Faculty at Harrisburg University release book on how business leaders can use games to improve performance

Games aren’t just for play, according to two faculty members at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology. Games have the potential to change how businesses train employees and cultivate skills in the workplace – and Charles Palmer, Executive Director, Center for Advanced Entertainment and Learning Technologies, and Andy E. Petroski, Senior New Product Development Consultant, are showcasing these games in their book “Alternate Reality Games: Gamification for Performance.”

While most businesses call their employees into the conference room for boring Powerpoint presentations, a new form of employee training is taking over in the form of Alternative Reality Games.

Better known in the technology industry as ARGs or transmedia storytelling , these games use various forms of media to generate engagement and immersive learning beyond what is achieved in formal and conventional training and communication approaches.

ARGs and Gamification are commonly seen in the form of leaderboards, achievements, and puzzle challenges that are integrated into daily business tasks to improve employee engagement, which can then be used to foster behavior change, Palmer said.

The use of these games are a new concept for many training professionals and human resource representatives, he said.

“Games have been used in learning for years, but with the rise of loyalty programs and the adoption of games into our everyday life, we are seeing a rise in the use of game mechanics in business settings,” Palmer said.

One of the exciting things about alternate reality games is that they can be easy to implement in terms of resources needed, providing a big impact with minimal effort, Petroski said. In the book, the authors show examples of new employee orientations, how to make the best use of face-to-face time, and how to use live scenarios to practice protocol.

One example is how the president of a company interrupted leadership training and told his staff that a production plant in another country had a problem that needed fixed immediately or it would lead to disaster, Petroski said. With a simple scenario and a few rules for how to find the solution, the company was able to use ARGs to improve training.

Harrisburg University’s Center for Advanced Entertainment and Learning Technologies has been on the forefront of ARG use in the public sphere, Palmer said.

“We have built and studied a number of alternate reality game titles,” he said. “We started by building these games for external clients, but after some experimentation we brought the subject into the classroom at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.”

It’s predicted that by 2018, the global gamification market will reach $5.5 billion, according to Palmer. Harrisburg University plans to stay ahead of that demand and advancement in gamification.

As the book hits store shelves and becomes available online, Palmer and Petroski look forward to seeing how it enables the business world to jump on the trend of gamification.

“I think the book is a good introduction for someone who is in training or performance management and looking for new techniques for increased engagement and the ability to implement something that will have a great impact,” Petroski said. “The book gives them a good foundation to determine if it’s something they want to do and outlines the spectrum of opportunities to show them that gamification doesn’t have to be high tech or large scale.”