Gaming Culture – Utilising Game Mechanics to Enhance Your Learning and Development

Gamification has been a phrase thrown around in corporate e-learning and training space for many years, with organisations using it to create more engaging and interactive training for their employees, however, most gamified learning continues to be nothing more than a multiple choice quiz, and some digital content.

The gaming industry is immense; the board game industry’s revenue alone was estimated at 2.15 billion in 2020, and is expected to reach $4.67 billion in 2026, showing a huge increase in the popularity of board games.

The video game industry pushes this even further, with the 2023 video game industry revenue projected at $365.6 globally, making it bigger than the filmed entertainment industry and music industry combined.

Additionally 88% of people aged between 16 and 24 play video games, so it’s even more important that companies utilise the format to its advantage to make sure new employees stay engaged and motivated in the workplace.

These statistics show how playing games is a vast industry that is only growing in popularity, so why does the term ‘gamification’ often produce simple digital learning experiences?

Although interactivity is essential to games, the aspects that make games exciting are aspects like the story, the way you play the game and the mechanics used within the game, all of which make games fun, exciting and memorable, creating the industry we see today.

Why Should We Explore Gamification Further?

The answer is retention. Imagine you create informative and interesting training about cyber security, and spend a few hours going through it with your employees.

You’ll obviously see the effect of this training immediately as the memory of the training will be fresh in the minds of the employees, however the success of the training isn’t measured on the immediate effect, but the longevity.

If your employees start forgetting those lessons within a few months, you’ll have to go through the training again, which would be a bad use of time for both you and your employees, and would be a risk to your cyber security.

The way to solve this is to create training that is more likely to be retained for a long time. The higher the retention rates, the less time is spent training, which means everyone involved can work more effectively, and in the example of cyber security, would be safer for the company.

Retention in training can be improved in a number of ways; keeping users engaged means they take in more information, similarly making training more motivating gives the learners a sense of agency rather than feeling like they’re being ordered to learn, which also aids retention.

Even making learning a fun experience can help with retention, as experiencing a positive emotion while learning makes the information more likely to be stored in long term memory.

All of the aspects mentioned above can be done through introducing Gamification to your training, which has been shown to increase engagement and motivation through its interactivity, in turn leading to an improvement in learning.

So let’s see how aspects such as the story, format and game mechanics already play a role in games, and how we can use them to enhance learning and improve engagement, motivation and retention rates.

A closeup of the Pandemic board game


The base of many great games is a story, the story doesn’t have to be complicated, but it will always be something that can enhance the gameplay and motivate the players.

Every famous board game starts with a narrative, whether it’s Cluedo with players solving the murder of Mr. Black, or a newer more complicated board game like Pandemic where players are various healthcare professionals trying to stop a global virus outbreak, the board game creates a narrative setting for the player to then explore within the game.

The card game Werewolf (otherwise known as Mafia) is a game that creates a narrative for the players to explore. And some of the biggest video games are made popular by an incredible story;

From huge multi game franchises such as The Witcher, to small games such as What Remains of Edith Finch gaining its popularity amongst gamers due to the depth and unique storytelling.

All of these examples are to show that any narrative, from the most simple one sentence explanation, to a complex story that creates the core of a game, enhances the player experience, and is often an essential part of what makes gaming such a huge industry.

But how can a narrative really contribute to the effectiveness of your training?

Our minds are hardwired to pay attention to narratives. Something that was proven in a study that found when test subjects were shown an emotional video that told a story, their brain released chemicals which increased their attention to the story being told, and made watchers feel empathy towards the people in the story.

When comparing this to a video that didn’t include a narrative but did have the same information, the test subjects lost interest and their brains didn’t release the same chemicals.

Therefore introducing even a simple story will not only make your training more entertaining and therefore motivational for the learners, but it will ensure that users will pay attention throughout, thus increasing engagement and retention.

Title of What Remains of Edith Finch over the game environment

Type/ Format

The format of a game, or even the category a game falls into within its format, also influences the way the game is received and often played. Board games can often be categorised as:

  • Cooperative – where the players work together towards a shared goal
  • Competitive – where players compete against each other to win
  • Party – these games are usually made for a large number of people to play together, with simple premises
  • Resource management – these games always feature a resource or item that players have to collect and use to win
  • Social deduction – games where some players have hidden agendas which the other players have to uncover

And many, many more, all of which would influence how the players interact with the game.

A player wouldn’t go into a cooperative game ready to try and beat their friends for no reason, similarly few people would play a social deduction game without knowing to be suspicious of your fellow players.

Similarly you can see these categories in video games:

  • Role playing games – Where the player assumes the role of a character within the game
  • First person shooters – Games such as Doom, where the player sees through a first person camera and often holds a weapon
  • Cosy games – Cosy games is a term used to describe a huge range of games, all of which provide the player with a low stress, low stakes gameplay experience, and can be played casually by users of any ability
  • Puzzle games – As the name suggests, any games that feature puzzles to solve
  • Cooperative games – Same as board games, these are games that are played together with friends, and they often require the players to work together to achieve a common goal

All of these types influence not only how the players select the game they want to play, they influence the effect the game has on its players.

If the narrative of a game is about peace and harmony, they wouldn’t make a first person shooter video game, which makes the theme an essential part of every game.

Even the format of the game has the same effect, although there is a digital version of the classic board game Monopoly, it will never be as satisfying as watching your friends face as they realise they owe you all of their money, and having to physically hand you the paper bank notes.

Equally, it would be extremely difficult to turn a huge role player, fantasy adventure video game like Skyrim into a board game, and most players of the video game wouldn’t want that anyways.

Just like board games, and video games; training and gamification can come in any format, it doesn’t have to be a multiple choice quiz; it can be an AR application, a puzzle game, a card game, a group task, the possibilities are endless.

As we mentioned earlier, interactivity improves retention, therefore applying the type of interactivity to the subject of the lesson can reinforce this learning, and create an even more memorable experience.

Just like with commercial games where the format of the game is part of the storytelling and overall effect of the game experience, the format of the training could also reinforce the lessons you’re trying to teach your learners.

For instance, although digital e-learning could help with leadership training, creating a cooperative game you need to play with a group of people in person would have a more significant impact, as the interaction between the learners could be essential to the teaching.

Similarly, if the goal of your e-learning is Fire Safety then something like our VR Fire Safety training is the perfect format, as it educates the learner individually, and puts them into the environment to reinforce information.

However the use of VR ensures that the training is safe, secure and consistent while also making the training more exciting and interactive than simply watching a video or doing a quiz.

A closeup of the Monopoly game board and some of the pieces

Game Mechanics

Game mechanics are the rules in place that control how the game is played, and how the player interacts with the game. These ‘mechanics’ are fundamental to every game, whether a board game, card game, video game or otherwise.

Just think of the playground game stuck in the mud, one person is the person that is sticking the other players, so if any other players get tagged by them then they have to stand in the same position until someone else comes and ‘unsticks’ them. These are all game mechanics, the role of the person sticking, the goal of the other players, and the ability that the other players have to unstick their friends.

Although game mechanics at their core are simple rules and building blocks to create a game, they can define which games are good, and which are great. Creating game mechanics that are unique, or connect to the story or even making sure the rules aid in telling the story can really set games apart from others.

Some examples of great game mechanics are board games such as Mysterium, where the player in the role of the ‘Ghost’ can only communicate to the players through abstract art work, something that reinforces the story of the players being ‘mystic mediums’ that need to use their intuition and deduction to try and pick up the message.

Similarly the video game Undertale is an incredible example of how every aspect of the game, from the controls and the way you interact with characters, to the way some characters remember your progress across previous playthroughs and save files, all contributed to the game becoming such a cult classic.

The use of game mechanics doubles down on using interactivity to improve retention, research shows that the level of interactivity also has an effect on how much students can remember, therefore using game mechanics in a smart way can reinforce learning and improve retention, while also creating a fun and exciting experience for the learner.

Thinking about game mechanics are where your training can really stand out from the others, and create a unique and memorable experience for employees.

The game mechanics could come from the subject of your training, or if you have created a narrative, that could also influence the different game mechanics.

For instance, if the subject of your training was about communication within a team environment, and you’d chosen to do a group game, you could incorporate 1 person being blindfolded, to ensure that the other players have to communicate to them effectively.

Applying game mechanics to digital gamification gives some more technical options, you could create the interface of the game to look like an office computer to mimic any online training, or this could mean introducing a points system that reinforces the learning;

In our Northern Rail adaptation of the Biffa game, there were certain waste items that would be harmful pollutants should they be thrown in the wrong bin, so if the player sorted these items incorrectly then they would be deducted double the points than other items.

However you apply the mechanics, using them to your advantage in any type of training means improvements in the retention, therefore making sure your training is boosting the efficiency within your company, rather than becoming a chore or hindrance for those taking part.

So what does this mean for learning and development?

The main point of this post is to show that ‘gamification’ can mean so much more than simple e-learning. Playing games is something everyone has experienced throughout their lives in some form of another, making gamified learning effective throughout a company.

So let’s start using the unique, exciting and clever aspects of our favourite games to create even more effective and interesting training.

Have you been thinking about expanding the types of training at your company? Or even just curious about the possibilities out there? Take a look at our case studies to see some of the exciting possibilities, or even contact us to find out how we can help you enhance your training.

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