Role plays in learning

As a trainer in the corporate sector, the moment you mentioned role plays, you would receive an almighty groan from everyone. Although the technique works to practise a new skill, the way you practise has a lot to do with the effectiveness of how the learner plays. The biggest fear most people have in a role play is to be made a fool of or look stupid, even if that is never the trainers intention, it does happen. Role playing receives bad rep, in face to face training, however in the online environment,we are more accustomed to role playing and the barrier to try seems lower.

Personally, I believe social media has trained us to play different roles even in our own life. Let’s face it, if we behaved in face to face interactions, the same as we do on social channels, I personally believe most of us would get pulled up by friends, family and colleagues quite rapidly. Yet the roles we play there are still a version of ourselves. Role playing games as a video and online game genre are extremely popular, and there we can totally indulge in creating an online character or stepping into the shoes of one, without ever wondering what society is going to think. The game and its characters typically have a purpose and by opting for a character you gain or loose some abilities, resources etc.

In gamification, we cross the divide a lot between real and fantasy. It is rare that full on freedom is allowed to create avatars and great characters. In most work scenarios we are asked to play as ourselves or at least the work role version of ourselves. I personally believe, we all have a number of personae we can turn on and off depending on the situation. What we see happening on social media is not vastly different from what plays out in the world of work when we talk about roles.

Last week I was discussing some of my favourite gamification examples for learning and one such example, which uses avatars with amazing art work, is Classcraft. Each player chooses or is assigned a tribe and can choose a player avatar, which is immediately linked to combat resources and energy. The game is set by a teacher and usually includes research and homework to get scores in and allow for in class tribal battling and collaboration. As I was waxing lyrical about this system and how it is transforming how teachers motivate students, the inevitable question came “do you think these kinds of systems with those graphics will ever enter the workplace?”. The reality is for most corporate environments, it is a fantasy to hope that the graphics like you find in a lot of online games, will make it into corporate software. Personally, I find it sad we can’t even imagine it, I would love to be in awe of the artwork every morning when I open my software tools for the day, but I guess it isn’t and won’t be the norm maybe even ever.

It doesn’t mean role playing game styles have no place in the corporate world, in fact they may allow for the person participating in the game to have enough distance from the scenario being played, but yet play as a version of themselves. By creating a fantasy world we allow the player to disassociate and take on more of an observer role. Feedback and consequences of your actions in a role playing game in this case, can be just perceived as feedback. Especially, if I have multiple lives and can re-take scenarios a few times. Most of us will know our actions are recorded, first of all for scorekeeping reasons, otherwise the game simply doesn’t work and we also wouldn’t receive as much feedback. If the game is allowed to be used in private, I think the best skills transfer and awareness is raised, but then I am a private learner. Some people will benefit from the peer pressure, which when you master a skill is helpful but in the early phases of learning, I would recommend confidence building over any form of competition.

Allow me to stretch your imagination, imagine you come into work. You turn on your work computer and out comes this warrior figure ready to attack the day, whichever way you have with your past behaviour and armour of skills decided to build up your warrior resources. Battles come in the shape of minor and major tasks, questions and meetings. At the end of the working day, you take score of your progress, your energy and resources. The picture gives you a good clue on what to focus on tomorrow or even more long term. You then drop the work armour, shut down the computer and head out being your regular home or play self. So, just wondering… how many of you actually feel it is close to what you do anyway without maybe the fancy graphics, the terminology etc.

Roles are things we play whether we actively choose to or not, some may even play out subconsciously. In a learning setting however, they have a place. A place where you allow someone to learn in a safe environment, to test things out and even make as many mistakes with in the moment feedback as a key ingredient.

Where are you using role play in learning related gamification?



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