Gaming in the Workplace

Game Controller

Businesses are not easy to run at the best of times. It’s hard work and often requires owners to wear many hats and pick up new skills as you go along, just to keep things ticking over. Business owners also need to be willing to work on new ideas, to come up with new ways to inject new life into their businesses. One of the options they’ve got for keeping things fresh is play & gaming.

One thing that I’ve noticed while running Ludogogy, is that even people whose work is designing games, are often unwilling to play themselves, at times when they feel they should be working. There’s a reluctance to mix work and play, just in case the latter distracts us from the former. Unfortunately that ‘all work, no play’ approach means that we are missing out on a multitude of ways in which play – in this case through gaming, could bring benefits to us in business.

Typing on keyboard
Image by Soumil Kumar from Pexels

A Different Approach To Learning

The first thing that gaming can do is provide a different approach to learning. Readers of this magazine will be well aware of the learning potential of games, whether they are custom-designed for the job, modded from commercial games, or even if you facilitate your learners to design their own games. This is true whether you have decided to become a tutor, conduct classes online or teach young people inschools, or if you are in adult or workplace learning. Gaming can not only be an effective pedagogy, but can improve levels of engagement and enjoyment in learners.

If you approach something in way that people like and enjoy, then you are going to find that they are much more responsive to learning content and activities. It’s not always going to be possible to conduct learning through gaming, but there are certainly a few things that would certainly fit the bill. In the classroom, mathematics is certainly something that can be incorporated into quests for children. Along with Physics, which if you think about it, underpins many of the ‘engineering’ challenges that can be posed in a game.

VR To Bring Life To Businesses

Woman in VR headset
Image by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Have you given much thought to using VR in your learning designs? Although for many of us who work in games-based learning, this feels like something that has been around for a while, it’s still something that feels quite new and exciting for learning in the corporate world. And because it’s now maturing as a technology, costs have come down, and there are many more tools available to help you create the assets necessary.

For businesses, VR can be something completely different for employees for applications including internal learning, but also for outward-facing communications too. Customers can get an in-depth view of your products and services, and the potential for presenting either of these as compelling immersive games, opens up whole new vistas for engagment and interactivity.

Gaming For Team Building

In the past, the company away-day or team-building day was usually a face-to-face experience. Companies would gather their employees, take them on retreats, arrange paintballing competitions and similar – all to work on the team building. We live in a different world now. COVID means that many of us are now working from home or in hybrid situations, and it’s not always safe to do the things we used to. Gaming and similar activities provide an alternative to get people together, to inject some competition, if that is what you want, and even to facilitate some deep reflection and strategy building. There are many options from Lego® Serious Play® and similar facilitation methodologies, to Team-building Boardgames and using or ‘modding’ commercial videogames which feature teamwork in their gameplay.

Many employees are gamers anyway (stereotypically, the younger ones) and are used to meeting and befriending others while online playing games, so there’s no reason that this can’t bring coworkers closer together and help them build their team working skills.

Beyond actual games, you can also consider gamification as a strategy to bring teams closer together – especially in these times where we are often geographically separated. Gamifying online meetings, particualrly, can be vital is you wish to avoid ‘Zoom Fatigue’ and other COVID era problems.

Rewarding Employees

Play and games can also be used to reward some of your employees? Not everybody is into gaming, but it does have potential as part of a suite of rewards which can be used to recognise achievement at work. Providing access to play (and gaming equipment) in office spaces, can form part of a larger strategy for creating a playful and innovative culture, but once these facilities are available, why not take maximum benefit from them. For example, employees who overachieve or otherwise do something worth rewarding, could be given timed ‘passes’ for play or similar.

It’s important to remember here, that offering extrinsic rewards of any kind, is gamification of behaviour, and if you are to avoid having the opposite effect from the one intended, it is the recognition that is the true motivator. The reward, whether it is related to play or not, is just an outward indicator that the employees efforts have been noticed and appreciated.

Gaming On Break Hours

Related to the above is gaming on break hours. Bringing new life to employees and bringing new life to the business is basically the same thing. Play and gaming is a great solution if employees want to do something in breaks, but don’t want to leave the office space. Choose the right games and they will also reap the benefits of social interaction, collaboration and time spent in flow.

The choice of game is really important, when it comes the potential impact on play on realtionships and culture in the office. It’s important to cater for different Player Types, but careful consideration should be given to the potential impact of high levels of competition on the office dynamics.

Inspiring Inspiration And Innovation

Most of us probably have a stereotype in our minds somewhere of the tech start up with sleep pods, beanbags, gaming consoles and table-tennis tables, which make employees more ‘creative’, but can games actually push a business towards innovation side of things? It’s important to remember that our earliest learning and creativity came almost entirely from play, when we were all infants, and that instinct for using creativity in play is still in us as adults – although it may need to be coaxed out if we have been trained to believe that games are ‘just for kids’.

Play needs to be voluntary. If it isn’t, it’s work, and nobody should be forced to play. It will be totally counter-productive. But making play accessible in a business can encourage people to explore. The best designed games require creativity in play – coming up with different strategies, implementing new chains of decisions to get better at playing, and that can carry over into life outside the game too.

If gaming can spark inspiration and innovation in your business, then it might just be time for you to get to work on some new ideas.

Creating A Fun Office Culture

Office interior
Image by Cadeau Maestro on Pexels

Office culture is essential for businesses. Gaming is not a universal panacea to make everybody happy, but it can definitely be a way of addressing many of the activities and interaction that together go to make up the culture in your organisation. A sense of playfulness – and that doesn’t need to be brought about through the actual use of games, will likely result in better relationship, more frequent instance of people feeling in ‘flow’ when working, and can empower employees to be experimental and innovative in their approach to work.

The happier that employees are, the better it is for the business. If they feel as though they are appreciated, and they have opportunities to unwind and recharge doing things they enjoy, they will work happier and be more creative.

Editor at Ludogogy
Sarah Le-Fevre is a games-based learning professional who specialises in organisational learning around systemic ‘wicked problems’, and helping businesses spot and exploit opportunities for ethical ‘for good’ innovation. She works with tools such as Lego® Serious Play® and the Octalysis gamification framework to create compelling immersive learning experiences. She is currently writing a book outlining a systems practice approach to delivering impactful learning within organisations.

A real board games nerd, she is considering having her floors reinforced to support the ever increasing weight of the boxes. When she is not designing or facilitating learning games she is the editor of Ludogogy Magazine. Sarah lives in Oxfordshire with her husband, younger daughter, and a beautiful (but very loud) Bengal cat.

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