Has Gamification Gone Too Far?

This is something we have been discussing in the office. KFC caused a storm on social media with their new way to train employees – and it’s straight out of a horror movie. Announcing that it would be training employees with a virtual reality game,  we saw Twitter and LinkedIn fill with opinions on whether or not this is a good move forward. The game, The Hard Way, is a virtual reality escape room. It is a 25 minute process in which where Colonel Sanders gives the participant clues and hints to make sure they are are making fried chicken the ‘Hard Way’ (the way he invented it more than 70 years ago) and win. Inspecting, rinsing, breading, racking and pressure frying – the participant then exits the escape room, fully equipped with the understanding of how to cook KFC’s original recipe chicken like a true professional.


This whole virtual reality feel and video itself raised concern for me. The last thing I’d want to know about how employees are trained is that they are learning from playing this peculiar video. Can you learn how to fry chicken through virtual reality? I know it is only an aid to their initial training but, it is not my idea of effective learning. It is a chance to bring the restaurant into the future, but it does not aid in any way, shape or form, in training employees. They are not physically being taught to safely handle food or equipment and there is nothing to test their knowledge or how much they’ve learnt. Personally, it felt very similar to the game Bioshock. For anyone who hasn’t played this game, your first time playing can be a harrowing experience… Not what you expect from working in a fried chicken restaurant that’s for sure. KFC even released a trailer to show the nightmarish horror of… working there? https://youtu.be/GAlD0h9vCEc Is this a case of gamification that has in fact, gone too far – but was that the aim or do they genuinely believe to be on to something with virtual reality training?

Where do we draw the line with gamification & virtual reality?

I do believe that game based learning is effective in a variety of ways, achievements and healthy competition aids in development undoubtedly. However, we do need to recognise that there is a side to games that can hinder learning. Some gamification techniques can be inappropriate for a number of reasons…

Life is not a game.

Points, badges, leader boards and recognition are crucial game mechanics and work well on screen but they do not depict real life. You don’t pick up a drink or a first aid kit and magically heal shrapnel wounds or poisoning; people that die whilst on the job don’t get a chance to reload and start at a previous checkpoint, still barely scraping the top 10 in leaderboards. These game mechanics have to be kept in line with reality.

Games can trivialise serious issues.

Slavery and violence is one of the main issues with games, it makes these aspects of life seem normal when they aren’t. You wouldn’t want a kid playing Grand Theft Auto would you? So why is gamification for training any different? You don’t want to create a virtual reality video that glamorises a serious module that employees need to learn.

Games could reinforce the wrong mindset.

Again, concerns over glamorisation and disassociation. People have many of these qualms documented regarding the likes of Grand Theft Auto, and with good reason to. What isn’t so highly documented is the influence that work based games can have on employees. Do you really want employees to challenge each other head to head? Competition against each other being healthy to an extent but, what repercussions will it have?

Games can contaminate motivation.

For employees that don’t like games, virtual reality is a sure-fire way to demotivate them. If you’re going to show them a game that doesn’t take the role seriously, they aren’t going to take the role seriously.

Games will be gamed.

Regardless of the purpose behind your game, someone will always seek to ‘game it’. This means that people will focus on winning the game rather than on the learning it is trying to provide. You have to use gamification in small doses, otherwise you may as well call it a game rather than training. What are your thoughts and opinions on this new training strategy? Watch The Hard Way here: https://youtu.be/vb7GYATYArE

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