Game-Based Learning Encourages Engagement

What if you told your employees they could train and effectively develop their skills while playing and having fun? What do you think their response would be? Game on!

Traditional e-learning is not very effective: The completion rate of online training is only 30 percent. The dropout rate of e-learning tells us that a company wastes $3 out of every $4 invested in online training. And the data about employees who voluntarily enter training via training platforms or learning management systems (LMSs) in any company are even worse.

All this data represents a disproportionate and unaffordable cost for any company, which ends up having a negative impact on the image and motivation of the HR or Training and Development department. So it is not surprising that experts and professionals around the world agree that “engagement” will continue to be a major concern and main challenge for HR and Training and Development departments in the years to come.

Since its emergence, the e-learning format has represented the opportunity to increase and improve the performance of corporate training. And it does so in a simultaneous, homogeneous, and—in theory—cheaper way.

But e-learning is nothing more than a format, and it is often boring. As such, it does not have the necessary features to improve employees’ engagement with training and achieve its ultimate purpose: to effectively develop people.

At this point, the key question arises: “How do I improve the engagement of my online training?”

The answer may be video games. Let’s explore some of the benefits game-based learning provides in the area of learner engagement.


Playing video games offers physiological benefits associated with the stimulation of the brain, and it can delay natural aging. In some cases, gamebased learning drives decision-making, improving cognitive function and helping people learn valuable skills and lessons applicable to real life.

When playing, it is easier to interact with others; to establish dialogue; and to overcome cultural, social, and generational barriers. Therefore, the use of serious games for training improves the mind and the self-esteem of the student, who tries to explore and find alternative approaches to solving different situations in the learning process.


People who learn through playing usually do so in a collaborative environment in which they work together to achieve a goal. By encouraging cooperation through the game, students increase their job satisfaction; they feel part of the team and are involved in achieving common goals.

In this way, students develop an awareness of belonging to a single group, thus enhancing its cohesion. If there is cohesion, then performance, communication, and employee motivation in training will increase.


One of the benefits of game-based learning is undoubtedly the possibility of obtaining immediate feedback on student performance. Serious games incorporate systems that permit constant monitoring. That means it’s crucial to not just to provide courses that allow students to practice, but also ones that give them the chance to observe the result of their decisions and, especially, to receive feedback about areas to be improved.

Feedback should be permanent and personalized, and allow adaptability and scalability by the user, leaving enough time for the employee to internalize the improvements and put them into practice.


Experiential learning is learning from practice. It is the evolution of the 70:20:10 model that has prevailed in the training sector for the last few years. This model, based on research by Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Eichinger, states that 70 percent of the development of any individual is experiential; 20 percent of this learning is social; and the remaining 10 percent comes from courses, lectures, and structured programs.

In this way, video games can foster voluntary learning. Game-based learning proposes offering training based on “learning by doing.”


Video games improve students’ self-confidence. Learners who face training with confidence are likely to become motivated employees. Gamebased learning creates a safe environment in which participants can test the content without risk, thus improving their confidence.

Serious games represent situations similar to those in real life in which participants practice skills in a safe environment, thus reducing their stress level.


One of the main disadvantages of e-learning is that it is boring. As a result, courses end up becoming a series of readings and tests as learners go from e-learning to e-reading.

Game-based learning turns learning into an adventure. One of the main techniques to achieve engagement is to make learning a personal challenge or a group competition. Serious games offer a different approach to training and help it be regarded as a fun and entertaining experience.

The interactive environment of game-based learning, far from turning away from reality, makes it possible to practice and compete, so learners successfully retain information and apply what is learned.


Game dynamics (gamification) motivate students, increasing their effort and developing their knowledge, thanks to practice.

The Federation of American Scientists (“A Meta-Analytical Examination of the Instructional Effectiveness of Computer-Based Simulation Games,”

2011, Tracy Sitzman) claims that the game is the most effective and powerful learning tool:

  • It increases student confidence by 20 percent.
  • t improves learning retention by 90 percent.
  • It improves the conceptual knowledge of the student by 11 percent.
  • It increases task completion by 300 percent.

But like traditional e-learning, game-based learning is a format. If you want to develop training that works, you should know how to incorporate video games successfully. Serious games should combine:

  • High-quality content, equivalent to that of a two-day classroom course, with a fundamentally practical approach, allowing employees to learn from their own experiences. The content should avoid theories, models, and definitions. Turn each professional skill into a set of useful techniques, tools, and strategies applicable to learners.
  • Sophisticated simulators, which represent situations that are similar to real life, so employees can practice the skill while receiving feedback with tips for improvement in a secure environment.
  • Gamification techniques such as storytelling, rankings, badges, challenges, or levels—making learning a different, fun, and engaging experience.

For example, to develop leaders through our serious game, Pacific, we provide learners a practical manual on how to lead and manage high-performance teams: how to define roles and common goals, the importance of delegation or coaching, how to improve employee empowerment. These techniques are practiced through the simulator and can be applied directly to their daily lives. We do this in a survival adventure: Students must escape from a desert island where they have been stranded after surviving an accident. Students must prove and test their skills as leaders to help their team and themselves get back home safely.

What if you told your employees they could train and effectively develop their skills while playing and having fun? What do you think their response would be?

Game on!

Ibrahim Jabary is co-founder and CEO of Gamelearn, which has achieved serious game completion ratios above 90 percent for more than 100,000 students from 1,000 clients on five continents. The creator of Merchants, Triskelion, and Pacific, Jabary also founded Jabary Consulting, a company dedicated to in-classroom training on management skills. He holds a degree in Economics and Business and an MBA from IE Business School.