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Games in a corporate context

Using games to overcome routine thinking

According to market research company Gartner, more than half of all companies around the world will use game-based elements to promote innovation in 2015. Darjan Hil, a research assistant at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW), explains in which areas SMEs can apply games to their benefit. 

Darjan Hil, you are currently developing a game which can be used at universities in an interdisciplinary manner. If we consider small and medium sized companies, how can SMEs profit from games?

Darjan Hil: If playing games is a basic human characteristic, we can deduce that games can be put to use everywhere. They can have a relaxing and enriching effect in various situations of life and in a company's everyday operations. But whether a person – more specifically, an employee – wants to play games all the time is another questions. After all, even children play only under certain conditions and for a certain period of time. So I would argue that games in companies are especially well suited for situations in which the goal is to break away from existing routines.

Can you name a specific example?

DH: It could be used for training in companies, for example, to motivate employees to learn in an unconventional way. They could, for instance, become familiar with the range of activities of other departments in a humorous way. The second major area of application in a corporate context consists of situations where there is a demand for new, unconventional ways of thinking. The goal here is to use new impulses to encourage employees to break away from their familiar patterns of thinking.

Which components must be included in an online game to promote the process of innovation?

DH: An application intended to promote innovation must above all stimulate the process of generating new ideas. Another central component is the design, which should stand out from other games. Today, a game's aesthetics has to have that certain something to be attractive and engaging. Society has become accustomed to a modern design. An online game should additionally include familiar elements such as scoring points, leader boards (rankings) and badges (rewards). Ingenious methods of evaluation make it possible to study user behaviour. The application should serve to support and promote the user's intrinsic motivation. Only when everyone profits from it can the process of creating innovations be designed sustainably.

Certainly, some people are critical in this regard, especially when data is collected, compared and stored. But an online game does that as a matter of course. How can a company cope with this?

DH: Both company and player could profit from data collection: analyses and evaluations based on facts can lead to enormous opportunities for optimisation and uncover additional areas of potential. As part of our project, we are currently working intensively with the visualisation and evaluation of user behaviour when our game system is played. As long as this data is open, everyone can profit. Open data will sooner or later also be a pressing topic in the game industry.

Can game developers already set limitations in this regard, i.e. of a technical nature?

DH: I don't believe that limitations can hold progress back. The future is exciting and we are all involved in it, so we need to learn to flow with the times.

Learning material as a labyrinth

A learning-game project at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW)

An interdisciplinary team at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) is currently researching new approaches to classroom instruction supported by a game-based environment. Lecturers become game designers; the material they are teaching turns into a labyrinth. Everything will be ready in a few weeks when the newly developed device-independent web application is released. For the first time, lecturers will have the ability to integrate the material they are teaching into a game-based environment, either as an obstacle or as a supporting pointer or hint. In a test phase, students and lecturers will identify areas for expansion and improvement.

A FHNW blog addressing "Games in a university context":
Darjan Hil, e-mail:

Interview: Nathalie Baumann