Gamification: Are you Ready?

By Vincent L. Cyboran, Ed.D.  Associate Professor, Graduate Program in Training and Development

Most Baby Boomers can remember the opening episode of ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ in which Mary Richards is seated in the office of her new boss, Lou Grant.  After she answers a few of his questions and is grinning from ear-to-ear, Mr. Grant says to her:  “You know what you what you’ve got, Mary?  Spunk……I hate spunk!”  That’s how I feel about fads in learning and development.

As T&D professionals, we know better than to ignore or dismiss fads, especially when they are addressed at every conference and in every trade journal. The following graphic shows the results of a simple Google search on this topic:


Gen X’ers and Millenials grew up playing video games.  And while there is learning to be had from any kind of video game—first-person shooter or role-playing—we are talking here about games to help employees learn and to assess their learning in the workplace. These games are not designed to be played on game consoles; they are designed to be played on standard-issue employee digital devices:  tablets, phones, phablets, and even computers.

Though I had every intention of writing a blog article, I found a free e-book that explains everything I was going to say, and it’s written by people directly involved in the gamification of learning. Click here to access the e-book. By referring you to this e-book is an example of social learning, not laziness.  “You’re welcome.”  J We are all learning together!

As T&D faculty, especially those involved in designing and teaching e-learning courses, we follow fads closely, for fads often become trends. We’ve been covering gaming for years in our ‘Learning Technologies (TRDV 450)’ course and in our Online Teaching credential courses. But sometimes, we jump in too soon for our students.  Back in 2006, when I was still teaching the e-learning design and authoring courses, I gave students the option of developing a simple game using Captivate. The text I had chosen was the now-classic Engaging Learning:  Designing e-Learning Simulation Games by Clark Quinn. That book was first published in 2005, nine years ago. Not one student was interested.

Vince Cyboran is a professor in the graduate program in Training and Development of Roosevelt University.

Vince Cyboran is a professor in the graduate program in Training and Development of Roosevelt University.

I will add a bit on what I would have written in my blog article.

  • If you cannot write a clear instructional goal, you are not ready to develop a learning game.
  • If you cannot write a clear performance objective, you not ready to develop a learning game.
  • If you cannot define what makes something a ‘game’—as opposed to a case study, a simulation, or simply an activity—you are not ready to develop a learning game.
  • If you think that gaming is all about the game-development tools, you are not ready to develop a game, and you have some serious reading and thinking to do.
  • Finally, if you think that games require extensive and expensive video and audio components, you are not ready to develop a learning game.

Happy gaming!

The references I am listing here are not the latest and greatest but are seminal works in the field that are still on the bookshelves in my office.  Yes, there was great anticipation back in 2003-2006 for what we are now seeing in the workplace.  The K-12 world beat the workplace learning world to meaningful gaming.  I am purposely avoiding the term ‘serious gaming.’


Gee, P. J. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Prensky, M. (2006). “Don’t bother me Mom—I’m learning”: How computer and video games are preparing your kids for 21st. century success—and how you can help. St. Paul, MN: Paragon House.
Taylor, T.L. (2006). Play between worlds:  Exploring online game culture. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.


  • Thanks for this article! I am currently in TRDV 450 (in 2021) and how interesting that this was part of the course studies way back in 2006 and no one was interested at the time. I really appreciate how forward-thinking this MATD program has turned out to be. I am about halfway through the courses and I have enjoyed all of the classes so far. I really liked your added comments about the facts of when you’re not ready to develop a learning game. I do see through my current TRDV course, how important learning objectives are, and how they must be the foundation of any training.

  • Knovva Academy imparts leadership skills to students and empowers them through experiential learning.

  • Great resources and an excellent example of how the field has changed. I can remember when many thought that e learning and online learning were fads! Last year there were 7.1 billion online students in higher ed alone. Now we need to make sure it works and it’s engaging–let the games begin.

  • We have a great professional development opportunity to learn more about gamification. It’s a free event, next Tuesday, hosted by the Chicagoland Chapter of the Association for Talent Development. Here’s the info:

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