Using Game-Based Training Personas To Understand Learners

Learning through play at work. There’s never been a better time to introduce some fun, with mental health and employee engagement so top-of-mind in organisations, as people are stuck at home, and spending more screen time than ever.

One of the best ways to engage people is through the power of games. Game-based training is simply more fun than many traditional eLearning courses. And while not new to the L&D world, there is a new approach that is making gamification more powerful and relevant than ever before.

Why Invest in Game-Based Training?

With so many people into gaming, over the past few years (*91% of Australian households own a gaming device and two thirds playing games regularly) it’s no surprise there is a comfort and an appetite for game-based training, with many organisations now prioritising it in their L&D programs.

After all, nearly 9 out of 10 respondents to one survey say they are happier at work because of game-based training. Games can make employees less stressed and more motivated, productive and engaged.

Stephen Baer, Chief Creative Officer with our partners, The Game Agency, shares an approach which draws on a well-known marketing tool: The persona. And it’s a great tool to help make game-based training much more personalised and effective.

“While games are fun, there’s also more to it than that,” says Stephen, “In games, reactions can’t be faked. In the process, employees tend to reveal clues to their performance, work ethic, motivation, team cohesion and personality.”

What is most revealing is personality. Game-based training shows how competitive, collaborative or ambitious employees are. An understanding of personality is crucial to teaching employees in a personalised way.

Let’s explore how personality drives game-based learning.

What is an employee persona and why is it so important?

Personas are created in the marketing world in order to understand consumer behaviour and create engagement strategies. Instead of looking at an audience homogeneously, companies segment consumers into groups based on common traits, challenges and desires. This helps personalise messaging to ensure it resonates with each persona.

In the world of training, personas are equally important in order to categorise and better engage learners – such as:

  • Age group
  • Education
  • Tenure as an employee
  • Total years of experience
  • Career progression during past year
  • Stated career goals
  • Peer feedback
  • Historical job changes
  • Career performance metrics
  • Workplace challenges

“While games are fun, there’s also more to it than that,” says Stephen, “In games, reactions can’t be faked. In the process, employees tend to reveal clues to their performance, work ethic, motivation, team cohesion and personality.”

Game-based training and the four personas

Stephen says that when he is designing game-based training, he always starts with personas. While a personality is a specific person’s pattern of traits and behaviours, a persona is a generalised type of person and a simple way to cater to many needs. Based on Richard Bartle’s taxonomy of players, below are four types of players: socialisers, explorers, achievers and fighters.

Let’s examine each more closely.

 1.  Socialiser

Socialisers are people-oriented. They like interacting with people over their environment and value relationships, social status and collaboration. There are three types of socialisers:

  • Rockstars crave love and recognition. These people can put on a show and smile when you praise them for a job well done.
  • Coaches need to be useful. They’re the helpers, mentors and born leaders.
  • Philanthropists find purpose in collaboration and giving gifts. The more they give, the more they feel given to.

Socialisers need collaborative games. Consider using a partner leading game where one employee is blindfolded and another gives them directions to a predetermined location.

2.  Explorer

Explorers like interacting with their environment. They value adventure, novelty, discovery and problem-solving.

  • Detectives enjoy solving problems. They’re the thinkers, puzzlers and solution-finders.
  • Navigators love discovering new horizons. Adventure is in their veins. Without a change of scenery, navigators easily get bored.
  • Free spirits need to be unfettered. They’re creative and thrive on having the freedom to customise and choose their own path.

Scavenger hunts, escape rooms or branching path games are perfect for explorers. Include riddles for detectives, maps for navigators and Easter eggs for free spirits.

3.  Achiever

Achievers are known for performance. They like to be challenged, follow a purpose and receive awards.

  • Experts strive for skill mastery. They expect to be at the top of the leaderboard and often tell others about what they know.
  • Collectors focus on improving themselves. That may include upping their skills, but their focus is broader.

Ideal games for achievers feature quests, levels and a reward system. Let them be the hero of their own story.

4.  Fighter

Fighters are highly competitive. While they all love winning, they can go one of two ways:

  • Competitors prefer to win fairly. Their joy comes from a fight well fought between evenly matched opponents.
  • Terminators win any way they can. They’ll stop at nothing to beat their opponents. They don’t like losing.

Fighters would enjoy sports or a Twitch-style game that tests reaction time.

Personalities First in Corporate Learning

When developing game-based training as a learning and development professional, training manager or HR director, keep personas in mind — but always remember you’re training real people. Personas are simply generalisations that display a dominant personality trait. Best results are achieved when you know the real people you’re designing the training for.

Our team can help you get started, with easy ways to incorporate gamification into your next eLearning development project through a catalogue of games, analytics platform and custom development. Contact us.  

*Source: The Interactive Games & Entertainment Association (IGEA) released their annual study, conducted by Bond University, into the power and impact of video games which was conducted among 1210 Australian households and 3228 individuals.

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