Millennials and Gamification: How to keep them engaged

The Millennial generation is a group of young adults who were born between 1980 and 2000. They are known to be idealistic and impulsive, but with a strong grasp on today’s technology. I myself, am a Millennial. At this point, it’s starting to feel like a self-fulfilling prophecy, where I’m magically destined to abide by the unspoken (but unofficial) rules of being a Millennial:

  1. The constant need to seek out new and exciting career opportunities at every turn! Job loyalty? What is that? Never heard of it.
  2. The hunger for self-validation and self-fulfilment. Rewards and benefits are a must-have, and the work we do… has to mean something.
  3. Mentally wired to give up when the going gets tough. Unlike our forefathers and the Baby Boomers, Millennials are allegedly unfamiliar with the term “working hard”.
  4. The short attention span of an average Millennial means shorter instructions, more action, and instant gratification.
  5. Millennials, being brought up in the “digital” era, love to have fun and enjoy life, in general.

As this generation is set to form an estimated 50% of the workforce by 2020, we need to start focusing on how to attract – and retain – them in our organisations, and also to engage them to learn on the job. Marketing for Millennials would also take into account the way they think and react to advertisements and promotions.

#1: HR for Millennials

Over the past few years, we have worked with clients in gamifying their recruitment practices, onboarding processes and training programmes. It seems to be a popular trend, and a growing concern, that the staff is disengaged and unmotivated to partake in activities within the office (e.g. staff e-learning, employee performance games). Millennial staff especially, are on a lookout for a more challenging pursuit of knowledge, coupled with technology, because… technology.

While there are many solutions to this issue of disengagement, the one that we are keen to talk about (for obvious reasons) would be the gamification solution. Gamification within HR can come in many forms and for most of our clients, engaging the younger generation of employees was their target audience.

Firstly, some large organisations have come to appreciate how gamification elements can be incorporated into the recruitment process. It helps them sieve out the qualified and interested applicants from those who are simply just trying their luck. It also allows them to engage their target audience (a.k.a the interested applicants and potential new hires) in ways that would be more interactive and detailed than a simple application form. With a fun theme, and creative copywriting in play, recruiting can be a game in itself, where applicants are expected to play the game in order to apply for the job, and in the process, learn more about the organisation and in turn, help them prepare for the interview that awaits them, should their job application be approved.

One example of such a unique practice would be DBS’ Joyful Journey recruitment programme. It invites applicants to embark on a journey around the world, understanding a bit of the culture from each country before completing a quiz that will determine which type of position are they most suited for.

Then, once the millennials are in, the onboarding programme is likely to be one of their first few exposures to the job, and HR/talent managers are keen to make a good first impression. To incorporate gamification into onboarding programmes, millennials can be encouraged to not only go through the programme in full (and meet the learning objectives of the HR manager) but also have fun while doing it! Creativity can play an important role in the way the content is introduced to the employees, and why not throw in some valuable rewards like “Coffee with the Director” as well?

#2: Learning/Training for Millennials 

After having spent a decade in the modern school system of today, with all the technology that can be offered, the millennials have adapted to a different learning style as compared to their parents’ generation. They are more responsive towards micro-learning, where information is given to them in bite-sized chunks instead of lengthy articles to be consumed over many hours of learning. They learn quickly and they can apply quickly too.

Millennials, unlike the previous generations, are more willing to learn via the latest technologies, in particular mobile technologies, thus allowing for their learning to be… well, mobile. However, instead of simply converting streams of data into a mobile app, we need to consider applying current mobile habits and user experience to maximise the efficacy of mobile learning programmes.

One way to do so would be to incorporate gamification elements into the way the learning/training programmes are conducted. Having visible milestones (e.g. progress bars, badges) for learners to achieve can appeal to learners with a shorter attention span and those who require instant gratification for completing small tasks. By splitting the content up into bite-sized pieces and rewarding them for every step they have taken will ultimately motivate them to complete the whole programme without feeling fatigued by the information. Also, games provide instant feedback, which will be useful for millennials to learn from their mistakes immediately.

Rewards of varying values can also be used as bait to motivate them to completed even more challenges and therefore, learn more as a result, especially those who are already highly engaged by the programme. From Starbucks vouchers or invitations to closed-door networking sessions, the rewards must be those of value to the target audience, so do have a chat with your potential players before creating them.


#3: Marketing for Millennials

Forget about hard selling to the average millennial. They don’t respond well to sales people who will only boast about their products. A Forbes article mentions the use of social influencers as the new way of gaining trust among millennials today, where validity is based not on how well a sales person sells the product but by how many people are using it. Influence and authenticity is key. In fact, 84 percent of Millennials say user-generated content has at least some influence on what they buy, and many say it’s important to read others’ opinions before purchasing.

Thus, marketing strategies that are in line with gamification can include challenges related mostly to social-related tasks, so as to allow user-generated content to go viral on social media – and have the players be rewarded for it! According to AdAge, millennials spend an average of 25 hours per week online, thus it would seem appropriate to focus our marketing efforts towards online social media platforms where they consume content. Through gamification, marketing efforts will be made more “personal” and will not have the “mass-produced” feel which, in a way, will make the receiver feel more special.

Thoughts, anyone? Let us know what YOU think of millennials (and if you have any useful strategies to appeal to them using gamification) by commenting below! 🙂


Thoughts from a Millennial: Gamification of learning

Gamification will probably sound like a foreign word to you, if you’ve never touched a gaming console in your life. Yet, gamification is pervasive, and lies right under most of our noses—‘our’ referring to our generation of millennials.

“What? I don’t even game!” You might cry out in protest, but the truth is that you don’t need to know how to work a Wii Remote to experience the effects of gametization.

MConline is a company that branches across various platforms such as hardcopy books, directories, magazines, and also technology to reach out to students. Its online website—Mconline is extremely popular amongst primary schools in Singapore. Due to the standardized curriculum by the Ministry of Education in Singapore, MConline is an extremely efficient platform in which students from different schools are all able to access and utilise to make learning more fun. Through completing challenges and quizzes with interesting and well-designed graphics in the form of a game or storyline, students are more incentivized to engage in learning via other routes aside from the traditional pen and paper method. Recently, they’ve even developed the MCeMath and the MCLMS phone application for students to access on their phones while on-the-go. Most students would have had some form of experience to MConline in their primary school days, implying that the students of today would’ve been exposed to some form of gamification when they were as young as seven years old!

Another extremely common example of gamified learning is ‘Kahoot!’. Kahoot! is a free, game-based learning platform accessible to students and tutors by the web. Teachers are able to customize quizzes and add in graphics or videos of their own, and students are expected to take part in the quiz using their mobile phones. The quicker students click on the right answer, the more points the students obtain. The student with the highest points at the end of the quiz will usually be given a small item by the tutor as a reward for obtaining the most points. These extrinsic rewards further motivate students to continue with engaging in such games in the future. Through the competitive elements and the reward-point system of the gamified learning experience, students are more incentivized to engage in the game. Kahoot! is commonly used across secondary schools and colleges to make the lessons more interactive and fun.

At this point, you might be stunned. Or surprised. Or neither of the above. The main point being, gamification is practically everywhere, and it’s become increasingly popular. According to Technavio, the global digital education content market is currently valued at $36 billion dollars, and is estimated to be worth $54 billion in 2020. We don’t tend to think about gamification while we’re actually in the midst of playing the game, but gamification is becoming increasingly pervasive, and it has become a powerful tool for people all across different groups to make a traditionally boring task into something that is interactive, engaging, and fun.

Given the fact that it is still a relatively new concept in the world of technology, gamification still receives flak from critiques saying that the original intentions of the motivation to do tasks are lost in the pursuit of extrinsic reward. However, that is exactly why effective gamification needs to be carried out. It is a vital design-thinking process that will ultimately result in the creation of novel, exciting, and fun experiences that can re-design and re-invent traditional experiences, providing new meaning into various aspects of our lives, and it is something that we should all at the very least, be aware of, and understand.

Written by: Wong Shu Ning (TJC Intern)

GameLead: A Case Study of Gamification in Learning

Singapore Management University (SMU) and Gametize co-produced a pilot gamification program for Leadership and Team-building (LTB), a core module for freshman students. Our CEO, Keith Ng, a head teaching assistant in LTB five years back,  tapped on the opportunity to improve engagements between the students, and first proposed in early 2013 to his mentor, Dr Rani Tan. The goal is to create a gamified experience that will ignite interest and build motivation before or during class, and instilling lessons learned as a lifelong habit.

After a year of planning , the GameLead application was made available in early 2014 on both web and mobile platforms to be accessed by students in the classroom and outside of it.

Each quest involved a series of simple challenges, such as photos, quizzes, and videos that prompted students to reflect on and apply what they have learnt in class. With every successive lesson of LTB, an additional quest was made available for the students to attempt.

An activity feed enabled students to view submitted responses by other classmates and vote for their favourite answers.

The GameLead Title Screen
The GameLead Title Screen (mobile). After a year of planning , the GameLead application was made available in early 2014 on both web and mobile platforms to be accessed by students in the classroom and outside of it.On every lesson of Leadership and Teambuilding, one additional quest was made available for the students to attempt. Each quest involved a series of simple challenges, such as photos, quizzes, and videos that prompted students to reflect on and apply what they have learnt in class.An activity feed enabled students to view submitted responses by other classmates and vote for their favourite answers.

The application also facilitated active class participation, as well as enabling SMU and Gametize to collect feedback about this programme through itself.

Empowering Students

The game structure and content of the app were wholly designed by 4 Teaching Assistants (TA), senior SMU students who previously took the LTB course. With the aid of head lecturer Professor Rani Tan, the TAs were able to design a gamified experience which incorporated course content.

LTB students were given a large degree of freedom as they were not given deadlines to complete the quests. Additionally, they had the option to influence their peers’ scores by voting on others’ answers.

Creating an Immersive Experience

Screenshot of the "Class Participation" Quest
Students recorded their contributions to class discussion in this quest

The students recorded their participation in class discussions via one of the quests, and this encouraged them to look at other quests. Activities such as group discussions and photo challenges with group mates were introduced to bolster social interactions. TAs were actively involved in the promotion of the app during class. Supplementary content, such as videos, were provided in the weekly quests as bonus to help students learn better.

The students felt that content introduced through videos was interactive, interesting, and relevant to the theories learnt in class.

Motivation: Intrinsic, Extrinsic and Fatalistic

For some, the intrinsic earning of points and progression indicators acted as a strong motivators to complete the challenges. The top groups were rewarded with options to choose prime presentation slots to avoid clashing with their other school commitments.

Screenshot of first week's challenges
The first week’s challenges: Ice-breakers!

In one of the classes (G1), the students were explicitly informed using GameLead (or not using it) will not deliver bonus marks/penalty to their grades (other than logging participation in class discussions), while in another class (G3), the TA left the answer dubious deliberately. G3 had the highest challenge completions, compared to G1’s lower activity, showing the importance of extrinsic rewards to get users onboard.

It must be noted that some students engaged in the unwanted behavior of not completing the game, seeing that they were nowhere near the top of the point-based leaderboard (a fatalist effect).

Room for Improvement

The use of GameLead via the mobile app was lower than expected. Students preferred completing challenges in the web app on their computers. This means that the accessibility of GameLead on mobile could be improved in order to keep these students engaged.

Certain students had expectations of a real game, partly due to the title of the app (GameLead). These students were also expecting more complex and entertaining gameplay. In the next run of GameLead or future educational apps, more game items such as virtual items or well-designed storylines could be included to improve on this gamified experience.


Our verdict: Successfully Gametized! But there are still things that we can improve on.

GameLead was designed to solve the problem of engaging students beyond the classroom, by providing a seamless and engaging experience through gamification. With regards to this objective, SMU’s LTB teaching staff and students found GameLead to be successful in achieving it, with  93.7% of students recommending the use of GameLead for future classes of LTB in our survey. Not a single mention of “fluff” was recorded in our survey responses.

Gamification in education is a fairly new concept, especially with the use of digital technologies. An iterative approach to improving GameLead based on the data is key to its continued success.


This post was contributed by Quek Keng Yong, Business Development Mentee @ Gametize
Keng Yong has been placed at Gametize to do a 6-month internship through the iLEAD programme of NUS Entreprise in 2014. He studied Business at National University of Singapore. In his spare time, he likes to ride a bike or play computer games.

Gamifying Education With Grand Theft Auto

Grand theft auto

Suggesting Grand Theft Auto as a model for gamifying education sounds like suggesting Satanic rituals to increase church attendance. But the other day I found my five-year-old son playing Grand Theft Auto III on our iPad. The Grand Theft Auto series, from Rockstar Games, is one of the most successful video game franchises in history, and probably the most controversial.

I heard news reports about its anti-heroes, prostitutes and cop-killers long before I played it. But my son, who speaks Spanish, wasn’t seeing the dark side of the game. He was simply driving cars through a detailed, open-world system until he crashed, then running until he found another car to drive. (Actually, he had to eject the drivers, but he didn’t comprehend this as stealing.)

What interested me, however, was that while he was driving a radio station was playing music, DJ banter and sarcastic ads. I realized if he drove around long enough he might learn some English. Maybe not the right kind of English. But what if the radio stations were teaching elementary vocabulary and grammar?

There’s hope in the gamification community, and within the progressive educational community, that gamification might be the magic bullet to rescue our abyssmal K-12 schools here in the U.S. But the record so far of educational gamification has been as disappointing as the New Math. While I do believe gamification will eventually become a natural component of most schools, we may also have to keep changing vehicles until we find one that doesn’t crash.

In fact schools have always relied strongly on one gamification element: grades. And grades are great motivators. The problem is they are also de-motivators. And if grades are such a great predictor of achievement, why are teachers opposed to being tested themselves?

Grand theft auto

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 left pretty much everyone behind except test companies. The imposition of national standardized testing has resulted in short-term cramming rather than long-term learning and, as Steven Levitt discovered in Freakonomics, to cheating by teachers and administrators worried about losing their jobs, or their schools. This is one of the worst examples of gamification in education. Gamification should increase student and teacher engagement and make teaching and learning more fun, rather than be a stressful distraction.

Children are both the easiest and hardest audience to capture. Easiest because their critical faculties are immature. Hardest because they have no patience. They aren’t going to give a video or a book or a class a chance – it has to grab them right away and hold them for the duration.

In terms of gamification children are stubbornly resistant to efforts to manipulate them. Adults will be patient or polite, but if kids don’t like what’s being offered them, they won’t participate, they’ll turn off.

The problem with most educational games is that they are produced by educators, not game designers. Or the game designers are hamstrung by the curriculum. So what you end up with are a few game elements superimposed on a boring course. Children see through this right away.

A better way to gamify education, I think, is to do it backwards. To design or appropriate first-rate games, then gamitize the educational component. In other words, create or license games that grab and hold a student’s attention, like Grand Theft Auto grabbed my son. Then look for ways to layer on the math or English or whatever you want to teach. They won’t even know they’re learning, which is often the best way to teach. Like the luckless pedestrians in Grand Theft Auto, these future students won’t know what hit them.


This post was contributed by Mark Schreiber, guest writer
Mark Schreiber is a full time novelist since graduating high school at the age of 15. He also engineered his sister’s bestselling writing career and started and run several businesses, including a solo medical practice. He’s currently interested in technological entrepreneurship in Singapore and Silicon Valley.