I am currently playing Ni No Kuni and enjoying the excellent art work and well written script.
One of the grimmest neologisms of recent times is “gamification”. The concept that adding elements for gaming into, usually drudge, work will make us happier and more productive.
So we have seen attempts to combine role playing games with housework so you gain points for mopping the floor. For me this seems a bizarre hybrid of grinding and drudge work.
But playing Ni No Kuni I am reminded of something games do very well, guide the user through a world upskilling the player as they go. You start with a simple stick and seamlessly you are guided to a point where you are flying a dragon, commanding a ship, crafting items and performing magic.
Compare this with the grey, grim world of Enterprise IT with “Press F1 for help” that seldom ever helps, “wizards” that are never going to open the pod bay doors, and training courses that vanish from memory the instant one leaves the room.
Why can’t we replace that with the organic learning we find in Ni No Kuni?
I fully agree gamification is one of the ugliest neologisms around, but the concept that game mechanics can increase engagement with and understanding of a platform/tool/process is a sound one, I think.
The crucial success factor is good game design – and unfortunately, this is where most implementations are going to fall down. Gartner estimate the 80% of gamified processes are going to fail because they’re not well-designed.
If a task sucks, it will still suck if you gamify it. No one wants a badge for filling in their appraisal form online.
But as you allude to, good game design provides optimum conditions for learning – the best video games have a training level, then guide the player through the game by increasing complexity, speed, introducing new weapons or tools, etc. This gives people experiences of mastery (which they enjoy) as well of experiences of failure (from which they can learn).
The closest we come to this within the enterprise is e-learning, which more often than not takes the form of a patronising and overly simple quiz, to be forgotten immediately. Will we reach a point where e-learning (non-fiction gaming?) uses successful game mechanics in order to increase engagement? Probably, but given the cost of genuinely good game design this is currently difficult to justify for even large enterprise audiences, so it might be a while coming.
Indeed, though the number of users of say Outlook must be in the millions and it is impossible to use, say Oracle HR, without wanting to go full Batman on the developers. 🙂
And I came across this interesting article on the power of games to even, accidentally, teach.