Employees playing video games at work with a green light from a boss. Sounds like a dream. However, it’s a reality for some organizations embracing modern approaches to learning and development of staff members.
All started with a trend for gamification of learning – adding elements of quest and competition to corporate training activities. It proved very effective on its own but also opened the way for more ambitious novelties. Gaming with its popularity in the entertainment industry entered the realms of education as well. Working, learning, and gaming aren’t usually expected to pair well, but latest scientific research proves the opposite.
Don’t switch your spreadsheet for an arcade just yet. Let’s dive deeper into the benefits of video games for learning at work and conditions for such an effect.
Play the Game of Learning
Idea of employing incredibly popular entertainment to serve the great cause has been played with for a long time. Especially so with teachers and parents struggling to attract a particle of attention among kids to learning school subjects. That is why most of earlier research targets effects of video games on more general development and skills.
The findings were actually impressive. Shooters and strategic action games help players develop logical abilities, spatial orientation and improve reaction time. Scientists noticed measurable improvements in attentional control – kids could switch their attention better from general landscapes to specific tasks. Unexpectedly, video games have positive effects on mental health. They can be healthy outlets for stress and aggression, provide opportunities for communication and bonding, and even influence development of social skills.
But we can safely presume that adult employees would be comfortable enough with spatial orientation. And workplace training rarely tackles general logical abilities. Still, custom made video games for professional training are a raging trend. So, let’s discuss what are the benefits of video games in learning in a working environment.
- Extra Motivation to Take and Complete Corporate-Provided Courses
Not a secret that employees are not often very eager to participate in corporate training programs. Among the reasons expressed, the most bothersome one is that such courses are usually boring and seem not worthy of working hours spent. Hence the desire of L&D specialists to create captivating engaging learning content. And video games come to the rescue.
We’re talking of course of so-called serious games – close to real life scenarios aimed at development of certain skills and explaining professional matters but in an engaging game environment. Just playing shooters may be good for team building but won’t give much of an added value.
- Better Retention of Information
What amazes video games is their effect on memory. Ask any avid gamer about some tricky quest in a complex arcade and they will provide you a detailed step-by-step instruction just off the top of the head. This exact effect is a rationale behind spending a lot of money and time on developing elaborate stories and landscapes for corporate training serious games.
Same research showed that information retention of employees passing the video game training improved by 90%. This becomes possible with well-written scenarios and embedding real work tasks into the captivating storyline. Reading or hearing about something is not the same as trying to do this especially with a dash of competitiveness of the game. You may forget a corporate email, but you’re much more likely to retain the algorithm that brought you victory and chocolate gold medal.
And such an approach is very popular among the biggest organizations. For example, United Nations offices provide their staff members with security training through the means of a game scenario. Imagine yourself reading an instruction on how to behave in case of detecting a suspicious object versus playing a game immersing you in a situation where you take decisions and can experience the consequences. Considering UN staff is deployed to most turbulent locations, it is safe to say video games should prove effective for more stable business skills as well.
- Simulation of Complex Skills Application
Now, there are specific simulators for pilots or surgeons. But they are far from being fun as they imitate the real-life challenges to the dot. Whereas video games bring amusement and challenges driving motivation to embark on difficult missions.
For lots of jobs ‘learning by doing’ is not an option. Doctors, nurses, machinery operators, other professions where a learner’s error would cost too much. Skeptics would say that teaching such specialists with fun games isn’t serious. But research and real cases prove them wrong. Absence of risks of actually harming a human being or causing expensive damage alleviates the stress of a beginner. Without toxic stress clouding cognitive abilities people have the opportunity to ingrain a skill properly before trying it out in real life.
The Administration of Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland certainly believes in the benefits of video games for training nurses. They replaced their traditional classroom orientation for new nurses with an interactive video game World of Salus. As this was a hit, easy and more complex games have been developed for medical staff. Engagement, completion rates and staff motivation support administration in going further with such an approach. Obviously, employees still can have offline lectures and read more on the topic, but gaming and gamification of the training process become a successful and satisfying practice.
- Boosting Cooperation
Team video games work great for improving group dynamic and enhancing cooperation. This may be especially interesting for remote teams or distance work modalities. Either for a newly established team or for promotion of communication and joining forces among current colleagues, video games could become the working and less cheesy method than classic team building.
Serious games distributing roles serving one common goal bring that nudge to cooperate that actual job assignments fail to do. Social dynamics between highly competent and experienced professionals sometimes suffer from preference of solo performances. But video games aid with lightening the mood and team games push players to switch from competitive to cooperating mode. Dividing the actual real-life project segments between the team members should be easier after the learning curve is completed in a game setting.
If cooperation is boosting as a goal, inviting employees to play non-professional multiplayer video games may have its effect too. There is a vast market of engaging fun games, so there are enough options without triggering themes like violence and war. Such joint activity might replace traditional team building events, which often alienate employees as embarrassing or too competitive.
Although using video games for corporate training may still seem like following a popular gaming trend, research shows its perks. Logic behind it is transparent, thus compelling. Adults like playing games, completing quests, and shooting zombies. So, why not use it for the company’s benefit?
Learning and development specialists identify impressive improvements in completion and retention rates in comparison with e-learning and classroom learning. Video games can boost cooperation and diminish stress in the learning environment, which have positive implications for cognitive abilities.