What is Gamification and why is it important for business?


“Gamification is 75% Psychology and 25% Technology"
Gabe Zichermann

Numerous studies indicate that engagement and memory retention are hugely increased through gamification elements when adopted into training scenarios.  It is therefore no surprise that the power of gamification has turned this emerging e-learning technology into a substantial market for simulation games, particularly in the commercial sector.

Ideally suited to businesses seeking to drive engagement, organisational productivity, stimulate creative thinking, sales and employee loyalty, business simulation games are used in the following areas:

  1. Recruitment and evaluation
  2. Onboarding
  3. Internal process and ‘business language’ training
  4. Leadership and acumen skills development
  5. Teambuilding
  6. Revitalising management
  7. Core business functions: sales/finance/logistics etc

Gamified learning also provides immediate feedback, giving participants and leaders insights into strengths and weaknesses of both individuals and groups into key areas of the business.

It is important to note that gamification changes participant behaviour.  It is therefore essential to ensure that when applying the game, gamification techniques motivate not manipulate the player. Games must ensure they are player-centric creating an equal balance between legal/ethical considerations and business requirements, all whilst making it a pleasurable experience. 

How are game mechanics and gamification techniques employed in a business simulation?

Game mechanics in a business simulation

The following list describes game mechanics and how they directly relate to a business simulation game: 

  1. Turns: a choice must be made before proceeding to the next stage. An example here is deciding on a product to sell.
  2. Action points: can be one or many actions before completing the turn. An example here is making two or more decisions on marketing spend and number of products to sell.
  3. Auction or bidding. Participants must make competitive bids to determine which player can perform certain actions.  An example here bidding for an opportunity to sell a product in a particular store or buying multiple products from one supplier.
  4. Cards or tokens. This randomizer collects states in a game and is used as a counter.  An example here is number of products sold.
  5. Capture/eliminate. A collective of randomizers players have accumulated.  The outcome determines whether the players have been eliminated or have captured the opponent.  An example here is the ownership of market share.
  6. Catch-up. This mechanism can be incorporated to make a task more difficult to complete as the players near their goal.  An example here is in the inclusion of external forces in the storyline, forcing the participants to make further choices.
  7. How the players move throughout the game.  An example here is the workflow of the business simulation storyline, with objectives being described as the game commences.
  8. Tile laying. Setting a scene within a game.  An example here is designing a shop or marketing poster and their display location.
  9. Resource management. How game elements are utilised achieve maximum return. An example here is the purchase of stock and its’ allocation.
  10. Risk and reward. Players can take their chances via option options where the risk must be analysed. An example here is how much stock to purchase and in which store to sell it.
  11. Role playing. The use of a fictional character in the game. An example here is when each company member acts as the Chief Executive of the virtual company.
  12. Worker placement. How particular game elements are utilised accomplish a task. An example here is staffing management in a shop, number versus product understanding or sales skills.
  13. Game nodes. A configuration of the game offering single, multiple players – both in terms of player numbers and player locations. An example here is the flexibility and scalability of business simulations for single player assessment to large events with multiple companies competing against eachother.  Additionally, this feature offers single location or accessibility via the cloud.
Gamification techniques in a business simulation

Business simulations follow a storyline.  This process not only acts as a guide to the participants it also establishes an emotional connection with the participant.  Effective gamification techniques in the storyline will challenge the player’s desire for status, achievement, competition, inclusion in society, motivation and increased engagement.

An example of a storyline can be anything the business is looking to achieve.  For example, game mechanics for a sales simulation should reward badges or winning teams for creating a successful business, if the goal is to improve supply chain then the rewards should be focussed on best logistical or distribution management processes, etc.  All will include collaborative teamwork elements. 

From instruction on internal processes, language & culture, to core business functions and how they interoperate to achieve a common goal, to developing & distributing a product globally; the key is to ensure the storyline is concise, easy to follow and ……. FUN!

What to look out for when buying a business simulation

As a business simulation or gamification purchaser, it is your responsibility to ensure the metrics in the gamification platform directly relate to the desired business outcome.  The gamification solution must be designed using the best combination of game mechanics and gamification techniques for your business and goal.

The simulation game must take the participant on a positive journey.  Gamification changes participant behaviour, so it is vital to clearly establish the goals of the game before purchase and ensure the game motivates not manipulates players.

The future of gamification?

As with all rapidly moving innovative technologies game mechanics and gamification techniques will start to incorporate elements of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, predictive analytics.  The benefit to us mere mortals?  Analytics offer better insights into businesses, understand employee workflows and competitive modelling.  Once incorporated into existing business simulations, these components can offer additional internal and external influencers challenging participants to be more creative in their strategy development and optimisation.

Gamification offers incredible opportunities for businesses looking to improve their workforce knowledge levels and cohesive working to grow the business.

Where can I learn more?

Have a look at this overview video and delve into the world of a flight simulator for business:


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