Raspberries, Learning, and a Dose of Dopamine

by Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer, Sententia Gamification

We LOVE dopamine. The release of this neurochemical in our brains rewards us when we do things that are/should be good for us and/or the passage of our DNA to the next generation. We feel pleasure, for instance, when we see a raspberry because our brain knows that when we eat it, the glucose will give us energy (and it will taste good). Soon afterwards, though, the dopamine drops off, and we desire another berry to get that dopamine dose again. We will even walk back to the berry patch and fight with the stickers to get the next raspberry.

But what is even more interesting is that dopamine appears to be involved in learning and memory.

To exert some control over an uncertain life, dopamine rewards us when we discover information about our environment. After all, when we return to the berry patch next month, we’ll only see a tangle of stickers. Our ancestors needed to learn about seasons so that they would...

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Espionage, Subterfuge, and Double Agents

by Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer, Sententia Gamification

The Navy SEALS have a saying, “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying. (And if you get caught, shame on you.)” 

This week, we added ten new game mechanics to Sententia’s Game Mechanics document. It turns out, we missed a whole category of mechanics, even though my motivation profile finds these mechanics enjoyable. And if we overlooked them, chances are you have as well.

Why? Well, when we look at the Motivation Profiles of the professionals going through our Level 2 Gamification Certification, we find that most of them are nice and honorable. By extension or extrapolation, we can assume that most people in the Learning and Development field are also nice and honorable. If we can’t make this leap, then it says something about the people who have not gone through our programs, which would create an interesting marketing proposition (“Are you mean and dishonest?...

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Territory Exploration and Learning: Fortnite and Learning Programs

by Jonathan Peters, PhD
Sententia Gamification Chief Motivation Officer

I was in high school when Zork was available on the Commodore 64. My friends and I spent hours a day exploring the imaginary world with a notebook full of what we learned about the realm, the questions to ask, the instructions to give, and so on. 

With only 64K in memory, the only graphics this game had were on the floppy disk case (Yes, I was so cool that I had one of the first floppy drives). Our whole experience we had with this vast underground territory was through typing questions and making decisions on the answers we received.  

Of course, Fortnite is a completely different experience than what I had decades ago, but if we remove all the shooting, the core desire that made Zork fun for me is probably part of what makes Fortnite fun for you (or your children): The core desire I label as Adventure

When Dr. Stephen Reiss was mapping out core human desires. He noticed that everyone...

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In Search of Fun

by Monica Cornetti
CEO, Sententia Gamification

Is it possible to make dull, difficult, tedious, or challenging tasks just a little more fun? 

What if you could make your employee learning experiences interesting, challenging, and FUN -- perhaps more game-like?

The reality is… you enjoy playing games. You’ve been playing games since the days of cavemen, and it is your nature to compare yourself to see how you measure up to others. Games drive emotions, build loyalty, and create character. 

Watch people immersed in gameplay and you’ll see their whole being is involved. They’re using their skills to the utmost. Time becomes meaningless and minutes, even hours, fly by. What if you could deconstruct games to understand what causes people to play games for hours, being completely involved in an activity for its own sake?

Because FUN is a completely subjective concept, to create courses that learners find relevant and fun is the pursuit of every...

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What Makes Your Learners Tick? (The Secret to Gamification Design)

by Monica Cornetti
CEO, Sententia Gamification

Gamification is an effective tool to make training engaging and fun, because it uses the dynamics of games, such as collaboration, chance, and progress, to tap into learners’ intrinsic desires to master and complete tasks.

When done well, gamification makes training more engaging because it requires participants to complete a challenge, helps them see their progression, and gives them instant feedback and reinforcement.

However, it is important to recognize and address common obstacles that can crop up when using gamification in training. The obstacles include failing to identify why gamification is being used and not knowing whom you are designing for.

Because gamification relies on triggering an action in learners, the key to success is developing solid learner personas. We’ve found that most organizations don’t do assessments of who the players are and what motivates them. What makes your people tick?

Many...

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Lotteries as a Game Mechanic… Fun or Manipulation? (Part 1)

by Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer, Sententia Gamification

Recently I read some interesting research on the use of lotteries to change behaviors. While the results of these different programs are significant, people criticized the use of lotteries as manipulative, even when this game mechanic caused people to do helpful things such as save for their futures and get tested for sexually transmitted diseases. 

I will discuss the successful use of lotteries as a game mechanic in a following article and encourage you to consider using lotteries to engage employees and learners, but I thought a pre-amble that hopefully sidesteps the “moral” associations of lotteries would be helpful. 

Elsewhere I’ve argued that what makes a game mechanic “fun” is its appeal to specific (intrinsic) motivators. For instance, Badges appeal to the motivator of Saving (the need to collect). The reason some people like Badges and others don’t care for...

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