Gamification, Serious Games and Personnel Selection

Michael Fetzer, Jennifer McNamara and Jennifer L. Geimer


The use of gamification and serious games has become a viable method for achieving key business objectives, with innovative applications in a diverse range of organizational initiatives. Customer attraction and retention programmes, employee recruitment and training strategies, marketing, performance management and talent measurement, to name a few, are increasingly leveraging gamification and/or serious games (DuVernet & Popp, 2014; Laumer, Eckhardt & Weitzel, 2012; Rodrigues, Costa & Oliveira, 2014). In fact, analysts estimate that the global serious games market will reach $10.96 billion by 2022 (Stratistics MRC, 2015). In addition, several surveys have indicated that the use of serious games and gamification will become more widespread in the next five years (e.g., Anderson & Rainie, 2012; Roberts, 2014). If these forecasts materialize, they could revolutionize the way organizations approach traditional business challenges.

The primary purpose of gamification and serious games is to enhance the level of engagement of the target audience. This increased level of engagement is predicted to lead to subsequent gains in important business outcomes, such as employee knowledge retention, market penetration, product awareness, employee performance enhancement and talent measurement. It is the potential for these gains and associated impacts on business growth and financial performance that has driven increasing interest and research in the use of these approaches in various business practices and processes.

In this chapter, we briefly consider definitions and the boundaries between gamification and serious games. We then primarily concentrate on serious games, recognizing that this covers gamification in general and the common challenges and potential benefits. In the next section, we cover current uses of serious games. We then discuss the rationale for using gaming techniques for personnel selection and offer practical guidelines for leveraging this methodology in a selection context. Finally, future directions in research and application of gamification and serious games are discussed.

The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Recruitment, Selection and Employee Retention,

First Edition. Edited by Harold W. Goldstein, Elaine D. Pulakos, Jonathan Passmore and Carla Semedo. © 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2017 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

The terms ‘gamification’ and ‘serious games’ are often used interchangeably. At a high level, gamification is the process of incorporating one or more game elements into a nongame context, whereas a serious game utilizes a number of game elements to create a game that will be used for purposes other than pure entertainment. The reason the two terms are used interchangeably is primarily due to the fact that there is no universally agreed number or even type of game elements required to cross the threshold from gamification to serious game (e.g., Susi, Johannesson & Backlund, 2007). Resolving this debate is beyond the scope of this chapter, so we have drawn on several sources (Bedwell, Pavlas, Heyne, Lazzara & Salas, 2012; Shute & Ke, 2012) to provide the reader with an overview of the elements typically employed in gamification and serious games (see Table 14.1). Certain attributes that might be expected when describing a game (e.g., engaging, fun) are not included due to their subjective nature; rather the focus is on objective characteristics.

Table 14.1 provides the reader with a solid foundation of typical elements currently used in gamification and serious game initiatives. This area continues to evolve, and new elements may be leveraged in future design and delivery.

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