Good games have strong, avatar-based play and compelling storylines that keep players on tenterhooks throughout the experience. In my experience, I have found avatars and immersive stories work very well in eLearning games. In this article, I will share my understanding of this gamification solution.
How Do Avatars Work To Make Game-Based eLearning More Effective?
Most games these days have avatars, so you may ask—why talk about something that is so commonplace? My answer to this is that avatars are not exactly being used effectively, and there is a lot more to avatars than avatar selection and making it run around in the game. Let me explain.
Avatars In The Movies And Games
In the movie Avatar, directed by James Cameron, you may remember that the protagonist, Jake Sully, is excited to be in a new environment and with his new-found legs. When his consciousness gets transferred to his avatar body, Jake Sully starts running out and exploring the environment around him. On the new planet, he eats fresh fruits and finds the total experience enriching. When he comes to know of his mission, he is not perturbed and takes it up heroically. He learns a new language, falls in love with the local girl, Neytiri, and ends up fighting for their cause. In the end, he accomplishes the mission by fighting the evil overlords.
This movie is so like what an ideal game should be, full of challenges and opportunities to learn new things.
So, when we think of a gamification solution, are we incorporating the elements of immersive environments, interesting challenges, suitable rewards, and so on?
An avatar-based game will work only when the avatar has a front view (a camera view wherein the player can explore the environment) and not just a third person view. Of course, this is strictly my opinion based on the experience of building many game-based interventions.
Continuing with the movie Avatar, what we found was that it was a huge hit with the audiences—not just because of its grand scale, the VFX, the pre-release hype, and marketing. It was a blockbuster thanks to its strong core, i.e. a strong story which most directors miss these days. At the heart of any movie lies the story, and if the story or the plot is weak the audiences will reject it straight away.
Similarly, a gamification solution can be made interesting and effective if it is backed by a strong storyline. Many learning games that I have seen do not have any stories, yet they work to some extent. However, my experience has shown me that stories, when added to games, make for a compelling experience and learners enjoy game-based learning.
The great part about stories is the emotional connection. As learning strategists, we should remember to appeal not only to the brain but also the heart of the learners. Only when learners get emotionally connected to a game, they retain the learning better.
Some Design Ideas
In this game, learners start the game by selecting an avatar of their choice. After selecting the avatar, we introduce the mission in the form of a story, wherein the learner must travel around the world and gather crucial information pertaining to the mission. The information is provided by different people along the path. As the learner travels around the path, there are challenges thrown, which the learner needs to solve. The learner is awarded points and rewards for solving the challenges correctly.
The game tests the learners on various levels and at the same time is fun, as it has an interesting story weaved around it. There is competition within the game, as the learner needs a competitive spark to move forward. The gamification solution in this context helped learners make the right decisions.
In this game, the avatar is lost on an island. The inspiration for this game came from the Lara Croft Series of games. Lara Croft games engaged gamers on a very personal level. Also, for the first time, they introduce the central character as a girl who is charismatic, intelligent, and a warrior. I found the game Tomb Raider interesting and got inspired to create a game on an island. As learning games need to meet certain objectives and be more realistic, the challenges were tied into the context of real challenges that learners face in their day-to-day life, such as problem-solving, analyzing data or information, and making sound judgments. In the game, learners can navigate using maps and other objects. The story is neatly interwoven into the game, and the avatar meets various interesting characters during the game, which makes the game fun.
The success of any gamification solution depends on how well it is laid out and whether it achieves the core objectives that are set out at the beginning. The objectives need to be tied to the business goal of performance improvement and positive online training ROI. Ultimately, GBL should be useful, and not just a fun ride.
At Tesseract Learning, our gamification experts constantly look for ways to build immersive courses using avatars and compelling stories.
To learn more about how we work on building compelling games, do reach out to me by writing to email@example.com.