Game On: Why Gamification is Back in the Spotlight During the Pandemic


Gamification is hardly a new concept. It started grabbing headlines in 2010 when conferences and summits that featured speakers like Jesse Schell and Jane McGonigal popularized the concept of gamification and enlightened people about its potential.

In fact, Jane McGonigal delivered her pathbreaking TED Talk, Gaming Can Make a Better World, in which she mentioned: “When I look forward to the next decade, I know two things for sure: that we can make any future we can imagine, and we can play any games we want, so I say: Let the world-changing games begin.” This talk is today looked at as a significant moment in the history of gamification.

For the next 10 years, gamification made leeway into many fields and created a major space for itself in the L&D vertical as well. It worked in learning and development activities especially to increase engagement and bring in a fun element.

And then the pandemic happened in 2020 and everything changed overnight!

Increased Importance of Gamification in the Pandemic

As the world grappled with Covid-19 and ensuing disruptions on a daily basis, the foremost change came in the way technology progressed. Consequently, there emerged skills gaps that we did not know existed or those that weren’t that glaring before the pandemic. The onus, thus, came on L&D to upskill and reskill the workforce at a very rapid pace to plug these gaps.  

Needless to say, L&D had to use every trick in its book and every innovation in its kitty towards workforce upskilling. Gamification is one strategy that proved to play an important role in dealing with the skill shortfall during this time. Many organizations adopted gamification with a flair in 2020 to boost engagement among their remote workforce.  

So, how has gamification proved to be a go-to during the pandemic?

As is known, gamification in L&D is the process of integrating the mechanics of a game into learning to motivate engagement and increase participation in work. It leverages elements of a game design and applies them to a non-game activity to create a fun and engaging environment. There are reward points, badges, competition, leaderboard, achievements, and self-expression to encourage employees to perform better.

Here’s a quick look at some of the key areas where gamification has helped organizations improve their employee experience, especially during the pandemic.

  • Gamification takes employee engagement levels to a new high– a point that can’t be stressed enough. It can transform dull and boring training content into engaging and interesting learning experiences by encouraging friendly competition among colleagues. Gamification in training programs has worked rather well in virtual working to improve employee engagement and in turn enhance their productivity.
  • Gamification makes onboarding a fun experience especially in the remote work environment by rewarding the new joinees for their progress and motivating them through a certificate on successful onboarding. By incorporating game-based assessments, L&D can ascertain if the new employees have truly reached their goals or not, and challenge their knowledge in the process.
  • Gamification plays a crucial role in helping employees develop specific skills. Gamifying training programs is an important step to help teams make progress in several areas such as leadership, communication, stress management, teamwork, and negotiation skills among others. This is especially important in the remote or hybrid work environment when regular face-to-face trainings are almost impossible.
  • Gamification aids knowledge retention and absorption. In the absence of an office environment to interact with colleagues and pick new things from them, gamification has helped employees to naturally put lessons into situations by relying on real-world applications to bring the subject matter to life. Since they learn by applying the concepts, learners tend to absorb and retain this kind of knowledge better. 
  • Gamification helps generate feedback -- positive as well as negative. Through instant feedback and by tying this feedback to the outcome, learners can monitor their progress and can feel inherently motivated to complete the training successfully.

In Conclusion

Most often, employees view workplace learning as dull and drab, but gamification is changing that, especially in the remote work environment. It can boost the morale and engagement of a team as they learn and upskill together. For this and many other reasons, gamification has become the cornerstone of learning in the pandemic and is likely to remain so in the coming future.