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  • Writer's pictureDaniela Vargas

How to Gamify Your Training

When I was a kid, my dad used to take me and my sister on long road trips to the beach. It was a 5-hour drive where we would need to cross half the country to get to our destination. My dad challenged us to remember, in the correct order, the towns and rivers we would be crossing to arrive at the beach.

He had previously designed an amazing scoring and reward scheme (peanut M&Ms) to keep tabs on the ‘game’. To this day, I am proud to say that I know my country’s geography better than any of my friends. It was knowledge acquired inadvertently while having a great time!

I enjoyed the stories about the towns, discovering new things, and cared little about winning. My sister was all about winning!

Both personality traits (gamer types – keep reading for more on this!) were very well catered to by my dad’s game dynamics. Without knowing Gamification theory, my father designed a learning system for us to be engaged, to share, be challenged, and have fun and secure knowledge for life.

Today, we know a lot more about how to design long-lasting learning experiences by using Gamification elements in the classroom.

Let’s start from the beginning.

What is ‘gamification’?

Gamification is to use game-design elements in non-game contexts. It's adding a ‘play flavor’ to any context.

In adult learning processes, gamification has proven to be an element that allows adults to fuel their imagination, boost their creativity and problem-solving abilities. It basically makes the ‘hard stuff more fun’ motivating learners and making them more engaged with the learning matter.

Gamification theory in education is that people learn best when they are having fun. Gamification involves game-based elements like:

  • Leaderboards and other progress indicators (badges, points)

  • Competition

  • Social connection and collaboration

  • Player (learner) control

  • Immediate feedback

In our L&D world, gamification can be used in many learning scenarios such as:

  • Onboarding

  • Sales training

  • Leadership training

  • Compliance training

  • Team building and engagement activities

Now, let’s touch on the most important part of the process: the learner, aka The Gamer.

Personality types in gaming

According to Richard Bartle, gamers are divided into 4 different personalities that we will surely encounter within our learning scenarios:


Focus on winning, rank, and competition. They connect by leaderboards and ranks. In the context of L&D, you may find more ‘killers’ in areas such as sales teams. (Remember my sister?)


Focus on reaching status and achieving goals. They are motivated by being recognized for their achievements. In organizations these are the people who seek to be promoted.


Focus on curiosity, exploration, and discovery. They are curious about reaching less obvious conclusions or results. In the work environment, these people tend to be interested in ‘extracurricular’ activities like clubs, volunteering, and others. (to this day, this is me!)


The friendly ones! They are all about networking and meeting new friends. They enjoy one-on-one activities, making new contacts, and ‘weaver’ their network.

10 ideas to gamify your training

The exciting challenge for the L&D practitioner is to design engaging learning experiences that will ignite the playfulness in all 4 gamer personalities.

Now, inspired by my dad’s simplicity and spontaneity; I want to share 10 ideas on how to infuse gamification in your training sessions:

Idea #1. Scavenger adventures or employee onboarding missions

These work great for boosting teamwork, collaboration, creative thinking, and fun competition. There are platforms to carry out this session in virtual environments or you can get creative and make great use of space in live sessions.

Idea #2. Artwork, creative-crafty contests

Get participants involved in artwork or creating crafty articles with materials they can easily find in their homes (for remote training) or in the surroundings of the training class.

Idea #3. Bonus points for stellar participation

Award points for different categories of participation during the class. (Best question, craziest idea, thought-provoking opinion).

Idea #4. Track and reward learning streaks

This would work very well for compliance and onboarding training seasons where multiple sessions must be completed.

Idea #5. Debates and friendly battles

One of the cornerstones of adult learning is making the process social. So give opportunities to your learners to discuss what they are learning or debate controversial topics, so they can discover different perspectives organically.

Idea #6. Collectibles (and trading)

Encourage negotiation skills with small rewards that can be collected and traded among participants.

Idea #7. Find a word/image

Hide words or images throughout the session (around the classroom if ‘live’ or in the virtual learning material) for students to find and earn rewards.

Idea #8. Unlock your course

Design a city map where each area has different tasks and objectives. Choose a known city with its landmarks (like New York) or get creative and create a new city for your students to discover.

Idea #9. Create a range of distinctive rewards desirable to different gamers

Remember some may like tangible things and others may want more subtle things, like a longer recess.

Idea #10. Monitor, assess, and don’t be afraid to change

Or adjust the ‘games’ as your learning journey develops.

Give gamification a try! It has proven to encourage active and continuous learning, create more enjoyable and lasting education experiences, and is also a great way for scoring many peanut M&Ms!


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