Gaming serious government business

Published on Tuesday 27 November 2012 by in Blog, News with no comments

Het ‘Buitenhuis’ an Innovative department within the ‘Werkmaatschappij’, a division within the Ministry of internal affairs in the Netherlands, organized an event for government organizations focused around ‘Serious gaming’. The theme of the session was ‘@Gettingthebiggerpicture’.

Irene van Munster director of the ‘Werkmaatschappij’ opened the event explaining how serious gaming can help ‘speed up’ and ‘improve’ the learning process and how gaming is definately a ‘serious’ subject within government organizations.

Yuen Yen Tsai a game-specialist with the ‘Buitenhuis’ who has an impressive title of ‘Gaming Overall Ditrector’ (GOD), explained her vision on serious gaming. ‘@GettingtheBiggerPicture’ was aimed at bringing a wide variety of game developers, concepts, solutions and users together to show that gaming is more than a generally held perception of simply on-line games. The event would focus on the meaning of games and gaming in a serious business context, also helping break through the paradigm that playing and working cannot be combined. An additional focus in the event was the critical role of the game facilitator in ensuring the success of an investment.

play is the highest form of research

For those who think games and game playing are not ‘serious’ Yuen Yen quoted EinsteinPlay is the highest form of research’ and went on to add that the Netherlands can create a position of ‘Thought leadership’ in serious gaming. There is an enormous amount of experience and valuable results have been achieved through the application of gaming, this needs to be captured and channeled back into the gaming community.

The day contained a number of interactive sessions focusing on a variety of game concepts ranging from  Micros games, Cybersecurity, a bio-metric stress reducer, serious business simulations as part of organizational change initiatives, a game from the TU Delft focusing on solving social problems such as ‘Energy consumption’ for the future….. and many more.  Jan Schilt of GamingWorks conducted a workshop focusing on the role of the game facilitator and the need for a structured approach to ‘Before-During-After’. A game is not a one-time event, but a process for translating a problem or learning objective into a measurable behavior change that delivers results. As a game facilitator it starts with the ‘Intake’ and finishes with the ‘transfer initiatives’, ensuring what was learnt is transferred into practice. Jan used the 8-field model to explain the approach used by GamingWorks to ensure their serious business games result in demonstrable behavior change and impact.

Key learning points for facilitators:

  • Know the problem and focus on this (everybody). What will results look like that show that the problem is solved?
  • Ensure the problem owner is involved and engaged before-during-after the game intervention.
  • Know the desirable behavior or ‘Wish situation’you are trying to create – for each role in the game.
  • Who will play which role and why? What do we expect and want to see and test?
  • Which interventions and scenes in the game do we want to zoom in on and use?
  • Focus on the desired situation and behavior – take all opportunities to explore, discuss, test and validate these – does the desired behavior realize the desired results?
  • Interventions in the game with a reason. Only make an intervention if it relates to the learning objectives.
  • Focus on developing transfer skills and capturing learning and improvements to be taken away and transferred into concrete actions and behavior at the workplace.
  • Make the delegates themselves responsible for :
    • Reflection, capture, action planning for follow-up
    • When are we satisfied? What does success look like:
      • During the workshop
      • In our daily work

After the morning session delegates were split into teams of 4 to capture key insights and ‘aha’ moments. These were the items that were captured on the ‘wall of ideas’:

  • You MUST have a clear learning objective, a game is simply an instrument in helping realize this. Keep it simple and achievable and not try to include everything into a game concept.
  • Begin with the behavior you are trying to create.
  • Good reflection and debriefing is a MUST.
  • Ensure when building a game that it has a link with reality – that the scenarios in the game relate to peoples working environment and situations.
  • Games must be challenging and inviting if you want people to participate
  • The game never stops! The game is not a one time intervention. It must lead to sustainable behavior change and ultimately to demonstrable results.
  • Use the results of the game intervention as a communication instrument for the change and for gaming as an intervention to create more awareness and interest.
  • Augmented reality and technology stimulates participation and attracts people to serious play.
  • Games are not seen as serious
  • Playing and the fun factor are important.
  • Ambassadorss are needed to create awareness and the business case for using gaming.

In discussions with delegates it was clear that many saw the potential for gaming as a learning and change instrument.

One worrying observation we, as GamingWorks made was the maturity of the gaming industry offerings and the way in which gaming is used.  It has the characteristic of ‘the game is the solution’, not the more important follow up and embedding the learning in real life behavior change.

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