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As a proponent of using playing and games for learning & development (my old job with PIXELearning) and for affecting positive social impact (with my current businesss, SoshiGames) the rapidly trending concepts around ‘gamification’ (of real life) are exciting, interesting and intriguing but, in equal measure, concerning and annoying.

In the space of a single day I came across three excellent critiques of the gamification movement that, for me, kill the myths, articulate the value and clearly differentiate the real and assumed links to game design.

[1] Article by Hide & Seek entitled “Can’t play. Won’t play” – read it here

[2] Blog post by Beb Sawyer entitled “Issues of Gamification Design: Part 1” – read it here

[3] Stunning presentation (both in terms of styel and substance) by Sebastian Deterding – embedded below or on Slideshare:

My summary: “Gamification” isn’t bad…it just isn’t a good word for what people are trying to do as it implies that rewards, badges and levels are the primary motivator in games when in fact it is the ability play thing you want to play, to have fun, to be interested and to be challenged at just the right level in a system that allow syou to fail as well as to achieve/win.


In challenging economic times, when all around us our losing their jobs…(sorry, heads)  it is somewhat questionable whether the commercial argument for serious games/immersive simulations should be centered around the concept of ‘fun’.

Naturally the learning design and delivery folks would like people to have fun whilst learning (especially if it is evaluated through ‘happy sheets’ as then they invariably get good feedback). When it comes to selling this to the CxO, however, you may as well substitute FUN for another, slightly longer ‘F-word’ .

Raph Koster - A Theory of Fun

Raph Koster - A Theory of Fun

You will get no argument from me that learning should be anything other than fun (although I prefer ‘enjoyable’ and ‘satisfying’) – Raph Koster’s wonderful book ‘A theory of Fun’ and 2005 GDC/Serious Games Summit keynote confirmed everything I always felt about fun and learning – but I still cringe when I see people in this space wondering why their sales pitch crashed when they major on fun rather than results.

There was with some ironic smirking Corti-ness therefore, when I saw the front page advert for Halo Wars on this week’s print edition of MCV.

Whilst many in the serious game space try to present the soft and fluffy ‘funness’ of our offerings (which are rarely actually that fun) there, in the advert,  stood Master Chief, with two Master Chief side-kicks and an army of Master Chiefs and the simple heading…”Have you got what it takes to be a great leader?”

Ironic, I feel, that this game, one of the best and most successful pure entertainment product experiences of all time is marketed with a title that one would most commonly associate with the marketing of a very traditional piece of corporate training.

The more pertinant question might be: “Which product breeds the best young leaders for world of business? The serious games or entertainment games products”. The answer might scare a few people out there!

Great leader?

Great leader?

Grand Prix Tycoon

Two associates of PIXELearning, Rob James (a.k.a. ‘RobotJam’ – see and Robbie Woodhead, worked together to create a fun take on business simulation with a F1 themed bit of frivolity.

Their Flash-based game, called ‘Grand Prix Tycoon’ is freely available on the following URL:

Is the business simulation model of worthy of MBA level business training? Probably not. Could you integrate it into a conventional corporate training programme…debatable.

Would it serve as an excellent intro to business concepts and enterprise training? Absolutely! Is it fun to play? You bet!

I won’t reveal their budget for this but rest assured you would be amazed – further evidence that the use of games and simulations for learning need not be a big expense.

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