Sunday, December 22, 2013

Why Training Should Be More Like Candy Crush?

Candy Crush Saga is the most popular game on Facebook, iOS and the Android Play Store. It is a simple match-three puzzle game. But it is more than that... as every Candy Crush player lives to tell. 
I am far from being a facebook gamer but I started playing the game this December. My objective was to understand and analyse the reason behind the game's astounding success and try and identify some parallels between good games and successful training. And I wasn't disappointed. This candy is addictive! But I wish all training was.

Here's why training should be more like Candy Crush:

1) Levels: Life is not a straight line. If it was, it would have been boring. Levels and challenges make the game interesting. When you complete one level, there is another one waiting to be explored. Following a training path with pre-defined levels would be a good way to progress in one's career. Just-in-time and just-enough are two principles that can help create these levels of training.

2) Lives: The game has limited resources. There is a default number of lives available. This scarcity of lives makes one appreciate the resources that are available and play in a more optimum manner. All training should be more sensitive to the availability of real-life resources and establish that we need to make the most of what we have. Less can be more.

3) Special Candies: When more than three candies of the same colour are matched, the game produces special candies. These special candies have special effects and can help you quickly get the required score. You can also spin a wheel to grab special candies that help you accomplish challenging goals. All training should ensure such short-term benefits, rewards and achievements. These rewards are the motivational factors that help us achieve our objectives and continue on.

4) Obstacles: Obstacles or blockers appear in some levels. They are designed to make the level more challenging and in that sense make it unpredictable. All learning could benefit from including real-life obstacles and problems that add variety and challenge to the learning process.

5) Ask Friends: This is my favorite bit and perhaps the most meaningful. Candy crush is a game you play with friends and family. When stuck on any level, you can request your community of friends for extra lives. You also need friends to help you unlock new levels (or you can buy new levels). This is so unlike most training. Most training is formal and is designed to be from one (instructor) to many (students) Instead, it should be more social and informal and allow for many-to-many relationships. Training should be designed in a way that makes you want to interact and seek support from your network of 'friends' aka experts or colleagues. This social support and community collaboration should help you move ahead in the training path.

Well, everything said, the game is fun. Period. The visuals, the sound effects and the motivating voice, all make it very likable. And because you can start and stop anytime, almost anywhere you are, you tend to think about the game often! Being age and gender neutral also takes it a longer way than most other games. 

There are many things to learn from games such as Candy Crush. But gamification of learning is more than just building games into learning. It is a systematic process of using specific strategies that are based on the principles of gaming. 

Gamification expert, Yu-Kai Chou has developed a framework called Octalysis that presents eight core drives of gamification. It is an actionable framework that can help developers 'gamify' games, products and campaigns. Chou's Level 1 of Octalysis framework includes the following eight drives:
  1. Epic Meaning & Calling
  2. Development & Accomplishment
  3. Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback
  4. Ownership & Possession
  5. Social Influence and Relatedness
  6. Scarcity & Impatience
  7. Curiosity & Unpredictability
  8. Loss & Avoidance
These drives are plotted in an octagon shape and represent the side of the brain they appeal to. The right-side appeals to creativity, social aspects and self-expression. The left-side appeals to logic, calculation and ownership.

According to Chou (@yukaichou), every successful game appeals to one, if not more, of these core drives. Further, each drive is associated with specific game mechanics and tactics. Here, you can see some interesting examples where Farmville, Facebook and Twitter are plotted on this framework.

Some other useful resources from Chou include:

I think Chou's framework has a place in the learning industry and everything else that involves motivational factors - intrinsic or extrinsic. As learning designers, we can use this framework to 'gamify' our learning intervention and identify aspects of design that are likely to make most impact. Yes, training will have core requirements including performance improvement and developing job skills. But if we are looking at gamifying our learning, this is an actionable framework that can help us score our game-based learning design and assess which drive is being used and to what extent. 

PS: If you are into Candy Crush, here's Chou's analysis of Candy Crush using the Octalysis framework. Some of my friends claim they see candies in their dreams :) I will eagerly wait for the day when people see good training in their dreams and can't wait to get back to it!