How gamification has shaped our attitude towards failure

Questioning BackgroundVideo games are masterful in their ability to find the right difficulty level to engage their user. The aim is to create something that is challenging enough to generate some sense of accomplishment when objectives are met. But it must also be accessible enough to prevent the frustration that comes with constant failure. Growth Engineering’s Academy LMS has strived to find the perfect level of difficulty and a sensible relationship with failure.

The great majority of us have a very low tolerance level towards failure. If there’s no tangible award for succeeding and we keep failing, most of us are likely to give up. The aim is to get a user to complete an eLearning course and earn some kind of reward. It’s essential that failure doesn’t turn them away.

The crux of most games is repeated experimentation. If I try this, what happens? What about if I try this? The only way to complete a game is to fail at it repeatedly and learn what you should have done to progress as a result. Games are successful in this regard because they recast failure as a positive thing. Failing has no major consequences. If you ‘die’ in the game, you don’t die in real life. In most cases you don’t even have to start the game again from the very beginning.

Gamers also have recourse to ‘instant feedback’. When they fail, they automatically know why. It’s because they failed to complete this task, or weren’t good enough to overcome a particular obstacle. Through trial and error it’s possible to reach a solution. Furthermore, the accomplishment is all the more rewarding for the effort put in.

Our own learning management system utilises these game mechanics and reframes failure as a necessary part of learning. The consequences of failure should not be too severe. Minor failures should not prevent a user from earning some kind of virtual reward. More importantly: users need instant feedback when they do fail to help them address gaps in their knowledge.

In this instance the Academy LMS has an advantage over traditional classroom teaching. A teacher cannot go around a class individually explaining where each student went wrong. But an Academy LMS can be programmed to do exactly this. When a user slips up, they know exactly why they did so. They know where the gap in their knowledge is and they know all this instantly.

All of which combines to create a more efficent and entertaining learning journey for our users.

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