How great games will revolutionise training

By Ben Templeton, Opinion

Games. Everybody’s at it. Playing them, eulogising them, slating them or endorsing their transformative powers in learning and development. The revolution is in full swing and this year Preloaded will show exactly how great learning games address real business needs to deliver measurable results, starting at Learning Technologies 2016 (we’re on stand B21).

Without engagement, there is no learning, and game designers are the masters of engagement – take the popular examples of Candy Crush, Call of Duty and Minecraft. As players engross themselves in these game worlds, our entire society is also engaged by the accompanying clamour of politicians, academics and the press to pass comment on the most popular cultural medium of our time.

Businesses can struggle to create this level of deep engagement with the training subjects staff need to drive their organisation and adapt to change. Face-to-face training is effective but expensive, while e-learning alone can’t sustain audience engagement. When it comes to games, however, there are countless reasons they succeed in holding our attention. Below we outline three significant areas and explore how they can be put to powerful effect in the world of corporate training.

1. Social engagement

“Man is by nature a social animal” – Aristotle

Games have an inherent capacity to satisfy our natural urge to be social. This is evident in how we play games – the pleasure of gathering friends around the card table or coordinating a World of Warcraft raid over Skype. Our social urge is also expressed in what we play – the controversial Cards Against Humanity that stimulates discussion and debate or a simple round of Draw With Friends that works almost as well with strangers as with our nearest and dearest.

Games offer a level of rapport, responsiveness and tailored interaction that more closely resembles the two-way experience of face-to-face training. Cooperative games encourage peer-based learning, while competitive instincts can cross continents and coalesce an international community of staff. Teamwork, collaboration, communication and soft skills are essential for a productive workforce. The training game revolution will succeed or fail on the quality of its social engagement.

Further reading: Scot Rigby on relatedness and The Need Behind Our Love Of Connecting

2. Emotional engagement

“The heart is the first feature of working minds” – Frank Lloyd Wright

Games offer dramatic tension, stunning graphics and sounds, responsive characters, rich worlds and profound stories that keep us gripped. This all adds up to an emotionally compelling experience that helps us to care about what we are doing and to retain what we learn afterwards.

If the vision, mission and essence of an organisation can be communicated in a way that stimulates an emotional reaction, staff are far more likely to remember and embody it. In customer engagement scenarios, a sensitive and emotionally engaged member of staff will provide the best service. Animation, moving imagery, narrative pace, role play and emotional depth can elevate training games to a level where staff will actively choose to engage.

Further reading: American Psychologist article on The Benefits of Playing Video Games

3. Hands on engagement

“Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I may remember. But involve me, and I’ll understand” – Variously quoted as an American Indian or Chinese proverb

Games are a fundamentally interactive medium. They encourage exploration, experimentation and self expression. The ability to touch, to cause a reaction and to experience failure in a safe environment all serve to engage. There is a tangible satisfaction in destroying an evil pig’s fortress in Angry Birds. The almost limitless freedom to explore the streets of Grand Theft Auto games is effectively self-led learning in action because the player has total control.

From the simulation of complex scenarios or procedures to system logistics and site risk assessment, it’s the sense of hands on, direct engagement that leads to active learning. Staff have the permission to make mistakes as they perfect their skills. Instant and tactile feedback further improves the feeling of connection to one’s task and control of the learning journey.

Further reading: Jean Piaget’s theory of Constructivism



In learning games, to consider the game bit only as a device to achieve engagement is underestimating the power of the medium. Deep engagement can deliver deep learning, and applied games are the finest example of engagement and learning wrapped into one coherent experience.

This year, at Learning Technologies, come and experience for yourself how the training game revolution is taking shape. Design Lead Ben Courtney will deliver a detailed seminar on the four ways that games integrate with a learning blend. ‘Games in training: playing their part’ is free to attend on Thursday 4th February at 12.30pm (theatre 5). At stand B21 our experienced team of learning and games designers will be demo’ing a wealth of innovative and exciting training game concepts. Diffuse an awkward customer engagement scenario, get hands on with our social sandpit and experience a truly high risk environment in full virtual reality.

See you there.

A fan of arts, culture, capoeira and cups of medium strength tea. Above all, Ben is passionate about the power of play to transform the way we learn. Since 2005 he has created learning games for businesses, brands and cultural organisations around the world.

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