January 2020
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TD Magazine

Playing to Learn

Thursday, January 2, 2020

To develop good gameplay, you have to know your audience and their performance needs.

While gameplay and gamification sound like fun, it's not easy to combine learning and game design—or game thinking, as Zsolt Olah defines it. In "Game Thinking: From Content to Actions," Olah outlines the foundations of game thinking and the levels of gameplay that learners experience. Prior to L&D professionals selecting game design elements, the author recommends that they reframe the questions around performance and seek out fellow game enthusiasts to help brainstorm game ideas and test games. L&D professionals should then deliberately learn more about how games are structured and what elements are in place.


How then do L&D professionals choose which elements to use for their performance challenge? Olah offers these tips:

  • Every element in the design must support performance or learning goals.
  • The game elements should be as simple as possible.
  • The game design should be balanced to consider all players. Are they motivated by rewards or change? Or perhaps they are free spirits motivated by autonomy.
  • Playtest, playtest, playtest.

Apart from training courses, L&D professionals can use game design with their organizations' learning management system. Most LMSs and learning experience platforms offer scores, badges, and leaderboards. As with game design in training, it's important to keep the focus on the learners and what they need to be able to do.

These tips were adapted from the Janary 2020 issue of TD at Work. Learn more at td.org/TDatWork.

About the Author

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.

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