Why Learning Games Succeed Where Traditional Training Fails

Why is everyone always picking on traditional training? And what makes learning games so special anyway? It’s not that we dislike traditional training, we just think there are a lot more benefits to learning games. For example, learning games are fun, competitive, rewarding, interactive, and attention-grabbing. Traditional training is…not any of those. Just to clarify – we’re talking about learning games here, not gamification.

Make no mistake… our assertion that learning games are more effective than traditional training is not a matter of preference. So what do learning games offer over traditional training?

1. Learning games are realistic

Unlike its traditional training counterpart, learning games allow us to interact with a hypothetical environment and explore scenarios we might actually encounter in the workplace. They provide us with a safe haven to test our newly acquired knowledge before going out and bettering the world with it. With traditional training, there is no opportunity to apply what we’ve been preached – we are simply taking it in and spitting it back out at our customers. By simulating reality, learning games prepare us for the “What ifs” and the “Worst case scenarios” before they actually happen and with minimal risk. A great example of this is our “Formulation Type Matters” sales scenario game:

Formulation Type Matters is a learning game by Bottom-Line Performance.

2. Learning games are repetitive

“Could you please repeat that?” is something you won’t ever have to worry about with learning games. Learning games give us the chance to try, try again if at first we don’t succeed and understand the consequences of our actions. Levels or turns provide us with the opportunity to evaluate our choices and make better decisions as the game progresses… and the anticipated rewards create feedback loops to keep us motivated. Repetition repetition (is there an echo?) is how we actually remember new information; the more times we see or hear something, the more likely we are to remember it. Many games have learners begin a behavior on level one, and slowly add new ones on later levels. This creates powerful “scaffolding” of knowledge.

3. Learning games are engaging

Raise your hand if you’ve NEVER fallen asleep during a training course, presentation, or lecture (those of you raising your hand right now – you’re liars). Let’s face it – traditional training is BOR-ING. But learning games? They’re fun, they’re interactive, and they maintain our attention. Most importantly, they induce a state of flow. We’re not watching the clock or making bets on how many times the speaker will say “technology” because we’re engaged. We become emotionally invested in games, so when we play we start to relate to the material by putting ourselves in the scenarios or by connecting with the characters in the game, and before you know it – you’re learning. It makes sense that we strive to become better at something we enjoy doing.

4. Learning games are effective

Not only are they fun, but learning games produce results too. After speaking with Sharon Boller, our company president and in-house expert on learning games, we felt we better understood why they are so effective:

“Games provide clear, measurable goals that add purpose to the experience… and there is a clear psychology that we are innately drawn to that. [Games] tap into a lot of the intrinsic motivation we already have, and when both our emotional and cognitive sides of the brain are engaged in what we are doing, we learn more.”

In short, games are effective because we’re motivated by them… and that is a big deal when it comes to corporate learning.

5. Learning games are social

Games can be social experiences even if they aren’t face-to-face. Through scoreboards, messaging features, and multi-player options, we interact with other players and feel like we are taking part in a common experience. The Knowledge Guru™ is a perfect example – it’s a single-player game… but the scoreboards create competition and remind us that we’re not the only ones playing. As humans,we’re hard-wired for competition and it drives us to perform to the best of our ability. Jane McGonigal coined the term “blissful productivity” when talking about how happy playing games makes us. Games bring people together, make them feel like they are doing something important and motivate them to work hard. The social aspect learning games provide is unmatched through traditional training.


We’ve been lucky enough to see the power of learning games in action through our recent work, whether it be an immersive simulation like “A Paycheck Away” or gamified social app like Knowledge Guru. What ways have you seen learning games succeed over traditional training… and how do they overlap?