Brains on Fire workshop: LIVE NOTES

Increase Retention with Simple Game Mechanics

June 15th, 2017


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Remember, higher levels of dopamine (DA) are associated with better memory, focus, confidence, and learning. All of these game mechanics boost dopamine.


  1. Create your hook
  2. Enable your audience to imagine themselves performing desired actions
  3. Use personal pronouns
  4. Bullets are for shootouts, not slide-decks
  5. Consider the senses
  6. Talk to the croc.

If we can find a way of engaging your audiences’ primitive brains, they will pay attention and retain the message. Use words such as “challenge” to engage. Use questions instead of making statements and seek to answer these questions throughout the presentation.


Q1: What rewards and reward systems do you encounter in & outside of games?
  1. DuoLingo, Angry Birds – stars open new levels, progress bars are used
  2. Equipment is gathered / purchased to improve avatar
  3. Rewards cards such as PC Plus, MasterCard, Scene Card – Points used to encourage use
  4. Sounds (as a reward) for achieving new level, skill, unlocking something etc.
  • High score
  • Sounds
  • Animation
  • Leaderboard
  • Boosts
  • Leveling up
  • Peer feedback
  • Instant feedback
  • Certificates
  • Bonuses & hidden bonuses
  • Unlock options
  • Blow stuff up!!!
  • Points
  • Stars
  • Badges
  • Satisfaction
  • Collection of treasures
Q2: How might we apply these to eLearning?
  • Rewards can be used as an advantage or ability in later scenarios
  • Can enable progress or advancing the story
  • Unlocking easter eggs / boosters can be used to assist with tasks
  • Bonus time can be unlock to have more time to complete challenges
  • Can support learning a process, sequence of events



Q1: Identify long & short term goals in games you play (digital or not) i.e Monopoly



Q1: How do the elements of chance, uncertainty, or skill play out in games?
  • Cards and dice
  • Randomization
  • Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) varies behaviour
Q2: How can these elements be applied to eLearning design?
  • Randomization (of questions, or rewards)
  • Multiple scenarios can offer something different to each learner or to the same learner each time they go through the course
  • In a scenario, learners can be given good or “sour” hints depending on their choices
  • Think of learners as “Players”


  • Consequences can change outcomes
  • Allow learners to try a scenario in multiple ways


  • eLearning is a safe place to fail,
  • an opportunity to practice
  • Skill achievement should be required to progress
  • Challenges should be appropriate for each level. Not too easy or too difficult
  • Learning should be progressive; can build around a story


Q1: What progress tracking systems do you encounter in your personal lives in and out of games?
  • Bars
  • Maps
  • Pages
  • Points
  • Graph
  • Scores
  • Negative – points or bars can drop
  • Badges
  • Multiple forms of tracking different types of goals (money, life, strength etc.)
Q2: How can these be applied to eLearning design?
  • Menu, table of contents
  • Progress bar
  • Points
  • “Mission Journal”
  • Language (i.e. Great work, you have unlocked level 4: Sepsis Defence)



Feedback can be visual, aural, text driven, or haptic. It should be;

  1. rapid,
  2. frequent,
  3. and meaningful.


  • Feedback to questions should include reasons (why right or wrong).
  • Text or speech bubbles should appear immediately after clicking. Remove the step of clicking “Submit” when possible.
  • Images such as gold star can reward positive action
  • An avatar’s expression can also reinforce positive behaviour
  • Activities can include building blocks where each one leads to a goal.
  • Module gradually clarifies the “how & why”
  • Feedback can be used as a reward and vise versa
  • Course can get progressively more difficult for making a wrong choice or easier when correct choices are made
  • Use slide layers for various types of feedback/responses
  • Should have consequences. Real world consequences
  • Can be branched, the story can change
Q1: How else can feedback be delivered in eLearning?
  • Sound
  • Animation
  • Points
  • Stars (or other icons such as hearts)
  • Leaderboards
  • Realtime feedback
  • Level -> curriculum
  • Certificates


Q1: Where do we see this being successfully applied in games?
  • Leaderboards
  • Online multiplayer games – peers observe each other accomplishing tasks
Q2: Where do we see this being successfully applied outside of games?

Social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest all use “Like”, star ratings, written feedback to posts. This encourages further use of the platform.

Q3: How might we apply this to eLearning?
  • Success can be tied to team success
  • Leaderboards
  • Forums (can use ratings and discussions, feedback)
  • Social learning
  • Slack
  • WordPress website can have social elements
  • Public acknowledgement or intranet posting of course completion, success etc.


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