Game Show Espresso: Quick tips to perk up your training

Game Show Espresso 34
Game Show Espresso
In This Issue

New Game 1 Skin
New Game Board Designs Now Available:
Last month, we offered a sneak peak of our new game board designs for Gameshow Pro. They are now available FREE to existing users, and will be included with all new purchases of Gameshow Pro. If you already love the game boards in Gameshow Pro, don’t worry—the new game board designs are additions—you can still use your old favorites. To get the new game boards, go to “Check for updates” within your Gameshow Pro software, or visit our Downloads Page to get the latest version.

Competition is Key with Game Show Success
We’re often asked (and we often ask ourselves) what—exactly—makes game shows such effective training tools. They’re undeniably and unarguably engaging and effective, but what makes them so compelling?
There are several components that go into a game show that make it an incredible training tool, such as:

  • Interaction
  • Utilizing questions
  • It’s a change of pace
  • Capitalizing on multimedia
  • Etc.
But one of the single largest components that make game shows more effective than, say, a traditional oral question-and-answer review or a poll, is competition. There’s something in our DNA, in the heart of how we live and work that makes competition appealing. Perhaps it came from the caveman days when we competed for natural resources and now plays out in gentler, less primitive ways.
The act of competing makes our brains secrete adrenaline, and adrenaline works to fuse memory. Competition also generates emotion—another memory-making component. These elements combined allow game shows to pack a powerful punch and have great training impact where content retention is concerned.
Competition factors in multiple ways during a game show:
Team competition: When placed on a team in a game show, you’re no longer just individually responsible for your performance, you’re also collectivistically responsible for the success of your team. This peer pressure can be incredibly motivating and can also add a great teambuilding/networking dynamic in the training class.
Self-motivated competition: Even casually watching a game show on television, most people will find themselves playing along. It’s not as if we get prizes for answering a question on Jeopardy! correctly, but we play along for the sake of our own self-knowledge and satisfaction. We compete with ourselves.
Competition against others: A game show is a vehicle for friendly competition. A participant competes against others to ring-in first, competes to give the most correct answer, and competes to get the most total points. This competition generates discussion, desire to play another game, and a focus on the content at hand. It’s also an incredibly motivational way to interact within a training session.
While there isn’t any one single element that makes game shows successful, it’s pretty clear that competition is one of the more powerful elements in making them an incredibly effective training tool.

Business Solutions: Better Training Through Gaming

Business Solutions:
Better Training Through Gaming

April 25, 2005; Page R6

Note to managers: It’s OK to let your employees play games at work.

We’re not talking about all those hours fooling around at computer solitaire. Where games have their place—and significant benefits—is in livening up boring corporate training sessions.

Companies in the U.S. spend about $60 billion a year on training their employees, but there’s a good chance much of that is wasted. The reason: Most training sessions are just too dull. (Web-based e-learning classes were supposed to fix that, but in reality they just allow employees to get bored at their own pace.) As a result, employees aren’t coming away from the training with the knowledge or skills their employers are paying for.

"Forget learning," says Marcia Sitcoske, director of Cisco Systems Inc.’s Creative Learning Studio, whose mission is to make the company’s online training tools more effective and appealing. "People aren’t even completing these things, they’re so boring." Training experts insist it doesn’t have to be this way. They argue that companies could make their employee-education programs more compelling, and more effective, if they made them more fun—specifically, more like computer games.

Evidence suggests adults learn more and retain more in courses that incorporate such game elements as competitive scoring, increasingly difficult player levels and fantasy role-playing. But many managers remain skeptical. It’s a rare boss who thrills at seeing workers playing games on the job, and adding games to a learning package tacks on extra expense.

War Games

The U.S. military is a lot further along in adopting game elements in training than are most businesses. In part, that's because learning on a computer is much cheaper and safer than in the field, and recruits come from a generation comfortable in the fast-paced gaming world. The best of the military’s training games rival the complexity and richness of some of the best videogames. In fact, a version of Full Spectrum Warrior, a training game developed for the U.S. Army by the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California, has recently been released for the public game market.

Outside of a few custom-designed applications, such games remain a rarity in the corporate training world; don’t look for Full Spectrum CEO anytime soon. Instead, a growing number of companies are turning to more modest courses that mix work and play.

In some cases, the lack of good commercial alternatives has prompted companies to take a do-it-yourself approach. Cisco Systems’ Creative Learning Studio, formed in 2001, uses technology, high-quality video—and entertainment—to enliven its vast library of online training tools. It now has about 4,500 e-learning courses of varying lengths. One such course, for employees and outsiders seeking certification as authorized Cisco "networking professionals," uses a game to help teach fundamentals of building a high-speed network of shared storage devices. Called SAN Rover (for storage area network), the game requires students to race the clock to gather the pieces—hard drives, switches and other components&mash;and correctly put together such a network while dodging crashing asteroids.

The game, which reinforces the skills students learn in classes and from their reading, has been played about 2,000 times since it was introduced last June. "More and more people are learning that gaming can be useful in training in the corporate environment," Cisco’s Ms. Sitcoske says.

It’s All About Competition

Companies also can turn to simple, off-the-shelf games for reviewing and testing. The games don’t even have to be that sophisticated as long as they include an essential element: competition.

Borland Software Corp. wanted to give its sales staff an incentive to master details of its product line before an annual world-wide sales meeting earlier this year, and was looking for better results than with its previous PowerPoint-laden e-learning program. So it turned to QB International, a San Rafael, Calif., e-learning company, to develop online study guides that incorporated a series of games for testing students’ knowledge of the material. The simple games, based on such diversions as tic-tac-toe and hangman, featured a series of timed questions. Each member of the sales staff had to get at least 80% of the answers correct on a series of nine tests interspersed with the lessons, and those who received perfect scores were entered into a drawing for five Apple iPods. Everyone also had to take a final comprehensive exam of 100 questions, and the one with the highest score and fastest time received a $3,000 prize.

Though the games weren’t very sophisticated, they were enough to motivate the highly competitive salespeople. Scores in the preliminary exams were posted for all to see.

"All of a sudden, people are instant messaging each other, 'You’re on top today, but you’re going down,' " says Wynn Johnson, director of field readiness for Borland, based in Scott City, Calif. "The competition is a motivator."

ERC Properties Inc., a Fort Smith, Ark., builder and manager of multifamily developments faced a crucial training challenge: teaching 355 property managers how to comply with Revenue Service regulations for affordable housing tax credits. Managers need to determine the eligibility of qualified tenants, and penalties for not following the law are huge.

Candace Armstrong, ERC’s corporate training director, chose software from Minneapolis-based LearningWare Inc. The software, called Gameshow Pro, provides a series of game templates based on popular television shows. Using questions and answers based on her training materials, Armstrong divides each training class into two teams that compete in a tic-tac-toe variation of "Hollywood Squares."

To test the effectiveness of the games, she compared results from a group of employees who played the game with those of a different group that received the same questions in oral review. Managers need to score 80% on a subsequent certification exam; Ms. Armstrong revealed that 88% of the group that played the game passed the test on the first try, compared with 54% of the group that received the basic review.

"Most training is very boring, especially if it’s government-required," Ms. Armstrong explained, "The difference was pretty obvious. People learn more when they laugh."

Client Profile

Happy Attendees
Raising the Energy Level by 1000%: WorkFlow Studios
This last week, we received this customer feedback about Gameshow Pro in our inboxes. This comes from Dan S. at Workflow Studios (a collaborator with IBM), and it’s too good not to share:

The student reaction exceeded my expectations. My first use of Gameshow Pro was the last presentation of the morning before lunch. The energy level rose 1000%. The students had a lot of fun with it and I hope that translated in to greater knowledge transfer. Unlike a standard lecture where only a few students ask questions or speak up, everyone participated in this exercise. It made them think and process the information. The word of mouth spread so fast in IBM that I had someone who wasn't a part of the class approach me during lunch to see if we'd be playing any games in the afternoon where he could see it in action. I tweeted twice about repurposing the content and the results. I had a former IBMer inquire about it.

One line sticks out to us: “The energy level rose 1000%.” Any slight hyperbole aside, THIS is the power of game shows—and it’s what we see all the time; in large events, in the training classroom, etc. When the game show starts, everyone is paying attention. It’s like someone plugged in the room and electricity is now flowing.

It’s also why we’re so passionate about using game shows in the training session: they work. They’re not just a game for game's sake, they’re a tool to engage learners—to convey and review content. This review of Gameshow Pro isn’t unique—we hear it from trainers all the time, in every subject area, in every classroom (online or in-person) of every size.

Game of the Month
LearningWare News
Join a Webinar
Check Out Our Blog


Are you prepared?
Ask the Experts

Dan Yaman
Dan Yaman
President & Founder, LearningWare

Q. I’m going to use Gameshow Pro in our annual sales meeting. The audience has about 230 attendees, and I want to make sure it’s a big hit. Any tips?

A.Well, we’ve had many years of experience producing game shows for events like yours, so I can share some of my favorite best practices.

1. Involve everyone in the audience. With a group that large, unless you’re using audience response keypads, not everyone may be able to play—but that doesn’t mean they can’t be involved. Have representatives playing for their teams on stage—and have the audience responsible for cheering on their team.

2. Work with the AV crew to test your equipment/blocking. Do a dry-run on stage to make sure that everything is placed correctly and that everything is working correctly.

3. Have a helping hand. If you’re hosting, have someone else run the game show and vice versa. In some cases, customers have hired us to produce the game show just so they don’t have to worry about all the particulars in a high-stakes situation.

Audiences we’ve seen have LOVED game shows in large events like yours. Have fun with it, and you’ll end up getting a lot of buzz and positive feedback.

Got a question for Dan and Missy, authors of the book I’ll Take Learning for 500: Using Game Shows to Engage, Motivate and Train? Submit them to and they could end up in a future edition of Game Show Espresso.

Ask the Experts

New game board designs now available for Gameshow Pro. Update your existing software, plus ALL new GSP licenses include the new designs.

New games in development for AllPlay Web!

Ask the Experts
Contact Us
Game Show Gurus