Perspectives from Gamifyus

Gamifyus, was the first gamification related conference in Sweden and took place yesterday in Stockholm. As the original founder of the Scandinavian meetup group for gamification, it is good to see that this area is finding a place in the market here. The topics were far wider than just gamification and included serious games, VR and AR.

The conference was opened by Dr Jason Fox and as a self-confessed introvert, he was an amazing opening keynote speaker. He took us through a philosophical, funny and exquisitely worded journey of the world of motivation. His impersonation of a motivational speaker was just hilarious. He also challenged us to sum up the past 12 months in one word and then the next 12 in one word. I have to say that wasn’t easy, but we worked it out. I think he set the scene for the day and had our thoughts peaked.

The panel discussion that followed explored how the word gamification may cause aversion in business and several other suggestions were made ranging from modification to engagement to digital transformation. I think no matter what word you choose, stick with it and make it work. I put my company name firmly in the hat of gamification and our solutions look at engagement and often follow aspects of digital transformation.

Jessica Engstrom then spoke about talking to her house to make it do the things she didn’t like doing, from hoovering, to filling the fridge, to folding clothes, etc. It just made my wish-list a bit longer, especially the machine that folds, refreshes and irons clothes is on the must explore list. Some of the things were a bit beyond my interest area and I wondered why they were useful, but I guess that’s where personal taste comes in.

The breakout sessions proved to be a bit of a challenge. They were in Swedish language only in most rooms, we had to leave the front row of our first choice rather embarrassingly, the second room when we stuck our head in the door had also started in Swedish and on our third and final attempt the organiser went up to the speaker and asked if he could kindly switch to English. Still embarrassing but we were very grateful that both speakers in this session facilitated non-natives and we learned something more about VR and received good tips on how to do innovation well including failing and having a bad name but taking ownership of it. Thank you Niclas Johansson, VR Sverige & Faviana Vangelius, SVRVIVE for allowing us to hear your wisdom and perspective.

The afternoon started with a great keynote from Chris about gamification at Duolingo. He explained how they a/b test changes to the application, what measures they look for to implement changes and how the app actually works. If you were working on gamified apps, this talk held some gems about metrics and methodology. I have been a fan of Duolingo for quite some time, so it was lovely to have an insight from behind the scenes. As gamified learning apps go I like what they have done. Fun statistic the most learned language in Sweden is actually Swedish 🙂 (yes, I am still trying but stuck in the basics)

Then it was time for Juliette Denny from GrowthEngineering to take to the stage, we actually met first at a gamification course run by Gabe Zicherman and have been friends since. I also love the product and promote it where we can. She started her talk by declaring war on boring learning and a few banned words were LMS and e-learning. She equally shed light on the mammoth task most L&D teams have and that the role of line manager is often forgotten or abdicated into a course to fix what are really interpersonal issues. Her style is enthusiastic and fast, so we were bombarded with facts and great images. She gave the platform perspective of what has worked for them in gamification and what hasn’t. It gave great insight and I believe the world of …hmm (not supposed to use learning)…so the corporate world, which is their main target audience needs to hear about this behaviour changing platform. If you want to stick to the old ways, do not go there, but if you want true change they are the company to make it happen.

Anyway I loved her talk and try enjoyed our further extended catch up in the old town of Stockholm over great wine and some of the best Swedish food I have eaten. (thank you restaurant Kryp In)

We skipped the next break out to avoid earlier challenges and for me to have time to get ready for my breakout session about inclusive gamification design. The breakout sessions always had two speakers with equal time slots. I spoke about design considerations to be inclusive about gender, age, culture and the elephant we had already encountered namely language. My slides didn’t quite make the smooth conversion from Mac to PC so I promised people to share them here on this link. I gave insights on how our process works to ensure inclusion in our design methodology and our testing with various groups.

What was a little disappointing for me and Juliette, who had come in to watch my talk, is that we were excluded from the same breakout because of the language. I totally respect the other speaker, she had a lot of good knowledge to share, I have written about her work in the past and she even had a screen grab from the post, but I understood maybe 30% and Juliette less. From an organisational perspective that should have been addressed in advance. My fellow breakout speaker apologised etc to me, it just left me feeling very deflated to speak about the very topic of inclusion and to not be able to hear the great information of the second speaker also talking about the same topic.

I have been in conferences where the language barrier was also present and where then an interpretation device was handed out so people who wanted to follow could. In other conferences groups of other languages grouped together around an interpreter who would whisper translations. So there are ways around it. The thing is though most speakers had prepared their slides in English and some had been willing to talk in English. The 5 foreign speakers were also interested in the topics, so either advance warning or inclusion could have avoided disappointment. Anyway it was a minor blip in the larger scheme of things on an otherwise well organised event, something to consider for future editions.

The final two keynotes took us through the world of serious games with Joakim Eklund from Hello There Games and Adrian Hon, from Zombies, run! They both emphasised the importance of good game design, but equally hiring writers to come up with compelling narratives and storylines. According to Adrian most game designers have a limited repertoire of books on their curriculum: Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and another that I don’t recall but along the same lines. In any case they made the point, you want experts for the jobs you want done. To come up with the most engaging and fun experience.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day and the meeting the various speakers, catching up with old and new friends. Hopefully this is the start of great conference which will be repeated.




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