As we are embarking on a few gamified learning projects for virtual reality, I wanted to share some of considerations that are important when you are contemplating this avenue. Here are some top tips:
- Get involved as early as possible in the process
Gamification design for virtual reality should start at the beginning of the process, at the same time as when you are building process flows. If the project includes learning scenario design, the gamification designer should be involved to point out opportunities to build game elements into the scenario to encourage furthermore and deeper learning.
2. Check what the production engine is capable of
Not all virtual reality powered engines are ready for gamification. It sounds bizarre, but lately a number of engines have appeared that allow you to take live classrooms or meetings into virtual reality, however not all of them have a tracking mechanism which allows you to build in variable feedback loops based on behaviour. Unity, which is one of the core tools used for virtual reality, comes with the ability to build in a vast amount of game mechanics and effects that can work as feedback loops. If this is the chosen path, then the first tip applies so that it can be built in from the first moment.
3. Heads up displays or dashboards need to be revisited
A lot of 2D style Gamification will rely on dashboards or heads up displays, in virtual reality this may take away from the whole experience. Just think about walking around with a scoreboard in the corner of your eye consistently blocking your view of something in reality. Using the environment to give feedback, whether you have a natural place on a wall to quickview a scoreboard or a specific move that shows and hide the in-game statistics.
4. Use sounds to create an atmosphere
The use of sound can create an atmosphere in virtual reality, think of complete silence with a sudden noise of footsteps behind you, a clock ticking or building up of unusual sounds can all conjure up some level of alertness or anxiety. Most of the great memorable movies have theme songs that have been used to anchor some core moments for example the tunes from Mission Impossible or the Eye of the Tiger song from Rocky movies. In virtual reality, we can use the same cinematic music and sounds which for behavioural nudging can be helpful in making the situation harder, easier, more challenging and emotionally charged.
5. Visual cues are your feedback tools
Virtual reality relies on you being shut out from any other reality and all the visual cues are built into the vision in your headset. In real life we are used to taking visual stimulation all of the time, which is why it makes sense to build that into your virtual reality gamification. A dark alley with limited vision, may give feedback that you took a wrong turn and you are potentially in danger. Alarms and glowing objects give you further feedback. The ultimate feedback may be that your character gets hurt or worse eliminated in the game. Even less dramatic cues such as a green or red traffic light could already indicate a positive path or one that is not leading you anywhere.
6. Consequences matter
Virtual reality lends itself like no other tool on the market to create lifelike environments, where we learn from trial and error. There should be consequences when wrong choices and right or better choices are made. Blurring of vision when your character goes drink driving and a slow down of action responses is one consequence of drinking alcohol in the game and the continuing on to drive home in the car.
It is exciting to combine gamification in virtual reality for learning purposes. In the end of the day, it is where you will find a natural fit for learning in settings that are safer than real life for trial and error. At the same time some creators of virtual reality tools have already managed to rule out meaningful gamification by virtue of feedback not being possible through the environment based on user behaviour. So if you are embarking on this journey, make sure to ask some of these questions when you want best results.