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Everyone's a Winner: Negating Extreme Competition in a Game Show

Game shows by their very nature inspire competition. While a little healthy competition can be fun and engaging, some training scenarios call for a gentler approach to competition. After all, a trainer wants the main focus of a game show to be on the content--not on who did or didn’t win the game (in some cases, that is). Here are a few tips on how to negate (and in some cases, eliminate altogether) extreme competition.

1. Eliminate or Reduce Prizes. Trainees will still be engaged in a game show that does not feature prizes, but taking away prizes will eliminate some of the more extreme competition. We often see trainers that want to give away large gifts to winning teams, but often this only results in a competitive atmosphere where the sole focus of a team is winning not on the content. We’re not saying that prizes are bad--they certainly can be a fun part of a game show--but smaller prizes (or prizes with non-monetary value like an extra lunch break, or leaving a session early) tend to work better than extravagant items.

2. Take Turns. Ring-in games (such as Jeopardy-style or Family Feud-style games), by their very nature, tend to encourage competition. The game is not only about who answers the question correctly, but also who can ring-in quickly. To negate this element of competition, have teams take turns answering questions. For instance, have a Jeopardy-style game where each team can select a question and answer it exclusively. Some game shows are naturally more adaptable to taking turns than others.

3. Play Without Points. Eliminate the score board and hand out mini-prizes to each trainee that answers a question correctly. This way, the focus is not on earning the greatest point total. Another alternative to eliminate the scoreboard completely? Make it so the first team to reach a certain point level wins a prize for the entire class--like getting to leave early, or getting a piece of candy.

4. Eliminate Teams. Have the whole classroom work together achieve a common objective. For instance, a Jeopardy-style game can challenge the classroom to achieve a point value. You can also throw a game show question out to the entire room to answer. Trainees can either volunteer answers or you can throw out a small, soft object (like a koosh ball) to select the next respondent. You can also use an individual response game where everyone can play along on their own. Audience-response keypads combined with an AllPlay game can track each person’s individual response and total the percentage of people in the entire room that responded correctly to a question.

5. Increase collaboration. Consider changing quick-response multiple choice and short answer questions to more elaborate discussion questions. This not only slows down the pace and decreases the quick-fire competitive nature of the game, but it also allows trainees to focus on content for a greater period of time. Teams can put their heads together, elaborate on other team’s answers, and go deeply into the subject matter.

Closing Thoughts: Competition isn’t a bad thing in a game show—it’s one of the best things and it may be MOST peoples’ reason for using a game show in the first place--but there are times when the experience can threaten to overwhelm the content. In a lot of cases, stopping the game play for a moment and reminding the players that it is, in fact, only a game and their focus should be on learning can lull a rowdy crowd. You may also want to consider what an exaggerated sense of competition says about the contestants, and reflect/debrief the experience after the game show (this can be particularly illuminating in leadership and team building courses). Some of the more negative associates with competition revolve around the winning team making the losing team feel bad. While most people should know the meaning of good sportsmanship, a refresher along the lines of, Remember, were all here for one common goal--to learn--may be in order.

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