Playing Games: Adopting Game-Based Strategies Can Improve Engagement and Outcomes : Page 3 of 3

July 12, 2016

Obstacles to Success

Games or game-based strategies can help improve engagement and may also lead to a higher level of mastery of clinical skills, but a game in itself doesn't guarantee a positive outcome. 

Dr Kapp says while many people want to create games where the participant doesn't realize he or she is learning while playing the game, it isn't the most effective way to achieve success. 

"The research is pretty clear that is not a good way to use game for instruction," he says. "In fact, the best way to use a game for instruction is to tell the learners the content they are going to be learning or experiencing in the game, have them play the game, and then debrief the game." 

He says a common mistake is failing to debrief participants after the game.

"Without that reflection people are really just playing a game, so you really need to have them reflect on it," he says.

Another obstacle, particularly for gamification, is too heavy of a reliance on external rewards and a failure to tie the intrinsic rewards in real life with the extrinsic rewards received in a game. 

"The reason why we are gamifying the drug protocol is not so that you get on the leader board, it's maybe to give you a better quality of life or save your life. That link needs to be explicitly clear," Dr Kapp says.

He says if that link isn't made clear, eventually the external motivation will expire and participants will lose interest and motivation. 

In gamification, he also says the novelty can wear off if aspects of the activity or platform aren't changed about every 90 days. 

Finally, he says that games should be designed to address specific goals and should focus on fostering engagement, rather than simply being fun. 

"The reasons why we are using elements of games is not because they are fun, but because those elements are engaging and we know that engaged people learn more, they have a higher likelihood of changing behavior," he says. "We have a higher likelihood of influencing them if we use engaging techniques." 

Dr Amin also says while he's found that using mobile games to quiz residents and medical students on their knowledge improves efficiency from an educational standpoint, adding convenience, and improving engagement, it still requires time in a student’s or resident's day, which is often already scarce. 

He says that while the methodology is an advantage from an educator’s standpoint, it could just signal an added responsibility to some who are already overworked.

"From the user's standpoint, it really depends on all the other stuff that's going on in his or her environment," he says.