids who game too much can get a diagnosis from a doctor and can be sent to clinics and can be fixed, and can be labelled”, rather than actually looking at an individual child and thinking, “Okay, what’s working for them and what isn’t?” I think the downside was that the danger is that it granted permission to us as parents sometimes to just label an issue that a child might have had, rather than actually taking a step forwards into the games they play and asking them questions, and spending time with them playing to understand what it was and why they were playing. But that said, if you look at the detail of that gaming disorder criteria that the World Health Organization has specified, I don’t really know anyone with a child who would fall into that. We’ll often say at the school gate, “My son’s addicted to Fortnite”, but we don’t really mean addiction as the World Health Organization means it, because they talk about if a child is playing games so much it’s detrimental to other parts of their life, so they wouldn’t be going to school, they wouldn’t be eating properly, they probably would be washing properly or taking part in family activities. And not only that, but once they noticed that and had been told about that, they would then carry on doing it, they would be unable to stop in spite of those negative consequences, and then that would continue for around about 12 months, and then only then do you start falling into this clinical criteria. So, it’s a really extreme end of the spectrum, which I think is actually quite helpful to help us reserve that language of addiction to clinically addicted children, which is in the minority, rather than a label we can apply widely. Gaming as a passing fad An Coppens: I think it’s a great explanation, some children, and myself included as a child, I used to love playing a specific game, and I would play it until I fell asleep. And if I got away with it, I played it under the covers. So, I think that’s actually just, I suppose, a passing phase for most of us is, that we have a favourite game where we must play it, and play all the levels, and then we move on to whatever the next best game is. Is that how most kids operate in your view? Andy Robertson : Yeah, they’re quite faddy in the games they like to play, and they’ll be playing the games that their friends are playing. But I think because if we thought about this as a child staying up under the covers playing a video game it’s like, “Oh, that’s not right, there’s a problem”. Whereas, if you thought about a child staying up doing that with a torch and a book under their bed, it’s kind of this sentimental, “We know that books are good in general”, we don’t even think about what they’re reading often, that’s a secondary question. But when it comes to games we don’t have that kind of underlying understanding of what the benefits of games are as a piece of media, and so we then quickly go to, “And what were they playing? Was it violent?” And those sorts of concerns. So, I think we treat it differently and that … it is different, but also we need to engage in a similar way with games than we do, really, with books and films and other media. What are the benefits of games? An Coppens : Yes, exactly. And it brings us to a good point because I do think children learn a lot from games and there are benefits that I tend to see from people that have gamed to people that have never gamed in the way that they approach work, in the way that they see work. So, is there benefits that you see, that you’ve come across in the research that you’ve been doing for the book? Andy Robertson : Yeah. So, I think historically, particularly people who’ve wanted to justify video games as something positive have often pointed to the hard skills, the hand-eye coordination, the problem solving, and in terms of the science that I’ve had access to and have talked to people about that’s harder to prove, and how transferable those hard skills are, seems to be in question. And there is definitely a benefit, you have the general developmental thing going on. But what seems more transferable and more understood are the softer skills, the social, the interaction, the finding some calm and the time out of your day, the wellbeing, mental health side of it. And at the moment, I think particularly in this period, that’s often what children are doing: they’re staying in touch with friends. If I sit next to my kids while they’re playing, the things they’re talking isn’t about what’s in the game, what’s happening, they’ll be talking about, “How are you doing? How is your family? Is anyone locked down? Are you doing the homework?” The sort of stuff that would just be part of playground chatter comes up as they’re playing. And as well as that, it does give them a chance to unplug from quite a chaotic world and enter a space that they’ve got a bit more control over and they can find some peace over that. The issue is that if we don’t realise that as parents, and we just think, “You’re on that game again, you’ve got to stop”, and we make them stop, and if they had been using that game as a coping mechanism for what’s happening in the world, and then they become upset because we’ve taken it away, then we often will point to it and say, “Look, you’ve got cross when I’ve told you to stop. Look what that game’s doing to you.” When in actual fact, that game was a solution to another problem and we’ve missed a chance to understand our child and what the problem was that the game was solving because we’ve labelled the game as a problem. I think it’s those sorts of benefits which run a bit deeper and I feel like that it’s this, children then take with them into a future that will be digital, and into a future where they probably will always play games in some way, it won’t be the same games, but I think game playing will be part of the future of most children’s lives. An Coppens : Yes, exactly. It’s interesting because, most of the time, when I speak to parents that ask me this question, if it’s safe for my child, they would never even consider the idea that it could actually be a coping mechanism, or it could actually be a place where they have control and find calm because most parents see games as there are loads of things happening and you have to manage all these things at the same time, it’s very intense. And I don’t think they understand that concept of finding your peace. Are most games violent? And there’s also, I think, a preconception that all games are violent. What would you say to parents concerned about that? That all games are violent? Andy Robertson : I think it’s understandable because the games that are popular and you see on bus stops are often the games aimed at older teenagers and do have guns in them. That’s quite a popular thing because it’s kind of quite an easy thing to do as a game, the play loop’s quite predictable. As a developer, there’s some safety and they know that’s popular. And so, it’s completely understandable, but what’s exciting and exciting about creating my database of games for parents, the Family Video Game Database, is that I have a chance to uncover the wide breadth of games. And we’ve got about 800 games in the database, and probably only a very small proportion of them are games where the main thing is shooting. There’ll be some of them because that is part of the wider games spectrum, but the range of what you’re doing, whether it’s exploring a different world, or running a train system, or swimming under the sea, all those sorts of things, you can do all these sorts of things in games as well. And the issue is the discovery and helping parents to discover those games. And that’s the challenge, I think. I think we need to do a better job of helping parents find games which match their children, and that’s where the idea for the database came from. An Coppens : Great. And where can they find the database? Because of course we’re going to link those in the show notes, but in case somebody’s desperate to find it right now? Andy Robertson : Yeah. Well, you could just Google Family Video Game Database. Or if you go the URL TamingGaming.com, which was the name of the book that I wrote, that will be out in January, and the two sort of go together. You’ll see on the database they’re branded in the same way. And so, the book looks at the issues we’ve been talking about, looks at violence, looks at addiction, looks at gambling, looks at online strangers, but then tries to say, “Here are some ways to take positive steps as a parent, what you can do.” And part of that is playing games together. Another thing the book says, which is more unusual, I think, and maybe a little bit less popular, is to say if you’ve got a child who loves playing games, a really powerful thing you can do as a parent is to find some games that you want to play yourself. And I’m often saying that at school meetings, and things like that, that I run for parents, and someone will stop me and say, “I love what you’re saying, yeah, I can get it that games can be positive, but can I just stop you? Because I’m never going to play a game, they’re not for me, they’re for kids, and I’m too busy and I’ve got too much else to do.” It’s completely understandable because we see games as this thing that children do and they’re just entertainment, and why would an adult play them? And so, there’s a portion of the database, and there’s a chapter in the book which is squarely aimed at helping parents find games that they might want to play themselves, and these are games that are short, or easy to access on devices they’ve already got, and about topics that might interest an adult. We’ve got games about parenting, we’ve got games about falling in love. There’s a particular game which is quite popular about a Syrian migrant and helping them get to Europe and the trials of that journey. You start to introduce a different view of games, and they no longer see it just from the corner, really. The idea is then they can then go to the database, look at the games that I’ve introduced and that they’ve played, and then find lots of other similar games. So, on every page, at the bottom of every game page, there are 10 or so other games which are similar and offer a different experience, to try and help parents find something. And you don’t have to spend a long time doing it, but as soon as you are doing that, you’re suddenly in the room with your child and you can talk. Playing games to broaden your children’s diet I often say how we’re keen for children to have a broad diet of what they eat. An Coppens: True. Andy Robertson : And we want them to eat vegetables, and so we make a point of eating our vegetables at mealtimes. With young children we might even make yumming noises as we eat, “These are lovely.” Because we’re just like, “You’ve got to eat your vegetables.” If we had never eaten vegetables, our kids would very quickly understand, “I’m not eating vegetables, Mom and Dad don’t eat them so why should I?” An Coppens : Exactly. Andy Robertson : Because they pick up on that, don’t they? And so, in a similar way, if we want them to enjoy games as a mature thing with a wide range of different experiences, it really does help if we play them ourselves. And I understand that that’s a difficult thing but I’m here to help people do that. An Coppens : Yeah. And I think that’s an amazing concept as well, because I heard a story of one dad who basically was worried about his child playing Fortnite, and decided to join him in the game, and he said his relationship with his child actually improved immensely because they finally had something they could talk about together. His child never had been interested in sports but was really big into all sorts of games, and he didn’t understand as a dad what to do, so I thought it was fascinating to hear his side to say, “Well, actually, I could have a conversation about the things that matter to him.” And he totally agreed with what you said earlier where, in effect, the conversation is typically not about the game in the game chatter, it’s often about the very things that are going on with that child at that given moment in time. And I’ve had a few people come up to me as adults as well who said, “Well, I met my partner in a game”, because they were playing games together and then they eventually met in the real world and had a connection from the game, so there’s definitely something there that I think is super important for parents to take away, and to have your own set of games and playing regularly. I mean, you’re obviously talking to the converted, me and my partner play games, we’re both in our 40s, so we play games regularly. We bring a Yahtzee pad on holidays, and there’s a year-long Yahtzee tournament, for example, in our house. And board games are just as useful as video games, in my view, for that family dynamic. Where do you start as a parent or adult? So, what would you say would be the starting point? Because if somebody has a real issue with video games, where would you have them start? The database is one place, what else would you have them do to introduce games into their life as a parent so that they can encourage their children to widen that spectrum of games to play? Andy Robertson : I think the first thing I’d want to do would be to say: I’m not here to try and convince them that games are good or bad, what I’m after is just to help them have an appreciation of the breadth of games that are on offer. And that isn’t about trying to change how they’re parenting or to try and change their view of the world, it’s to say, “I want you to parent your child in the way that you know best, but I want you to do that in an informed way including about video games.” So, my hope is that by understanding and experiencing those games first-hand, it won’t necessarily lead to a parent saying, “My child plays more games now. They might end up deciding to let them play them less, but they’ll do it from an informed perspective … An Coppens : True. Andy Robertson : … rather than just assuming something’s happening. And they’ll do it with the child, it won’t just be something that they’re doing to them but there’ll be a collaboration, and that the conversation in the home would change. And that’s, I think, what we’re aiming at, is to change it from the child saying, “I want more games, I want older-rated games”, and the parents saying, “No, you must play less, you must play younger”, because that’s not really a conversation, it’s just a back and forth, and that just is why it either leads to arguments, or a common solution is that games get banished from the family space into bedrooms and become this thing that then competes with the family, rather than being anchored as a normal part of family life where they can both benefit the family. And also games benefit from the same sorts of questions and conversations that we ask about the films that we watch, and the books that we read, and the … … walks that we go on. And so, I think that’s probably the first … it’s a really good, important thing to say, because I think parents can often feel like they’re just having their finger wagged at them, or there’s another thing they’ve got to try and get right. And really, just have some fun, and the database is there, and there’s a list of games that are on the database that are specifically for people who’ve never played games or haven’t played them recently. And they’re there, it’s simple to play, you can play them with other people, finding games you can play together. If you’ve got someone in your family who knows about games then treat them as a resource. Talk to other families who’ve got kids of a similar age and find out what they do, and the book is there. If you can’t do that, then the book is kind of … its idea is it’s like it’s a sounding board, really, to be those other experiences if you don’t have access to them. What inspired the title of the book: Taming Gaming? Andy Robertson : Yeah, I think so. And I often reflect on the title because it’s slightly strange, because I love the wild, untamed nature of games, as these experiences that I encounter as an adult, and they take me places that I don’t necessarily expect to go, they help me think about topics like parenting, or anything, really, in ways that are exciting. And so, they are in some ways this fragile world, like a piece of art, sort of thing, but at the same time I understand, really, and this is who the book’s aimed at, that that is not how they function in a lot of families, and a lot of moms I talk to in particular, not only moms but that was the main sort of respondents were saying, “I’m a good mom, I’m a really good mom to my boys”, particularly moms of teenage boys. “I know what they need, and we’re really good friends and it’s just great.” And you hear their voice change as they say this, “But when it comes to games, I just don’t know what I’m doing. And actually,” they’ll say, “actually, I feel like I’m losing them and I just don’t know what to do. And actually, it’s quite worrying.” It’s trying to help those people who feel like the games are getting away from them and do need taming so that they can actually then do something good with them, get a grip of this thing rather than just all flailing around. And so, it wants to address the fact that games aren’t just happy go lucky and easy, they’re quite a big deal in a family and they’re hard to get right if you don’t pay attention. But then, taking that experience in a positive direction, really, and essentially saying, “If you approach it this way, you really can turn that corner where games go from being the thing that causes arguments when it’s tea time to the thing that you all look forward to, and you have a Sunday afternoon to play a particular game and all of your family sit down together and it becomes like a mealtime, really.” But like mealtimes, you do need to do the shopping, do the menu planning, plan when you’re going to eat, and all that, and someone’s got to cook, so there’s a lot of effort being put into that, and we’re used to that with food but we’re not used to the benefits we might do if we got that with games, and so the book is supposed to be a way to help parents do that. An Coppens : Agreed. The book is on pre-order, right? At the moment. Andy Robertson : That’s right. It’ll be out in January 2021. It should have been October but it was delayed because of the printing delays at the moment. But the delay meant that the database, the website that supports the book, this Taming Gaming website, has kind of grown to fill that gap. An Coppens : Yes, which is great. Andy Robertson : So, when we were first in lockdown we had a very rudimentary little site and it became hugely popular, and we ended up on BBC Breakfast, and places like that, because people were really looking for, “Well, what games can I play with my family?” And so, with a little bit of funding from UKIE we got it up and running, and it’s grown and grown, and it had 60 games at the beginning, and I thought that was going to be it. I wasn’t expecting it to be like this. And it’s now become this big resource. An Coppens : How many games have you on it now? Andy Robertson : I think it’s about 830 at the moment. An Coppens : Oh wow. Andy Robertson : And it goes up. An Coppens : That’s amazing. Andy Robertson : Because there’s so many games that we’re keen to add. We’re not adding every game, it’s not trying to be a library of every game there ever was, we only add games that we’ve got a specific reason to recommend. And that might be, “This is a great game if you’re got a four or five-year old”, you know? An Coppens : Right, yes. Andy Robertson : “This is a really good game if you’ve got … ” And that’s what the lists are about. There’s this gap sometimes between PEGI-12 games and PEGI-16 games, so the child’s grown out of Fortnite, but they’re not quite ready for Apex Legends and these older shooting games … … or Call of Duty, so what do you do in that gap? And so, there are lots of lists that try and help parents navigate that kind of gap. What is a PEGI rating? You touched on the PEGI rating there. What is that? What does it stand for? For those parents who have no idea what that means. Andy Robertson : So, the PEGI rating is a label that goes on every game sold, and it’s the little age rating on the front of the box in the UK and in Europe. And you get different colours, it’s like a traffic light system. So, three and seven, that’s obviously ages three and seven up, and that’s green, and that’s just advisory. Then 12 and 16, then that is orange, and both of those ages are legally enforced, so if you were to buy a game in the store or a physical game from an online retailer, they have to know that you’re those ages or older to sell it to you or it’s illegal. An Coppens : For you to be able to buy, yes. Andy Robertson : And then, 18 is in red, just to signify that it’s for adults only. And it’s about the content of the game. Sometimes there’s some confusion that people think, “This is how old you should be to enjoy it”, but it’s not, it’s about the appropriateness. So, a good example would be Formula One racing game would be PEGI-3 because there’s no content that would be upsetting to a three-year-old. But equally, a three-year-old probably wouldn’t enjoy that Formula One simulation that much, not without some help, and so that’s what it is. And then, additionally, you have the descriptors, and these are little smaller labels in black and white that show you why the game got that particular rating, and it might be for violence, it might be for sexual content, might be for language, might be for fear. And so, as a parent, you can make quite an informed choice just by looking at the front of the box or the back of the box. Or if you’re online on those online stores for the Switch, or for Xbox or PlayStation, will have the PEGI rating and will have those descriptors. And you can get more information as well on a couple of websites. There’s AskAboutGames, the website that I run with UKIE, and that takes particular games and sort of, I guess, fleshes out why it’s got a particular rating. And also, the VSC, the Video Standards Council rating board in the UK, they rate the games through to 12, 16 and 18, and they write a little examiner’s report about the games they’ve rated. You can get an awful lot of information. If you’re concerned about Call of Duty, for instance, you can see the age, you can see the descriptors, and you can actually see what the examiner wrote. They will say something like, “During this game in the campaign your character will do something graphic”, which I won’t say now depending who’s listening. An Coppens : I think we appeal mainly to adults. Andy Robertson : Yeah. “Do something which will cause some blood, and that means that it’s going to be this rating.” And so, with probably five minutes research you can find out the detail of the game. And that’s one of the things that the database brings together, it takes information from these different places and puts it onto one page and links back to these resources, which are important as well, the AskAboutGames site and the VSC site along with PEGI. These are just really good, reliable tools. An Coppens: Very helpful. Because I think it’s the lack of knowledge and the lack of knowing where to find help is often what’s missing for parents, I think. And knowing what hose ratings are and what they stand for is important, knowing that you have a database that you can consult and look for games that maybe suit you or maybe suit your children. What about games for children with disabilities? How about families with children with disabilities? Because we, as an organisation, we often support Special Effect, who basically are a charity who adapts game consoles and game systems so that they can be played by children with disabilities. Do you have those kinds of games in the database also? Andy Robertson : That’s a really good question. I like that question because I’ve got a good answer. Once the database was up and running, I was approached by an organisation called The Playability Initiative, who were making a game for individuals who have a motor impairment, and their game will be played with just one button. And that sounds like it’ll be simple and no fun, but actually there are loads of games that you can play with one button that are actually really challenging and just great fun, and I think their game’s going to be amazing. But they wanted that to be the first step into discovering this wider range of games, particularly for parents or advocates who had a child with maybe some sort of impairment or disability, or cognitive need. And so, together, and along with a whole bunch of accessibility experts and some input from Special Effect, and Able Gamers, and people like that, we created a whole load of fields on the database that you can show as part of the search to find games that have a very specific set of features. And so, that might be a game that has just been designed with a particular person in mind. So, if you’re designing a game in an inclusive way you might think, “Okay, if I’ve got somebody who can’t see as clearly as everybody else I’ll make sure that the enemies are outlined in white or something. Or I’ll make sure that the text on the screen can be changed in size.” It may be a game that’s been designed like that and, at the same time, it may also be a game that offers a particular setting, to either adjust the size of subtitles or to turn on some visual feedback instead of sound. For instance, Fortnite’s excellent at this: if you have a hearing impairment or if you can’t hear you can put a visual wheel on the screen which is a visual depiction of where the sound’s coming from. And in that game, the sound is really important because you need to hear the footsteps and the gunfire from the people around you, and so you have this visual representation which means that your child could enjoy that game like other children. And in some ways, that’s quite significant because games can be a real leveller, so whereas it may be hard for them to be on a level playing field in a playground, online they can do that. And again, removing that barrier of discovery can be really empowering for parents, and they can suddenly discover, “There are all these games”, and of course because they’re on the database they’re all interlinked, so you can put your search in for whatever you’d like. You can also combine that with saying … so, maybe you say, “My child’s got a cognitive need, they want some low-pressure games so they’re not up against the clock.” But then you could also say, “They’re seven or younger, so I’ll do PEGI-7”, and you could say, “I’ve got a Switch”, and then click search, and then it’ll give you 10, 20 games that would match your criteria. We’ve had lots of really positive feedback and some great conversations about that with parents who just will come to us and say, “I didn’t know.” An Coppens : Yes, exactly. Andy Robertson : “I didn’t know these games existed.” And actually, even for me, I didn’t know lots of these games existed and I really enjoy playing games in different ways and, again, expanding the breadth so that you could always … I’ve learned as much, I think, like anything else by engaging with a whole range of experts and people with impairments. Can games be therapeutic or even calming? Yes, and I think that’s fascinating. And I also think it ties in with the other developments that we’ve seen in the US, I believe, where games were prescribed as ways of even dealing with ADHD. And I thought that was interesting to see that it can actually work as a supplement to therapies that the children are going through in that case. And I thought that’s a nice counterbalance to the original gaming disorder qualification, and then also then now seeing it as therapies going forward, which I think is a positive development as well. Do you have therapeutic-style games on the site that people could look at? Andy Robertson : Yeah. So, the way we categorise games on the site is through a series of lists. And so, these are a little bit like Netflix in terms of when you’re using something like that it’ll notice what you’ve done and it’ll pop up, “Because you watched this particular film, maybe you’ll like these”, or, “Quirky British humour”, or, “American blockbusters.” And so, in a similar way, we’ve got lots of lists of games to help people discover them on the site. And some of these might just be great games to play together, great games to compete at. And one of the ones, like I said earlier, games to be your first game. But also, as well as that, we’ve got games that have been seen as being very useful if you want to find a bit of calm, so games that invite you into space, that either you do something that’s quite systematic and calming, and there’s this rhythm to it, or maybe you’re just floating underwater. And you’re doing something in the game, it’s still a video game, but there’s really not a lot of pressure and it really is about just spending time in that. And you can go from there. Some of the lists we’ve got about games that actually help you engage with your emotions, and are good to play because they’ll bring up emotions as well. And again, if you’re playing with a child and you pick those appropriately it can be a great way to process things. We did a list with a charity about grief. An Coppens : Yes, and that’s important given the COVID-19 climate around us. Andy Robertson : We wanted to find games which would help you process things like that. And so, the list we’ve got there is games that create space for grief, which was with the charity Gaming the Mind. And so, together we looked at games that offered that. Some of them have been designed to help somebody through the process of grief, there’s a game called “A Part of Me”, which is designed to help children voice and put words to what they’re feeling. But other games, it’s just that something happens in the game or the game world where it lets you process loss and the changing of seasons, and it can be quite a helpful, therapeutic way to do that, and very different from doing that by talking therapy, or by watching something or reading something. It’s not done to you, you’re embodied in the game and you’re in control of how fast that happens. So, you’re not just watching a film where someone else is taking you and taking control of what you’re seeing. If you don’t like it, you can just stop and wait until your emotions catch up with you. And so, I think there is a lot to be said for those sorts of games. Of course, you need to understand the child and the situation. An Coppens : Yes, exactly. Andy Robertson : That isn’t where I’d point someone to start with, but … An Coppens : No. For sure not. Andy Robertson : … they can become a really valuable tool, and quite a nice, valuable part of day-to-day life and a way of coping with the world which sometimes isn’t exactly how we’d like it to be. An Coppens : No, exactly. And I think as a regular, casual game player today, I mean, I used to play more immersive games when I had more time, but I play a little game called Diggy’s Adventures, it makes you think sometimes, make you solve puzzles and problems, but it very much is a very daily, I have to remove so many blocks, and it digs its way out towards a treasure and out of a hole, and fights all sorts of creatures. And for me, it is very much relaxing, and very much and end of the day and start of the day fun thing, but it takes me away from, let’s say, the news, the daily grind, the daily everything. And it’s important for children to also have that space, because especially now when they don’t have their friends on the doorsteps in a lot of places in terms of lockdown, and they can’t go and see them, the game space may be the replacement place for what you would normally chat about with your friends in class or playground, or even at sports because a lot of those things are limited right now. Andy Robertson : Yeah, I think that’s true. I think often this conversation goes hand in hand with the safety side of things as well. I’m often in school talking about E-safety and wellbeing, and I like the way that those two marry up, and so usually alongside this, I’d be talking also about how you can set up the technology so that you can be confident that the child’s going to have an appropriate experience, and that there are some healthy limits around it, so that then these other experiences can happen and you can focus on that, rather than pestering about stopping, and stuff like that. Andy Robertson : So, all the modern consoles, and the most recent ones do it even better, have really good settings for specifying how much children can spend, how long they’re playing and who they can talk to and what they can share. So, it’s kind of nice other parts of that conversation. Where do I find the safety settings of a console or gaming device? And where would they find that out? Is it from each console? Or is it from a specific website that you would recommend parents to have a look at to say, “For safety, make sure you check out that website because that’ll tell you what to do or what to look for”? Andy Robertson : All the console creators have their own family settings, instructions, advice, and parental controls. But we’ve done some writing on AskAboutGames on this, which is a slightly higher level just to introduce the sorts of things you should be expected to do when you get a new console, because usually it’s the same sort of thing. And also, just getting into the habit of when you get a new piece of technology, just spend half an hour to an hour before it’s wrapped up and put under the tree, or whatever it’s for, so that you have a chance in a calm and collected way to set up in the right way. And one of the key things is that you set up a user for yourself as the controlling person, and the parent in the room, and then you set up separate users for each child. And then, for those children, you can then specify a bit of pocket money maybe, you can specify how old the age ratings are, how long they play. You could even say, “My son can play Fortnite for an hour, and the has to play something else”, you can even go down to that kind of level and do that with them, those sort of conversations, so that they know and they agree on those kind of limits. Top tip: update the console before Christmas even if it’s a gift for Christmas And that also is a chance, if you’re doing it ahead of gifting it, it’s a chance then to plug it in and make sure it’s updated, because modern consoles usually when you plug them in will have an update. And if you wait and do that on Christmas Day, unfortunately, you probably won’t be playing it on Christmas Day, it will be Boxing Day if you’re lucky, because everybody’s doing that at the same time. And so, by switching it on, plugging it into the interesting, or using your WiFi it will update. And equally, putting in any game codes so they download, put any discs you’ve got in in case there’s updates for the game, it’s kind of that batteries not included moment so you don’t have it unwrapped on Christmas Day and then it’s like, “I’ve got to wait a long time.” An Coppens : Yeah, a big disappointment. Andy Robertson : Yeah, exactly. So, it’s kind of a few things in one but a key thing is just getting it set straight, because if you don’t do that you do it in a rush on Christmas Day in terms of the users. If the child starts using your account, the main account to play on, their saves and stuff and progress will be associated with that user account and then it’s harder to disentangle that and turn them into a child user on the system. And the systems are set up that’s how you limit them and that’s how you control things is via that child user, so you really do need to get into that situation. The last thing that’s worth saying is that, actually, it’s usually much easier than you imagine, and these days all you do is download an app on your phone and the console will update, and while it’s updating you can then do the settings on your app, you don’t have to keep waiting for it. And also, that means then any notifications or updates come to your app so you don’t have to go onto the console to check things, it will tell you … An Coppens : That helps. Andy Robertson : … “This is what your child’s been playing this week. He got some notifications from these friends asking to play, or someone’s asking to be his new friend.” And then you can approve or reject that particular aspect, so you’ve got a much easier way of just being in control. Andy Robertson : And really, that’s a great way just to have to lots of little conversations, like “So and so popped up, who’s that? Is that someone from school?” And it stops it being like, “Oh my gosh, who are you talking to?” An Coppens : Exactly. Andy Robertson : That kind of coming in and policing it. It turns it much more back into a parenting conversation, or a parent or carer. An Coppens : Exactly. And I think that’s where games can find its place in a family and be part of family life. I wish for a day where every family has a game night. I mean, that might just be an illusion in my world, but I think it’s healthy, I think it’s a good thing. And I know my parents definitely have game afternoons now that there’s grandchildren, and they would never have been big fans of games when I was growing up. But no, but there’s grandchildren in the house, they’re learning about all sorts of games and tapping me for information, “What should we do next?” Andy Robertson : I think that will happen. As the media becomes more familiar, it will be accepted and we sentimentalise it as well, and it becomes the norm. And the worry and the moral panic around it is really because it’s new rather than because it’s hugely different to what’s gone before. And I really think that give it 10 years there’ll be something else that’s new and we’ll be saying, “Why can’t the kids just go and play Fortnite like they used to? Why are they doing whatever the new thing is? Can’t they just play that lovely … They used to talk to each other, and they interacted online, and they had teamwork.” An Coppens : Exactly. Andy Robertson : In most of the same ways now we sentimentalise listening to the radio, or reading books and things like that, it’s just the media is new and so it’s unfamiliar. An Coppens : Exactly. I think this has been really helpful to most parents. I mean, even people that aren’t parents but are maybe worried about grandchildren or nieces, nephews, et cetera, because I think it’s definitely something will all have to, at some point, get our heads around where do we stand on the games that people play around us? And how can we encourage them to be used in a good way? Because I do think there is lots of scope for positives to this industry, for as much as the bad rep is also out there. An Coppens : I really appreciate taking the time, Andy, for coming on the podcast. Andy Robertson : My pleasure. An Coppens : If I can ask you your, I suppose, your top final tips for any parent that is still wondering, “Is gaming safe for my child?” What’s your, let’s say, your top three things that they must do? Andy Robertson : I think if there’s something you’re worried about then to take action about it. So, if you’re worried about them talking to someone they don’t know, or playing inappropriate games, take an evening and spend half an hour to an hour just setting up the console so you’re taking back control. It’s not as hard as you might imagine. I think the second thing would be to find some games that you might want to play yourself. And I know that sounds almost a bit crazy and difficult, but there’s really no better thing to gain the trust and the recognition from a child in this space than to actually have played something yourself, particularly if they catch wind of like, “What are you doing, Mom?” “Oh, I’m just playing my game.” “What do you mean you’re playing a game? What are you playing?” And it can really transform a conversation. And to do that, if they go to TamingGaming.com, we keep that list of my first video games at the bottom of that page, it’s always there, and it has about 20 games, so just have a look and they’re all games that you could probably play on a smartphone or any device you’ve already got. And I think, finally, that third point would just be: find some games to play together. If you’ve got a child who’s into games, say, “Is there a game that you’d like to play with me? Or perhaps you’d like me to watch for half an hour?” I think it’s easy as a parent to think, “It’s their thing, I don’t understand it, I don’t want to intrude”, but my experience almost every time, when a parent offers to spend time watching or playing a game with a child it becomes the favorite moment of the child’s gaming week when Mom or Dad is there with them, and they’re very welcoming, and they want to talk about it. So, I think those three things can make a really big difference, and a first step towards changing that conversation in the home. An Coppens : Absolutely. I think that’s great advice. Great advice. So, thank you, Andy, for taking the time. Where can people find you the easiest? Andy Robertson : If you’ve got questions then @GeekDadGamer on Twitter is a good place. AskAboutGames.com has an ask-a-question button that sends an email straight to me and we answer those quite quickly. And if you want to find out more about the book and the database, then TamingGaming.com is the URL, or just Google Taming Gaming, and the top hits are always my site, so you’ll find it like that, yes. An Coppens : Well, I’m looking forward to reading the book when it comes out, I have put my pre-order in, so I recommend anyone else listening to do exactly the same. And yes, I’d love for our listeners to like and forward this podcast session to whoever you think should be listening to it, because I think there’s plenty of parents that might want to hear what we’ve discussed, and we’ll be making all the links available in the notes on the Gamification Nation website. So, thank you for listening, thank you for being on the podcast, Andy. Links: The book: Taming Gaming by Andy Robertson The games database: taminggaming.com AskAboutGames The post Podcast 44: Is gaming bad for my child? appeared first on Gamification Nation.
31 minutes | Jul 28, 2020
Podcast 43: How to compete in an unlevel playing field?
Welcome to a Question of Gamification, a podcast where gamification expert An Coppens answers your questions. Today’s question is How can we compete in an unlevel playing field? Today’s question was triggered based on a number of conversations, I was having online and offline with different people and also across different sectors. So I don’t think it is actually limited to the gamification world. In fact, I think as side hustlers, unlevel playing fields happen and exist in every walk of life, whether you’re a builder and you’re coming up against the little man in a van and rogue builders without certification, etc., or whether you’re in learning design and you come up against people who just basically talk to video or add their PowerPoint deck into a rapid authoring tool and sell it off as amazingly fantastic courses. You will have all of those. In gamification, we have quite a lot of Indies, a lot of small design houses, and I think everyone has to start somewhere. So I applaud them for starting their business, its where I started too. But we also have a lot of people who are in day jobs by reputable institutes, reputable organisations, often researchers, professors, or people working for in jobs that they don’t like or which they are holding on to, for the security of the wage package. So it’s interesting that we come up against them. It’s also interesting to find an approach on how to compete with it. For me as a female founder, for some time, this really annoyed me. It was like, why are they not just sticking to their day job? I was focusing on the fact that in my eyes they already had a main stream of income so why do they want more? I had to find a way of, I guess, rationalising and finding a strategy on how to deal and compete with or against them. Or make peace in my mind that they are there, and they are there to stay. They’re not going to go away. For every one that then becomes a real business. There are a hundred who will never reappear and should never make it. I knew I had to find a way of dealing with it and it had to be a positive way of dealing with it, instead of getting angry all the time, which with social media in the picture, is not always easy. Know what you stand for and what you don’t stand for What I will say is that when you were competing against many side hustlers, is that you need to be clear on what you are and what you’re not. That needs to be very clear to your target market. I would also encourage you to challenge side hustlers or rogue traders and pull them up on things that they are spreading about your industry that you do not find are so savoury or sustainable in the long run. For those of you in a side hustle, appreciate that for people that do pay fair wages and don’t have unlimited access to free software tools that there are different realities out there. Keep that in mind when you make predictions about pricing and what should, and shouldn’t be done. Pricing, when you have access to cheap or free resources is a whole different ball game than when you pay market rates. As a customer, if you are researching who to do business with, look out for whether they are full time working on this work only, or do they have a day job? And if that’s okay with you, then absolutely go for it. B what are their values like? And then when you are shopping around, if you want the cheapest price, the indie will always win the quality and the range and the scalability that they can offer may not be there. You choose and you buy what you choose for as well. How can you deal with competition in a healthy way? Value-based positioning Well, first of all, it’s coming up with your values. And for me, I always wanted to make a name for myself and encourage other women too, to join the gamification industry. I mean, for me, the reason to set up Gamification Nation was to bring a female and feminine voice to the industry. When, as I started in 2012, it was pretty much dominated by white, young men and no offence to the men. They were great. I learned a lot from them. But I also felt there was a need and a space for a more feminine approach and the feminine voice. That’s the reason why I set up Gamification Nation. And as somebody nicknamed me at a conference, yeah, you became the queen of the Gamification Nation. I can live with that. I’ll be the queen of my little nation and, that’s fine with me. I thought it was a funny touch. But what we also stand for and what we also value is to actually build a diverse and inclusive team and also to create diverse and inclusive designs. I’m not saying that side hustlers don’t do that, but as a company, you have much more klout to put your name and your whole set of resources behind that. The raise the game pledge For example, we took the UKIE “raise the game” pledge. UKIE is the UK interactive entertainment industry body, where a lot of the games companies of the UK game associations, as e-sports, et cetera, would link together. We took the pledge to raise the game, and that means that we’re actually actively looking to make sure that we are diverse and inclusive. For me, diverse and inclusive is a spectrum. It’s a spectrum of first and foremost gender for me because that’s one of my reasons for being in the industry. Making it easier for young girls to find other young girls or other girls or women that they can look up to and speed that road model that basically has paved the parkway for them to go after what they want to do. I mean, I wanted to be a game designer as a kid. I was eight when I sat down first and I was told under no certain terms, there is no money in games and look at it now, it’s the biggest moneymaking industry in the UK. So, you know, let’s just, let’s just park that one. But, diversity and inclusion is about many more things. So it’s about ability. It’s about race. It’s about language. It’s about religion, belief systems. It’s about creating an atmosphere and a working environment where everyone has a place and everybody can feel that they can belong. Everybody’s ideas, and thoughts are heard. Whether they are implemented is a different story because they still have to make sense within the constructs of either a game or the business. So there may still be reasons why you do things a certain way. But when we design, we also want to make sure that our designs are as inclusive as possible. Align messaging and values I believe that when you trade on values and when you position yourself as a value based business, That you also open up your marketing and your messaging to something that people can buy into and you’ll gain clients that are attracted to that and you’ll also repel clients or send clients to a completely different provider because they don’t like what you stand for. And that’s perfectly okay. I’d rather work with the ones that buy into what we’re trying to achieve. Rather than the ones that are out for the quick buck or encourage hate of all kinds because I think that’s the counter opposite from inclusion and diversity. A culture of hate and discrimination, which I don’t think benefits us as a planet and most people and creatures living here. So, yeah, that’s my two pence on values, I guess. But, value based positioning is the first thing I would look at. It’s like, what do you stand for, what are you trying to bring to the market. As a side hustler, whilst you may be you and present yourself a certain way, you still have to be mindful of your day job. You still have to be mindful of the other things you stand for, and that may cause its own side effects. Pricing as a differentiator The other parts that I would look at is your pricing. What does your pricing tell you? Because people that are price shoppers, will always look for the quick bargain, the cheap deal. Those people will go with the indie, no matter what, and they’ll go the cheapest way. It will often cost them more in the long run because we have had people come from very inexperienced designs to us and say, well, could you fix this? Then we have to start all over and immediately you’re talking five figures to simply fix the damn thing. When you’re shopping around, look at what can you actually realistically get for your budget? Over the lockdown period, I was involved in several networking groups, some going way back to my roots in the Irish market. I received regular requests for gamification or game design. Typically the scenario would go a bit like this, could you do this, I’m a one-man band, blah, blah, blah, this is what I want to make and create, etc. And Whilst all the ideas were fabulous, fantastic and amazing, most of the time while as soon as we said, well, it would cost you this much. They nearly fell into a coma. It wasn’t COVID induced, it was a price induced coma. So, we know that for certain market segments, we’re really not the player on the business that can deliver for you. Being clear on how your pricing deters certain people away from you and attracts others toward you is important to understand and to note. For all the, the ones who are in day jobs and at the same time making claims about how pricing should be done in an industry. I would ask you to consider and make sure that it is actually ethical for the industry to promote what you’re saying as sustainable. I also believe that side hustlers are essential for competition and that they are providing a service to the market segments we can’t serve. But if their standards are perceived as the norm, then I also believe that they can do untold damage. It can raise expectations, especially if they are seen as some kind of authority and big thinker in the field. You then rule
12 minutes | Jul 7, 2020
Podcast 42: What have the generations in work been doing in lockdown?
Welcome to a Question of Gamification! Today’s question is, “what have your people been doing in lockdown?” We will take a look at how much they’ve been spending their time on various tools and media, based on the global web index. We will look at where have your people hung out and you know, we’ll use a few statistical research tools that have given us different insights. Generations at work But, we also look at it from a generational perspective. First things first, and… what have they been doing on mass? Well, in April, they were mainly still searching for Coronavirus updates. People were looking for, rule changes, etc. The biggest group active in doing that were the millennials, followed closely by Generation X. Generation X are those aged in the mid-thirties to mid-forties, some even end of the forties. And then, boomers are the generation that follows in age group the 55 plussers. Millennials are aged between 25 to 35 more or less and Gen Z are classed those younger than 25 better. The generation as defined by Global Web Index in their research: Gen Z – 16-23 years-old Gen Y (Millennials) – 24-37 years-old Gen X – 38-56 years-old Baby boomers – 57-64 years-old If we look at, the various generations, they had one consistency, all of those actively in work were looking for Coronavirus updates and following the statistics and probably reading some of the news. Then, after that, actually, the divide becomes more interesting. Listening to music online was very much a Gen Z sport, as in, the youngest of the generations in work would have spent 70% of their time engaging with music. Then, you know, for millennials that drops down to about 60% for Gen X 50% and for the baby boomers down to about 40%. It had a gliding scale backwards. Watching movies was the highest for millennials, watching funny videos, the highest for GenZ, so the younger ones. And then playing games actually came in a solid fourth place across ALL age groups. Now give it 10 years ago, that was not the case, so playing games on mobile playing games on laptops, if you combine the two, they were actually one of the top activities for Generation Z, a generation of millennials, and even 30% of Gen X and baby boomers are 30/35% of those were engaged in playing games, either online, or mobile or on a PC or laptops. Top online consumption (based on figures from April 2020 from Global Web Index) Coronavirus news and updates (68%) listening to music (58%), watching movies/shows (49%), watching funny videos (42%), playing games on mobile (40%), and looking at memes (32%) Unless you are a Gen Z native in which case the list was something more like this: Listening to music (71%) Looking for memes (54%) Looking at funny videos (52%) So, there’s quite an interesting divide. Now. Some of the other things people have done is reading business articles, looking for cooking recipes, looking for discounts, healthy eating, sports news, celebrity news. And then it goes all the way down to, well, beyond 10th place before people actually engage in learning activities like podcasts, live blogs and webinars are way down. They weren’t consuming educational content If you were thinking, and a lot of my audience is in the learning space, so I would have expected it to be higher. If you’re thinking that your people have been diligently learning and consuming content, think again! Most likely there will have been listening to music or listening to something, watching movies or videos, looking at memes or playing games. I’m thrilled to say that games are up there. Games enable connection and achievement Now, this was a global web index report dating back to April. Haven’t yet seen the figures for May and June, but my thinking is that, this may not be vastly different. When I look at, the increase in consumer behaviour, even in just the UK, analysed by, Statista and others, we see a, like a similar pattern emerge where games are increasingly high up the list and across the four generations. The four generations that we still find in the workplace. So, it’s interesting to see the biggest uptake of games is obviously with the younger two of the groups. Anyone up to 35 and a bit, definitely engages in games quite a bit, from 60 to 70% in some cases. Then for the older groups that drops a bit to about 30-40%. But think of this, they’ve been choosing to spend their own free time in such a way. Now you are asking them to engage with one-way traffic systems! If you’ve listened to the previous episode of a question of gamification on being all Zoomed out on this podcast, then you know my views on this, one-way traffic is not a typical thing that people would love. People listen to music for a variety of reasons, for example, to cheer them up but to also have some background noise whilst they’re still working. When they’re not working, they are choosing activities that they have two-way feedback with again, achieve things in. Because the feedback we normally get from the world of work, where a manager will tell you if something was done well, a client will give you feedback…you know, you may have to rework certain things ‘cause they weren’t quite up to what people were looking for, so, you know, the variation of, of what people do and look for is no different in, let’s say, a remote working world, as it is in a face to face working world. If you take away the face to face interactions, which we had to learn to do on mass, by force thanks to most of our governments, you basically take away a lot of that two-way information, feedback, and connection. And people looked at games for their sense of connection. People looked at funny videos too, to create a feeling of joy, to have that bit of an uplift. Should games have a permanent place even in work? There is a pattern there that I think is important to be mindful of. And also to be aware of when people are going back to the world of regular work, is: can games find a place in your regular workplace? Because people got used to playing them in lockdown, so why not continue that trend? And yes, I will say I have a vested interest in saying this because obviously, we create serious games and we create gamified solutions. So yes, I’m not a hundred percent neutral on this. Then the data, I look at, are neutral in the sense that it tells us what people are actually choosing to do that as their fourth-biggest activity online in the lockdown. It tells you something. We can’t continue to ignore it in favour of one-way traffic tools, which were our place 10 and beyond for people’s consumption of learning information. I just wanted to put that out there. If you look at the various data, see the infographic below created by Visual Capitalist. You can see what have people been doing, where have they been spending their time. What does that mean for your organisation? I would even go as far as asking those questions when people come back to work. Or even before, while if you remain working, mostly remotely, is to actively look for ways to create two-way interaction streams. Work at creating moments of connection, with connection being something where feelings are expressed and expressed, in its full range of feelings. Because I also believe that after a long period of lockdown, people hold on to emotions to cope and get through it and come out to the other side. But that also means that those feelings still have to go places. People may have experienced losses of their people. People may have experienced losses of all sorts, income, obviously freedoms. There will be an explosion of the opposites, and feelings need to go places. It’s, it’s how nature works. It’s how our bodies process stuff. So I think it will be very important in a post lockdown work reality is to create moments of reflection, moments of just deep talk, deep conversation and allowing safe spaces for that. Because thinking that the manager can take this on, that’s a big ask because they may have experienced exactly the same. I would even say, create a safe space with access to professional people who know what to do and know how to handle grief, grief in all of its forms. What started as a lighthearted way of looking at what a few people been doing in lockdown across the generations, has become quite deep, quite quickly. I think that was maybe even a sign of reflection here on my part as well, coming out of lockdown and not being able to travel to where my clients are, where my people are. There’s a sense of unexpected new realities, not knowing what to do, what to expect, who will be back, who may not be back, will the company survive, will it not? There are many, many questions. So, my guess is that, if you can provide two-way systems that provide support that provides, the possibility to connect for fun, but also for, the deeper stuff and you look at how you can engage your people. So you can move forward, so that they can come out of it, whole again, in a new way of being whole, maybe, because there might still be glaring gaps of missing people, glaring gaps or missing something that used to be there. If you look at communication tools and what people have used, I can guarantee you it’s probably not what you would have thought, it’s probably more likely to be the more entertaining stuff that people have been looking for in lockdown. I hope this is meaningful to you. Please do comments if it is and do challenge me if it isn’t. And I look forward to talking to you in our next episode. Great infographic based on Global Web Index research we mentioned from Visual Capitalist The post Podcast 42: What have the generations in work been doing in lockdown? appeared first on Gamification Nation.
17 minutes | Jun 30, 2020
Podcast 41: Are you all zoomed out?
Welcome to a Question of Gamification. I’m An Coppens the show host for the show and today’s question is one of mine. Are you all zoomed out? Yes. I mean the Zoom online meeting system or in fact, any online webinar, meeting or conferencing tool. In this lockdown, and thankfully for many of us, we are coming to the end of the lockdown. Or at least the end of remote working for some of you. For organizations like ours that have been remote from the start, we’ll continue to do what you have been doing for the last number of weeks. As in work remotely and we probably see many more companies doing this. What I see is there’s an awful lot of debate on how great it is that more things are moving online and how great it is. I champion that. I would be the first to say, yes, I think it’s good that we are exploring all opportunities and all ways of communicating, I am definitely all for it. One-way traffic or Talking heads syndrome What I also increasingly see, and this is what I feel a bit more opinionated about, because of our gamification work where we try to encourage engagement, and this is the talking heads syndrome. I think in most of the meetings that I’ve been in online, whether they were conferences, learning events, et cetera, the trend is towards more talking heads, video heads. People talking at you with very limited interaction. In fact, in some online conferences, they are even going so far as saying, please do not post questions on the sidebar whilst people are speaking. Or the other example where they are at least trying I guess, where there is a sidebar in the software, where you do get encouraged to ask questions but then nobody answers anything and you are left with to nothing, no interaction or no questions answered. The people that are actually speaking rather than just ramble on about whatever hobby horse topic, they are on. Some of them are very informational. Don’t get me wrong. But it’s very much an information one-way street and very little about the two-way interactive experience that most learners need for them to make sense out of information. The side or backchannel matters I’m also part of other networks where I actually feel, you can have a great sideshow going whilst still listening to the speaker. I think that is more true to reality. In most situations, if you’re training in the classroom, primarily, you’ll always have side chat, side conversations and sometimes these side conversations will make the mainstream. Sometimes they don’t. I think that’s natural. So for people to be asked to shut these natural responses down, I think is going against human nature. What is worse and more likely to happen is that they will join each other on Slack and start slagging each other off, or the speaker off or worse again, tune out altogether and leave the meeting or conference run in the background. I have definitely done that on a lot of online events and conferences in recent months. Making your online meeting or conference more interactive? What can you do to make your Zoom or whichever webinar tool that you use more interactive? The first thing is to actually look for questions and to engage people, to comment on specific topics. You can include polls. Most of the webinar or online meeting software, these days have polls as a functionality, where you can get like a temperature check. As a rough guide, I would say every five to 10 minutes, you should schedule in some activity in order to keep people engaged, whether that is a Q and A, whether that is a quiz, whether that is a poll, whether that is a question what are your thoughts. Ideally, go further and get people to work together on something. People work together in the real world. I would go even further than that and set them a challenge where they can break out into breakout rooms, work on it together, and then have per group feedback very much like you would do in a, in a seminar setting. So if I’m running a workshop, I would divide people into small groups and ask them for feedback.I don’t see this happening online. I feel we’re missing a trick. The tools can do it. So it’s not even a limitation for Zoom or most webinars systems, most of them (and if they don’t you should be looking for new ones) are able to set up small groups, have breakout rooms, have you, as the organizer float around into the different rooms even. We use a tool called Learnbrite, which allows us to set up several rooms. It allows us to do interactions. Each person creates an avatar and who-ever you are close to you can have a virtual conversation with. In our team, we tested this and some of came through loud and clear and a few with lower bandwidth heard more robotic style voices but could still participate. I also love whiteboard technology. Miro is another tool that we use inside the company to co-create and collaborate. Miro boards are like regular physical whiteboards only these live in the virtual world and they allow you to even host meetings on specific boards. A presenter or any user can pull all the others to a part of the board he/she wants them to see. (All the links here are affiliate links, just giving you the heads up on that). We love Miro in our office because it allows us to post ideas as you have on any whiteboard for brainstorming. Then people in their own time can come back to it, add more to it, ask questions, put post-its on it or images. So you get a very wide and very rich brainstorm rather than just, whatever one person says at any given time.I think that’s really useful. Those boards can be used as a conferencing tool. You can also use whiteboards in online meetings. I have often run online courses where I had multiple people writing on whiteboards, which ended up very funny at times, but it’s about the interaction. It’s about engagement. One way communication = switch off risk The longer you talk on your own without any feedback, without any two-way communication, the more people are going to be switched off. Unless you have the most entertaining voice or the kind of personality that people are just glued to from start to finish, most of us can’t pull that off. Even if you’re a great speaker, it is hard to capture someone’s attention for any longer than 10, 15 minutes at a time. Research tells us that attention spans are shrinking all the time. Part of that is driven by television, part of that is driven by the habits we have. We have a very small amount of minutes to impress. Boring! Recently, I sat through a few sessions on a multistream conference, great conference, great topics. But some of them delivered in such a boring fashion that I felt, Oh my goodness, me, I can’t do this for another two days because the conference was running for two more days. It made me feel: A) Glad, I didn’t pay for it. B) Really annoyed that some of the topics were done major injustice, because of the way they were being delivered. When you are looking at sharing content online in any which way, talking heads is not always the one and only format you should be going for. Your face to camera, however, pretty your face is, still only gives me one feed, one interaction with you. Create multiple streams of contact What I would want to create is at least two to three more interaction points where I can actually engage with you directly to ask you a question where I can take a guess on something, give my contribution in a poll or give it my best shot in a quiz. There are tools that you can plug into your systems like Kahoot! for example, but they’re only one of a number of others on the market who facilitate online collaboration, such as quizzes or polls and more fun stuff than that. There is so much more you can do and I feel in a world that’s going more and more digital. We really need to exploit how digital can be the enabler for things, as opposed to becoming the one-way traffic channel of choice, which it currently is. Because really, what’s the difference. If I am just sitting there watching you talk, I might as well turn on my TV and at least there the content is highly produced. I might even get better quality information from looking at documentaries on my television or on Netflix or something. Most of the online things I see at the moment are home produced. They are you or one person talking to camera, no explanations of systems, no explanations of how things really work. No deep dives, no Q and A, I mean, it’s shocking. Top 3 tips to have better online meetings and conferences If you want to improve my top three tips are: Look at multiple ways to communicate. Not just talking heads, but a variation of talking heads, slides, questions and answers. Encouraging engagement and engagement means that it’s two-way feedback and let people be negative. Allow them to ask that really difficult question, allow them to give comments, allow them to rate a thumbs up or a thumb down. Some of the meeting tools are able to have upvoting. Both Slido and Crowdcast allow you to upvote participant questions. Use systems like that. Where basically people can contribute a question and then the other participants can indicate, oh yeah, I would like that one answered or no, that’s not so much on my type of interests that I’m looking for. It’s, it’s getting people involved. Allow for side communication, allow the side chat to happen. Adults are sense-making machines. They make sense of information by conversation and by relating it back to things they can associate with. I’m part of a few networks that use Crowdcast. What happens on Crowdcast is that you have a very active sidechat where people are commenting and are having a side conversation. In one group that attend on a regular basis, side chat is actively encouraged and often the chatter is funn
28 minutes | May 5, 2020
Podcast 40: What does loyalty mean in times of crisis?
What does loyalty mean in times of crisis Welcome to a Question of Gamification. I am An Coppens, the show host for this show and the CEO and chief game changer at Gamification Nation. Today, I want to answer the question, what does loyalty mean in times of crisis? I will give a bit of a health warning to start with, that this will be a very personal and probably a very honest podcast episode in the sense that what we see all around us is probably the same for most of us. How we see and how we experience what is going on with Covid-19, business, family, friends, is what’s different based on all of our own previous experiences. The topic of loyalty is interesting because in gamification, we often design for loyalty, for consistency, for continuous support for either a company, a product or even a service offering. We often get asked to make learning sticky, which is effectively a request to train people to be loyal to training itself, but also loyal to specific pieces of content. Now, what I’m noticing, and I wonder if it’s the same for you, is that loyalty during this time also has many more meanings. Or maybe it’s just the same, only experienced much more in your face now, than it used to be before. I think as a small business loyalty from your customers, loyalty from your suppliers and loyalty from the leaders towards the people that work for you. Loyalty in times of crisis? Well, I have to say what was striking in the early weeks of this COVID19 lockdown, is that our pipeline went from a healthy pipeline of many potential projects to nearly completely gone in the space of two weeks. The biggest companies were the first to drop the enquiry and to close the ranks. The smaller ones led us a little bit on the long finger and you know, eventually also had to park or pause. From the existing clients, it was also interesting to see who’s being loyal and who we could turn to because as soon as we started losing pipeline, one of the steps I took was to reach out to our client base and say, look, is there anything else we can do for you? Is there a project that you’ve been thinking about that you now have time to execute? The response to that was also interesting. Those that we worked well with, and you know, although they didn’t have immediate projects, we’re able to reach out and say, Hey, why don’t we do this? Why don’t we look at that? And a few others rang me personally to say, “Hey, we’ll keep an eye out for something. You know, we don’t have anything right now that we can move on with but, you’re first on the list when we do.” You know, those are heartening things when everyone is feeling the pinch of lockdowns and potential closures. We are no way near as bad as a retail store or a bar or restaurant who have to completely lockdown and many won’t make it out of this crisis. Saying that, we didn’t actually expect to be hit as much as we are, because in reality, our business has been functioning remotely since its inception. That’s how we structured it. That’s how I wanted it to be, to have, let’s say, a digital nomad lifestyle. And you know, most of my team is the same. You know, we meet when we can in person, but we don’t have to meet on a regular basis to be effective and to deliver the services we do. So it was interesting to see that even though we are structured that way, that we are still significantly hit. Reality check We had eight live projects, out of the eight only two are still alive. We had, as I said, a healthy pipeline. That one completely evaporated within the space of two weeks, and we have not, so far been able to generate new business. The team, on my side, I’ve been honest with from the start. My guys, we have a small team of seven people. Most of them are on long term freelance arrangements with us. So we’re very much tapping into the gig economy. What I could have done is say to everyone, looks like, we’re closing, closing projects and therefore thank you very much and goodbye.I really didn’t want to do that. I wanted to keep the team together. It’s a great group of guys and girls. I wanted to be loyal to them and to generate projects and work as hard as I could to generate projects for them. Unfortunately that’s not happening at the quick rate that I need it to happen or for them. Unfortunately, we are losing some because they’ve had better opportunities come along, offers that give certainty. In a time where you have certainty or something, you enjoy doing. I think a lot of people are making a difficult choice of picking certainty. For the guys that are able to stick around they have basically taken cuts and have been patient in waiting for remuneration. They have helped in, in putting together our free Covid-19 resources from the trivia quiz to the board game. Working remotely: do we really need another framework? One of the first things, I did when this whole lockdown started was to write a post on LinkedIn to explain how we work remotely for years to share my experience. I think about two or three weeks after, some of the others in the same industry came out with frameworks on how to work remotely. I’m like, oh, for goodness sakes, guys, really? Do we have to do that? But Hey, horses for courses, everyone’s different. I genuinely wanted to share how we work for people that were struggling with the transition of working remotely. I wanted to share “how to do it.” I wanted to share what we do, the tools we used and how we make things happen, what meetings we run, communication and other good stuff. Morale I could feel, and I could sense that the morale in the team was sort of slipping and we were all, me included, wondering, what are we going to have to do? How is this going to affect us? The clients we do have the projects live for are going through challenges as well, what’s the certainty in them, etc.? It was part managing my own emotions and part managing the team’s emotion. And one of the first things we did was say, what are the few things that we do that still make us feel good? To be honest, because I needed it just as much as they did. I asked them all to share in our Slack channels, five games they like to play to relax and feel better. Five songs and then five things to do. Most of them I have shared, I have shared those on our daily inspiration blog for the last few weeks. I didn’t renew them. I think the traffic to it was not very high anyway, but at least in the short term, it actually lifted our spirits and focused us on something positive. Then we decided that we wanted to do something useful and good together for this crisis to help people. We have released the COVID19 free resources page, and here all of the team contributed to making a board game. The board game is free to play. You just download it’s called a planet called hope. Basically you get to redesign a new planet after, let’s say planet earth is no more, and you have to make decisions in collaboration with the other players around the table. If you wanted to go to our planet called hope page and download it. It’s free for you to print, colour in, cut out and then play. We are working on pricing it with our printers, so that it can be for sale as an actual physical board game. Unfortunately, those we cannot offer for free because it involves expenses of print materials. We will make it available for sale when we get pricing and information back from our printers. And when they can deliver after the lockdown is over. Those are some of the immediate things we did. The COVID19 free resources all focused us on something positive for a bit. True colours The other part about loyalty, that I find fascinating is that people are really starting to show their true colours and maybe not just like they always did, I guess. I don’t think that’s maybe different or disloyal, but I think what’s more clear now is that those that have been treating people with integrity, authenticity, et cetera, continue to do that. Those that were genuinely in the business of trying to help someone. They are still trying to do that. Those that were lying persistently, not naming any particular politicians, but there are a few that that kind of hit that note. They are true to form, consistently doing the same thing they always did, AKA lying. I find it interesting to see and notice. My Facebook feed is full of people who have been in the coaching business, in the self-development business, mentoring companies. It’s fascinating to watch. It’s like in behavioural experiment right in front of your eyes. Very early on in this crisis, I had a very ranty post on Facebook about the fact that actually saw many sharks popping up. Overnight self-development gurus who have no track record, who have no interest in seeing you succeed. But out there to make a quick buck. One of my points was, Be careful where you spend your money, spend it with caution, and do your due diligence on who you do business with because the ones that really have your best interest at heart, they have your best interest at heart and you will notice that through their posts, through their behaviours. In fact, I would even hazard a guess that a lot of those that really have your best interests at heart are doing their, their business at reduced rates even free of charge in some cases. The ones that are in it for a quick book, they’re touting courses. They’ve come from, let’s say, a completely different field, let’s call it manufacturing, running bars, restaurants, running property companies, etc. into we’re online course gurus and we’re doing this, that, and the other. Please, please, please examine who you’re doing business with. Look at their track records.
9 minutes | Apr 24, 2020
Podcast 39: What are we doing for COVID-19?
Today I wanted to give you an update of what we are doing in light of all of the lockdowns internationally. As well as all of the loss of business or contraction of business worldwide. Thanks to the same virus. I hope at the same time that you are staying safe, keeping your distance and doing whatever the World Health Organisation or your local governments or both are telling you to do. The business impact From our business perspective, it has been, to be perfectly honest, a bit of a scary moment because when the lockdown started to take hold of Europe, a lot of our projects were put on hold. Meetings that were arranged were obviously no longer possible because of travel restrictions and even meeting restrictions. So from a business perspective, this has had a major impact. Now, a few weeks into this, we are seeing things stabilise. So we are hopeful that things will ease off. And from our corporate client perspectives, we see actually things progressing as normal or as much as normal can be, which, people now established in remote offices, et cetera. Now, our business has been remote from the start. So, for us, it’s just business as usual in, in some sense. So we were quite bizarrely taken aback by how much time it took, some of our client organisations to adopt and approach that we have been living day to day for years and years. Team actions: inspiration posts I wanted to share with you some of the things we have done and some of the things we are still doing and how maybe they could be useful to you. The first thing I did when the lockdown happened was to get the team together and asked the question, what do we want to do? Can we do something to cheer people up? Because in the end of the day, in the serious games business, just like in the games business where you are in the business of motivating people, engaging people, and helping people to feel good, empowered and better than they did before they engaged with us or met with us. So from our perspective, it was important to keep people in that tone and share that message. The whole team actually agreed with me. That’s not the most usual thing to happen at Gamification Nation. We all said, let’s do something nice. And because a lot of us were affected and impacted quite directly, quite quickly, we started sharing the feel good inspiration of the day. If you followed us on social media, then you have probably seen the messages. But every single one of our team contributed to the feel-good messages. Now in the feel good inspiration of the day you had a feel good game. A game that our team members used to cheer themselves up of feel-good songs we listened to, to feel better and a feel-good thing to do. Then I put together some cartoons to go with it too. To spread a message of joy, lightheartedness, because I’m sure there’s plenty of heavy stuff going on. Free resources What we’ve also done is created a trivia quiz and some fun polls, which could be a bit of fun. If you’re isolated on your own, you can play alone, but if you’re isolated and you’re connected with people, you can play together or even if you’re isolated alone and you have the internet working, you can still play with friends. We created a trivia quiz, a poll and COVID-19 myth busters quiz. They’re all available on our COVID19 free resources page. Test your knowledge, have some fun. We’ve also created a 31 day learning inspiration calendar, so basically 31 learning resources that you could tap into because we’re very much about learning and learning games. It is a list of resources where you can find inspiration and new things to try and learn.You may have heard of some, you may not have heard of others. Then we also grouped all of the games that the whole team came up with as feel-good suggestions. So we have 42 games that we play to chill and feel better. If you were short of game, game inspiration, there’s loads there. I’ve also asked our guys to create a space on this page for free talks and podcasts. Basically, we have a podcast room and a gallery of my talks, which you can click and listen to. Feel free to explore, listen and I would love to hear your thoughts on it. Our remote working tools We’ve created some links to tools that we use when we’re working remotely to one of our favorites, the Miro boards, which are online whiteboards, which we use to collaborate and co-create things together. And then Click Meeting, a online meeting webinar system, which can be used to push to social media as well. So, we particularly like those two. So we’ve added those to our list. Free to download board game: A Planet called Hope We have created a board game, called A Planet Called Hope. Basically you get to reconstruct the world post COVID19 on a planet called Hope. It’s a collaborative board game that you play together. We’re making it available free of charge to download. It’s an arts and crafts project first. You cut out all the pieces, you make sure that you have them all. Then, if you’ve chosen the black and white version, you may get your kids to colour them in and make them look pretty, or you just play in black and white and imagine the colour for yourself, or you print out the coloured version and use it from there. We wanted to do it because we keep hearing people being bored. Families also getting to the point of Monopoly overload where there’s actually too many fights breaking out, which is why we wanted to make our game collaborative, where everyone around the table plays against the board. It is a collaborative board game, which means you have got the play together to win. We believe it’s a neat little game. We’d love to hear your comments. You’re basically our play testers and beta testers. By all means comment on the page for the game to give us your feedback and if you really, really like it, we’re also releasing a actual physical version in our store once the printers are open again, and they can print our games. So, yes, we hope that you stay safe, that you follow the guidelines. We are very much in line with the whole games industry’s thinking of, play a part together. If you are apart right now, you can join online games. You can join each other through Skype or webinars systems. To connect and play at the same time. A lot of the mobile applications today are enabling you to do that. We are open for business At the same time, we are also still working on projects, we have a few projects which are thankfully ongoing. And, we are working in the background on a major big announcements that hopefully once this whole business of lockdowns dies down, we can put to the market and get people using. If you have a game design project, a serious game design project or a gamification project, by all means, talk to me. We are still here to do business. We are happy to work with you, talk with you, and work on your projects. I hope you get something out of our free resources. And if you do, please share it forward. Please let us know because it’s important for my team to also hear that actually they’re making a difference. The post Podcast 39: What are we doing for COVID-19? appeared first on Gamification Nation.
14 minutes | Mar 24, 2020
Podcast 38: What is a gamification strategy?
Welcome to this week’s question of gamification. My name is An Coppens. I’m the show host for this podcast and the CEO and founder of Gamification Nation. A question we get always or regularly asked, maybe not always, is what is a gamification strategy and why should I have one? Well. It’s one of the first things we will embark on with most of our clients. Whether you design a serious game or design a gamified process. In effect, we always start with a strategy and some of the key questions we want answered in the strategy is why did you choose gamification? Now, strategies typically sits as a direction setting tool. Something that shows what’s the roadmap. What’s the thinking? Where are we going with this and why does it matter? So gamification strategy is no different. So if you are for the first time going to be using games or, gamified processes, then the question is, why did you choose that tool of communication as opposed to other tools of communication? Why did you eliminate the other tools? And. You know, what’s your thinking behind that? So we want to know what drove you to the up decision and why do you want to do that? Very often we hear or we want to appeal to the younger audiences, so therefore we need to include games and gamification. It’s a good enough reason to include games and gamification if your audience is indeed of that generation, and if they are the kinds that actually do play games because believe it or not, although games are played by nearly 80% of the population these days and that’s including board games, sports, etc. As well as the digital video games, computer games, that we probably think of when we talk gaming, we also know that the average gamer is about 35, is probably male in some countries, female, but the split is, is 52-48 either side of the gender fence. So it’s not something that is that much geared towards the younger generations. When we are saying, games are sort of the language young people speak, we do know that a young person today is likely to have played more games than they have actually done homework or studied for their courses. So there is a pinch of salt be with that. Why is that? Because it’s much more accessible than let’s say, when I was a kid. I’m a generation X’er so if anyone wants to know. So in my days the games I played were competitive sports. A lot of games at parties, which could have been board games but also physical games. I remember my birthday parties being very much driven around crossing obstacles in the garden. And if you wanted to be safe to the other side, you went through a little puddle pool or other obstacle for that matter much to the enjoyment of some of the parents of older children that attended my parties. So you know why, why using a game is an important question to answer as part of your strategy. I would also say, how does it then fit with the other strategies you have for your business? And if it is to attract younger audiences, yes, games can work. If it is to engage or retain more of the right people, whether that’s the right customers, the right clients, or the right employees. Games can be a good differentiator on that because you can basically build challenges into games and gamified processes that you wouldn’t necessarily find in traditional onboarding of a new client or onboarding of a new employee. Games can work on multiple levels too. Give you insights that you wouldn’t get from regular communication patterns that exist in the market today. So, and it can be in a neat little test of how willing is your person to engage in play and does that fit with your culture. And that brings us onto to an important point. Culture is important. So if this is your first venture into games or anything gamified, then I would say where does it fit in the longer term view strategy? Is it the start of more games and more gamification, or is it a once-off. It’s important to know which it is. If it is a once-off, then how long do you want it to have impact for? Why do you want to embark on it now? Is there a good reason to pick the area that you’ve picked it for or should there be other areas that may be have higher priority? If it’s the first of many, if it’s part of a longer term strategy or even a proof of concept. Will it work for us as our audience? Will they respond to it? Then, the question is where are you going to start? What’s the most meaningful place to start? Sometimes your internal audience is good. Sometimes it’s better to start at recruitment and attracting new, a new, I suppose, generation of employees or a new type of employees through a game-based recruitment and game-based employer branding. So there is more than one way to think about it. And what I would typically encourage people to do is to look at, okay, where does it fit into the overall company strategy? Why now? What’s the long term view of it? Is it once-off multiple and part of a larger strategy? If it is part of a larger strategy, what’s the best entry point? Where does the proof of concept need to be proven first, and then which other areas would you think of rolling this out to next? So if we think about gamification and gamification platform specifically, which help you basically to add game elements to existing business processes. When you’re going to invest in a gamification platform, you may as well look out more than one place to use it. My advice would still be start with one place. Start even with one location, one team. Even if you want to go that granular to do a proof of concept. Fine tune the game play and the gamified elements that you’re using to that audience and then roll it out further little by little in phase steps. That would be my advice. From a platform perspective though, the platform can plug in to typically any, system that has API or, abilities. So API is means you can connect, IT systems to one another. So what you need to find out first is, can the system that you want to plug into accept two way streams of, of triggers, and then. If it can, then you basically could apply gamification to anything from marketing, to sales, to operations, to anything to do with your employee life cycle, your customer life cycle. So you can plug it in pretty much anywhere. there is a system that allows for API’s to travel both ways. If it is a game that you’re looking for, if it’s a serious game, typically the budgets are actually comparable to begin installation of a big, gamification platform. Bespoke game can cost similar in the region, which is usually five figures, and upwards. And basically what you’re looking at is a reason to create a game. And I would always see where else can this be useful? Where else can it be deployed? What is it that’s going to add that extra bit of value? What we also see and as gamification strategies go. We are often asked, yes, we will in the gamification for younger audiences. What we see in reality from data is that when serious games are built, it’s often the more senior generation in the workplace that plays more often than the younger generations. My thinking, and this is not scientifically proven, but, my hunch is that it is actually new on a newer way of working for the older generation, whereas for the younger ones, it’s like, yeah, we expected that it’s business as usual, get over it. That type of attitude. Whereas for generations that have been in workplace for some time a game can allow you to test some of your thinking in a safe environment. It can allow you to play around with different mechanics that you didn’t think, we’re going to help or make things happen. If we look at the reasons or the general feedback on gamification, we know from surveys that about 80 to 90% of people in the workplace thinks that gamification adds some value and will help them do their job better in a more productive way. So that’s a positive. And also that really good results are achieved with this. Now, when I say really good results come from it. It means that when you’re setting your strategy, you have a clear vision on what the result is that you want to achieve. And that’s also a question that we would ask as part of the strategy design process is what those good gamification or a good game look like to you, why and what will people feel like throughout the process and also what are the differences in feedback that you want. So to give an example, we worked with a financial Institute awhile ago where their objective for gamified lead generation campaign was to increase their number of leads and converted leads. So good gamification for them was that there was actually real difference made in finding new leads and getting higher percentage. For another company, it was a referral campaign that meant was gamified, and again, the amount of referrals they wanted to increase by 5%. They had already done some groundwork and some campaigns in previous years so they knew they had a baseline figure of what they wanted to achieve. What we find, typically speaking when we’re speaking to in house or internal facing, gamification audiences like HR and learning teams is, defining and quantifying is harder than when we’re speaking to sales and marketing teams. And yet we do recommend that you do quantify it, and that you do find baseline numbers so that you know what you’re measuring against and you’ll know whether you are actually hitting the needle at all in towards the improvement that you want. Because for us, we’re happy to design you a game, but if it doesn’t get your results, then I feel we haven’t delivered on what it is we set out to do. And sometimes when we’re not clear on what it is we set out to do, it’s hard to deliver on exac
19 minutes | Mar 17, 2020
Podcast 37: How we took a top grossing mobile game and are making it into a recruitment, onboarding and learning solution
Welcome to this week’s a question of Gamification. My name is An Coppens, I’m the show host and the CEO of Gamification Nation. This week we will follow on from our podcast from last week where we discussed how you could use Monopoly or a board game of any kind as inspiration for your game design for work solution. How to take inspiration from top-grossing games for serious purposes? The question we’re answering today is how can top-grossing games be the inspiration for your solution, for your game based solution, basically? To give you an idea, the client that we’re working with is operating in one of the Asian markets. We are under a strict NDA, so I cannot disclose the people or the kind of company it is, but I can give you some context. Step 1: user research It’s an Asian facing client or audience that we’re targeting and what they wanted to do was come up with something that would work for their recruitment, onboarding and learning, both learning for the first time as well as continuous development in the workplace. Now we did research and that’s always the first port of call for us when we have a new client, is we do research in the target audience to find out, what motivates them? What motivated them to join the company? What motivates them to learn? What motivates them to think of improving their career? What motivates them to show up every day and do a good day’s work? We basically ask a lot of questions around that. We also ask questions because we were looking at a game based solution of some sort, to solve all the problems of recruitment, on-boarding and learning in the organisation. For that purpose we also want to know what are the types of games people were playing and the most topical game and also the top-grossing game at the time, it was a mobile online battle arena game. Now a mobile online battle arena game is like a multiplayer game, but played on mobile. You join a team, it’s five against five, two teams against each other and you play different characters in the team. Out of a team of five there are some roles that each of the team members need to take. Some are much more driven towards, let’s say fighting and attacking. Others are much more support positions and people with more devious attack strategies, et cetera. So in the game you have typically different characters. One of the things that you need to do is battle true to defense towers or your opponent’s team. So two teams are attacking each other effectively and what you’re trying to do is capture the other one’s castle, so to speak, or the main tower. Now the way to do that is to go into attack, but also to strategically use all the helpers in the field successfully, all your boosting power successfully and basically attack from the position of strength with your team. So it involves a lot of teamwork. It involves quite a bit of learning and it involves understanding what are the important parts for your character, but also the important things to learn in the game. Because it was mobile and I would say this, if you are aiming at an Asian audience, you would also always have to consider mobile first pretty much because the networks in Asian markets are mobile first as opposed to in Europe and US where you have a lot of desktop first applications and desktop still being the main tool of communication in business. Now that’s not to say that this is not the case in the Asian markets, but in Asia the use of mobile is much wider, much more accepted and much more prevalent and in your face than let’s say in other markets in the world. Step 2: Recognising requirements We know we needed to come up with a mobile solution and we wanted to model it off a mobile game. Now a mobile brings in a quite an interesting piece of gameplay and translates well to the world of work. First of all, teamwork. One of the things that’s important to the client is that people learn to work in teams and learn to behave in a manner that’s helpful to the team and their teammates. So that everybody hits targets and not just one individual, which is exactly the same in the mobile setup. The other reason why we said, okay, we can probably work with the mobile, is that we could set a battle arena up with different stations where knowledge or quests were built would result into something or testing a skill better that’s relevant to the job. So whether that’s a scenario, whether that’s a puzzle, a quiz, a knowledge test of sorts to show, “Okay, are you able to do this? How good are you?” We wanted to basically let the learning being the driver of success and battling with knowledge as opposed to battling with pure weapons. So what we working on in and what we’re doing at the moment is basically distilling where in the game we effectively marry knowledge, recruitment and onboarding quests into the game so that it makes sense. How can we make sure that we hit the targets that the organization wants us to achieve, but also how can we make it as much fun as possible for the players to play. Step 3: Game design process If we work backwards to our conversation from a week ago, and what are the key ingredients for a good game, one of the things we looked at, the genre, the type of game. So teamwork is important to the clients. So therefore the team battle does work, allowing people to also have individual battles. So there is a mode that we’re working on which allows for individual battles. So that was also important. We also wanted there to be a strong link to something that the people knew, something that they’re already interested in playing, which is why we went with the top grossing game in the app store at the time and we modeled off that. So the characters in our game are loosely inspired by the mobile game, but also loosely inspired by personality profiling tools that were used within the organization so that we could match more or less and it’s not a 100% scientific and not a 100% exact. Based on let’s say an initial profiling game, we basically matched the person with a recommended player to start off with. Then we send them into a team where ideally you balance the team with a number of people from different skillsets and different personality profiles. Then when you go into battle, some of the first things you’d need to do is obviously learn how to play the game, which is traditional in all the games that you can possibly play. So we have a tutorial which teaches them about game play, which teaches them about how the game will work. Then we have a narrative. Now we wanted the narrative to reflect the future and to reflect that, can you be the employee of the future? Can you battle the challenges of what’s coming to us in our future years? So there’s a bit of a narrative around that. The characters are loosely inspired, as we said by personality profiles and we linked them to animals so that we kind of disassociated from let’s say the typical office stereotypes that could exist. So we wanted to make sure it was free of office stereotypical behavior. How did we want players to feel? We want players to feel that the game is fun and that they’re learning unbeknownst to themselves. So now there’s a lot of, yes we are taking challenges. Yes we are getting better, but we are doing it as part of gameplay as opposed to, I’ve got to take this course or I’ve got to take this onboarding challenge or recruitment challenges. So we wanted to be as much fun as possible and we also want to show to people that they are actually progressing in the game. So we do have what’s in-game terms, is the heads up display or in layman’s terms it’s like a dashboard that shows you how you’re progressing towards your skills. So we have regular items like that in the game and different prompts to make you improve and make you get better. In terms of what makes the game or what were the critical game mechanics that were in it. So obviously the mobile layout, so if you’ve ever played on mobile or a multiplayer online battle arena game and there are some on the market, so if you’ve played League of Legends, maybe Dota or Mobile Legends or any take of such games, then you know that most of these games have a very specific field with lanes. There’s typically an upper lane and a down lane and a middle lane. In each of the lanes, you have different points where you have to battle. We kept the battle stations. The way of battling is through your character having the typical an axe, spears, the regular things that you would see in battle games, but you upgrade your character through knowledge and you win battles through knowledge and then you adapt and you use what you’ve gained in knowledge into better-equipped gameplay, better-equipped team, etc. The ultimate game to win and the ultimate final takedown of the opposite site’s tower is purely knowledge-based and it’s a team effort. Everyone in the team is asked to take part. So having a team with wide areas of interests and good knowledge across a number of topics is always helpful. Plus people that are actually committed to doing their bit for the team. So we measure peer-to-peer feedback on how you played and how good of a team player you were. But we also measure your progress in terms of topics, in terms of learning and then your resilience in how often do you come back, how willing are you to try new things. So we set up a number of measurables that were important to the client and basically they include things like you trying again, repeating things, practising things like how quick are you to take up a new skill, how quick are you to try a new tool. So there is a number of measures that they would also have in let’s say, their performance management framework internally, whic
14 minutes | Mar 4, 2020
Podcast 36: How to use a game as inspiration for your serious game and gamification design
How games inspire us in gamification? We want to pick a game that you all know to illustrate how we work and how it inspires what we do. I often tell our game designers that you can make any game into something that we can use either for learning, for HR, for recruitment, onboarding, marketing, lead generation, etc. Sometimes they frown their eyebrows at me to sort of say, “Well, that actually doesn’t work.” Or, “We don’t know how that could work.” Then we tease it out a little bit further. My thinking is always if there is some commonality in the game and in the business problem that we’re trying to solve, then we have a chance that it could fit. If it appeals to the people that are in that organisation, then obviously we can look at how can that game applies. Or how can we take the game elements that work for that game and apply it to the processes that they have? Whether that’s marketing, HR, sales, you name it. Whatever is a process in business we can add game elements to it. Board games are social in nature Let’s pick on an example that you probably all know, the game of Monopoly. The game of Monopoly is a board game. By default, the game genre or the game type is social in nature. Why? Because people have to sit around a table to play it. It’s not something that you do on your own. I mean, maybe some people can, maybe there are online versions that you can play on your own, typically against a bot which pretends to be another player. Monopoly is a good example of a social setting game that can be quite complex and where you can have up to five or six people playing at the same time. Where could a board game be useful in the world of work? Well, actually any time where you have a conference, anytime where you have learning taking place in groups or even at leadership events where you want to address a specific, rather complex situation, board games can be very useful. I would even argue that often board games trigger more conversation than let’s say any digital type of game or digital type learning or even structured classroom learning. Because what you’re basically asking people to do is apply their limited knowledge to solve a problem, AKA the game. Games ask you to solve problems What problem does Monopoly solve? Well, it basically gets you to think about the supply and demand of real estate, the supply and demand of your money, and how far it stretches. It also makes you think about, “Okay. Strategically, which types of streets do I want? What kind of buildings can I afford to put on them? And how lucky am I in rolling the dice?” Because there is an element of luck attached to the Monopoly game as well. Whatever game genre you pick, it needs to be fitting to your audience, but also fitting to the problem you’re trying to solve. If you want people to be able to access your game remotely, then obviously it needs to be in some shape or form digital or able to be posted to them. Imagine how the losers feel and experience the game (as well as the winners) In Monopoly, each player plays for themselves and plays against the other players and ultimately there is a winner and a whole bunch of losers at the end. Some of the losers will feel the pain as they go through the game. Some of the losers just have been playing all along but just didn’t end up with all of the money in the end of the day. To compete or to collaborate that is a purpose driven question The thing to consider is what you wanted the game to do. Do you want it to be competitive? If you have competitive people, we often ask the question is that the best strategy for your game? Because often when you have really competitive spirits, then I would suggest look at a collaborative board game. If you want to make it a social event-related … because you still want people to talk to each other after, you still want people to work together. And for a workplace setting, often collaboration is something that’s desired by many employers that we’ve met and it could be useful. Is team play important to you or is it individual? There are some considerations to take into account when you pick the game type. Monopoly is what we picked for now. It’s social in nature, it’s every person for themselves. And whoever has the best strategy on claiming maybe the most expensive streets and build hotels on them is the person that wins the game. Have clear win conditions How do they win? Well, obviously, here it’s about money. It’s about landing on the right places. So, there’s an element of luck but there’s also an element of critical thinking. Some people buy every item that they land on. Some people only buy the ones that they really are looking out for. Some people like to own the utilities. Some people like to own the stations. Whatever strategy you pick, it’s up to you. It’s up to the player. Now the winner will realise over a number of rounds that they’re winning because people are paying them big money and bigger and bigger as they build more and own more streets. So, they’ll probably feel mighty chuffed and mighty lucky that they got this headstart and now their winning. Now for the loser who’s trying to penny pinch, still buy, and stay in the game, it’s a whole totally different experience. It’s more about, “Okay, what can I do? How can I escape having to pay out?” If you’re unfortunate and you have to go to jail or you pick a really unfortunate, a few set back cards, you know your game can be made miserable in a few very quick steps. So, how do you want people to feel when they’re playing is something I often ask our clients. And it’s something to consider about the games you’re playing and looking at for inspiration for potential gamification or a serious game that you’re going to use to solve a problem in your company. I would always say, “How will the winners feel?” And, “How will the losers feel?” And, “Are those feelings desirable for teaching them something that’s important in business or is that something you don’t want them to feel?” So, for a board game, for example, if you choose collaboration versus competition, if you have a collaborative board game, it’s the team around the table against the board. So, the game needs to be hard enough on the board for the team to all get stuck in and feel like they have a role to play to defeat the board. If you go for one to one or competitive play where all the players sitting alongside each other can win or lose, you’ll cause an element of peer to peer pressure, a bit of banter hopefully. Because if you think about the people that play Monopoly specifically, for us, it’s usually was a game that came out around holidays or when friends or family were visiting. So, it’s clear that you have that kind of relationship with one another that you’re going to have a bit of a joke and a bit of a laugh. “Oh, well, you go to prison.” Or, “Hey you. She always gets the most expensive hotel on the most expensive street in that particular city.” So, the banter can be something you do want to encourage. We learn from losing When there’s losers, also look at your people and say, “Okay. How did they cope with losing?” “Is it a useful skill?” Because if it’s useful to learn and remembering that we actually learn more from our mistakes and we learn from how we win. Because winning might be accidental, we might strike lucky. We might be the first that ended up on the most expensive street and had the funds to buy it and therefore you should have and you did. Winning teaches the person what it feels like to win, most of the time. Losing, teaches them, “Okay. I played a strategy and the strategy didn’t work.” You often find that people who lose are more reflective and would think, “Okay. What could I have done differently?” If you’re using serious games for learning, for specific context, I would even encourage you that you do a debrief and actually get into that discussion, “What did you learn from the game? Why did you win? Why did you lose? What would you do different?” Game design is about creating emotional connections Remember also that game design is about creating an emotional connection and an emotional experience as such. In most cases, when we design a serious game and games for digital purposes or for learning, we often think about: “How will players feel?”, “Is that intentional?”, “How can we make them experience something more or something less,” in some cases. The emotional connection is what sets games apart typically from traditional learning, traditional information processing in companies, even mailshots and information passing from your company to your potential clients. Decide what are the critical game mechanics Then the next thing to look at, what are the critical game mechanics that make it so much fun? So, is there such a thing? Is there a critical game mechanics? So, the element of luck, the rolling of the dice in Monopoly is a game mechanic that actually adds to the game because it makes it less predictable who’s going to win and who’s going to do well or not. The other critical thing is that, obviously, you have a board with set squares on it which each provide a function. The fact that there are so many squares on the board and how they’re distributed, is a question of balancing the game. That’s where the art of game design really comes in. Balancing a game, making it fair for all the players to be able to potentially win and do well is what game designers, like ourselves, actually specialize in. And it’s not so easy. Most of the
15 minutes | Feb 18, 2020
Podcast 35: What makes a great learning game?
Welcome to this week’s, a question of gamification. This week, I’m talking about what makes a great learning game. My name is An Coppens. I’m the chief game changer at Gamification Nation, and also the show host for this show. Serious games must still be fun We are working a lot on learning related games, HR related games, and games for all kinds of marketing related business purposes. One of the key things we focus in is both gamification and serious games for business usage. We don’t just make games for fun, we want to make games that are fun, but also have a serious objective. The definition of a serious game is a game designed with a serious objective in mind, in our case that is typically a business related scenario. I want to make clear, when we say serious games, usually people think, they’re boring. To be honest, a learning game should still be fun to play. If it’s not fun to play, you are immediately causing a barrier for someone to make the most out of their learning experience. First things first, learning games should still be fun. How do you make a game fun? There are many ways of doing that. Interaction is definitely a requirement. It differs very much from a training setup for eLearning, for example, where you just click next. A learning game should be making you think, making you realize that maybe I don’t know everything here and I need to explore, I need to find out, I need to discover what else there is to learn. Encouraging curiosity to delve deeper into the topic. Learning by experiencing What makes a great learning game? In my view, there are a couple of things. I believe a good learning game creates an experience where you are learning by doing, whether that’s the doing of whatever it is you need them to learn mimicked in a digital space or in a board game space where you go through the same motions and emotions of what a real scenario would be like. For example, we made a cybersecurity board game where the players have to defend the company when a cyber attack happens. The game was created to help salespeople to sell more cybersecurity insurance and understand why a business owner should have such insurance. It’s a very specific objective. We created an experience, there was emotion in the game because people could lose their business, they could be fined a lot of money, they could lose a lot of money based on cyber attacks that happened. You couldn’t control the attack, but you could control your chosen response as a team sitting around the board trying to collaboratively defend the business. We mimicked real life scenarios. Life like experiences work best for adults With adult learners, in my opinion, the more closely it is linked to real life experiences, the more chance you have of it being a great learning game. Because you immediately provide the context that they need in order to have the ability to make sense of learning. If you think of our brain as a sense-making device, making sense of something is linking it to things that we can relate to, things that we understand. Complex topics for example, cybersecurity to a laymans person could result in responses like: I don’t know nothing about cyber and it may make them run the other way. No matter how well you explain it in your learning. Experiencing what happens, experiencing what can be done is one thing. Actually going through the emotions and experiencing an attack in a game from the same perspective as the prospective client. Also gives the same kind of feedback as if you would, have expereinced it first hand in reality. It may not be as extreme as what would happen in real life in case you were the owner of a business under cyber attack. Creating an experience that resembles real life, with similar choices and consequences, is one of the key ingredients in my view for a good learning game. Appeal to the intrinsic motivation of the learner The other aspects of good learning game, it’s about the intrinsic motivation of the learner. What is it that the learner needs to learn? What is it that motivates that person to learn? Most of us learn out of curiosity or out of necessity. Because we don’t know how to do something or because we are not able to do something, but we want to be able to do something. There are many reasons people learn but curiosity and how to are two good starting points. There are also people who are lifelong learners and they will always be thinking, what did I learn from this, what can I pick up from that person? No matter where they go, what they do, they are always learning. For a learning game, you want to have a clear idea of what the learners motivation is? what is the kind of learner I’m trying to appeal to? Is it a curiosity learner? Is it, why do I have to do this learner? Is it somebody that’s on a career path and just needs that extra bit of certification to get there? Is it someone that is looking for the quick fix? Different reasons for learning will give you different game set ups and game constructs. In some case, I would even advise against games in order to facilitate learning. For example, for the quick fix learner, don’t bother with a game, let them go on YouTube or find a checklist on how to do something. A game here would have only caused friction. If however it’s more skills-based and more practice focused, then obviously a good learning game can help in that perspective. Have clear learning objectives The third key point is that great learning games should also have learning objectives. Learning objectives are things in learning design, which we always looked for at the start of a course. Learning objectives explain why should someone take the course and what will they learn throughout the course. They also define how we will know that they have learned it. Those are the sorts of key questions you want to answer before you start designing games. What do we need them to learn, to what level, and how will we know that they have learned it? That could be any topic, any given subject matter. In the learning game, learning objectives are still important, on top of it being a good intrinsic and emotional experience to learn from. learning game design is more complex than let’s say designing a learning and eLearning course in my view. Great eLearning courses also appeal to some other reasons why people learn. The answer that also should be given is, is this essential for the end user? Is this an essential piece of learning? In my view, a lot of learning related activities in the workplace are focused around things like compliance, tick box exercises. where every year you have to make sure that you inform your people on how to behave appropriately so the company doesn’t get fined. This happens in the financial sector. This happens in quite a few regulated environments where making sure that people do the right thing at the right time is part and parcel of the practice. Will the learning game add value? I would say learning games have a place, but only if they serve the purpose of getting the person to do the right thing and there being consequences. We’ve created gamified processes to let people test out of compliance training when they already know it. Because it’s repetitive in nature, it doesn’t mean that repeating it will make sure that you retain it better the next time. It often means that people switch off and will race to get through it, in order to make sure that box is ticked. Horses for courses. If you want to make compliance training interesting, make it thought provoking and put people in scenarios where there is a gray area where the correct answer isn’t so clear cut, unless you know your stuff and where potentially wrong choices can be made. Because most companies and most employees don’t set out on purpose to do the wrong thing. Yet, circumstances may create situations where they make the wrong decisions and then they end up in a loop that they cannot get out of. If you look at some of the big financial misconduct cases where fund managers went into a pattern of very risky investments and kept doing it because they thought they could find a way out of it. It’s those kinds of trends that you want to watch for it and those kinds of trends that actually would make a good learning game because you can test how resilient your people are in making sure that they don’t fall for trends like that and what to do in case that they feel they’re on a slippery slope on the downward curve for those things. It’s important and it’s part of what makes a good learning game. You need a good reason why the knowledge needs to exist, why it’s important and whether it actually is going to help your people or not. Blooms taxonomy and learning games The other thing that I often see when I look for information around learning games is that in game design people refer to “do” words, as what can the player do. This is obviously interaction related and giving the player things to do is part and parcel of any game. It’s what we design for. A good use of a learning technology model in the learning game space is Blooms taxonomy. Some people hate it, some people love it, but if we’re looking for verbs that are ‘to do’ related, it provides you some good ideas and a good yardstick. Bloom’s taxonomy said there is a number of things that we want to encourage. We want to remember maybe facts, concepts, et cetera. You may want to understand and explain an idea, a concept, how something works. You may want to apply a specific new piece of information or a new skill to a situation. You may want to analyse how things compare and contrast, and which would be the better action or did we take the right course of action or not? Games provide a very good framework for that. We give evaluations in games, tr
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