Organisations around the world are realising that the concept of gaming and gaming elements have become ubiquitous in our daily lives. Whether on our phone, via the internet or through various devices, we are exposed to gaming elements. Think about your everyday journey to work. The mobile game apps you play with, the badges you earned because you’ve hit the target with your smartwatch or the loyalty points you received for shopping. When we think of games, we think of fun and the feeling of exhilaration when we win or complete an adventure.

noun gam·i·fi·ca·tion (Merriam-Webster) the process of adding games or game-like elements to something (such as a task) so as to encourage participation.

In Mercer’s 2020 Super Fund Executive Report (Mercer, 2017), the findings were that 39% of superannuation funds rated ‘improving member engagement and service’ as their top business and strategic priority. However, the industry is faced with a growing distrust and disengagement from Australians ranging from millennials to the indigenous communities. Key findings to this growing problem is the lack of understanding on how superannuation works due to a lack of financial literacy linked to superannuation. How can the industry transform a mundane topic into something fun, sticky and engaging?

Perhaps, the first area to address as an industry is to explore designing mobile-based learning apps that will help teach financial literacy linked to superannuation. When we asked our millennial friends what mobile apps they use to learn about financial matters and why, apps like Raiz (formerly known as Acorns) and the Commonwealth Bank were mentioned because these are interactive and teaches them to save. Millennials are known to make a difference to change the world. Imagine a mobile learning app that teaches them how to ethically invest via their superannuation fund by selecting investment options that invests in sustainable initiatives.

There are key principles to building an interactive learning experience by applying gamification elements:

  1. Learning must have contextual relevance from a strategy, culture, and values perspective. Learning needs to be relevant to real life and games can be used to simulate this.
  2. Learning is most effective when learners are intentionally and repeatedly exposed to a cycle of learning, practicing, reflecting, and then repeating. This can be built into the game mechanics.
  3. Learning becomes engaging when users share experiences through high scores badges and leader boards. The competitive streak in some will kick in to try harder and achieve more.
  4. Learning is an experience as opposed to a once-off event; entails a process of learning over time, by creating a game that is not time boxed.
  5. Learning is a social experience, and a gaming environment allows learners to exchange ideas, and gain understanding from collective or shared experiences.
  6. Learning should provide instant feedback.

A gamification example using these principles is IQ Business South Africa’s online learning delivery to a major bank spread across Africa addressing a serious topic on resilience. Users click on a secure browser link which brings them to a game show room, complete with game show host, avatar selection and a ‘Wheel of Fortune’ like spinner that randomly chooses trivia topics. Users earn points with correct answers and learn why immediately when they select the wrong one.

Organisations that intentionally incorporate gamification understand that gaming is age irrelevant. The gaming appeal is about the game mechanics and associated individual preference, not demographics. Gamification should embody the brand and culture of the organisation. So, the game mechanics should be customised to teach users what the brand stands for. A great example of this is Siemens faced with major branding and communication issues to a diverse set of internal and external stakeholders. Their solution was designing Plantville, an online gaming platform to give the experience of being a plant manager. Players are challenged to maintain operation of their plant while improving productivity, efficiency and facility health. The online game hit the mark with their target stakeholders and more. Stories about Plantville were featured in more than 235 outlets, reaching more than a million people.

Games unleash “people’s natural desire for competition, achievement, status, self-expression, altruism, & closure.” JD Dillon

Source: IQ Business South Africa

Gamification design elements have structure and content. Structure consists of points collection, leader boards, levels of difficulty, badges and rewards. Content consists of challenges in progressive stages, stories that are captivating, avatars or characters players can take on, time-bound tasks and freedom to fail (include ability to respawn to try again). Behavioural science research shows that

gamification can instil behavioural change depending on what the game is teaching, engaging and motivating. Popular gamification technology used are game design tools like Unity and Unreal Engine.

Gamification is also becoming a popular method to engage with customers as it encourages participation, engagement and loyalty. Think of what superannuation members should interact with. The website, the app, the social media page or all three. Then integrate game mechanics to draw them in regularly.

There are a handful of superannuation funds that have some degree of gamification in the form of retirement calculators where you enter financial data, receive a ranking and see where you are likely to retire in e.g. a poor house, a big house or someone else’s house. Members can plug in different numbers to view different results. This is a start.

Consider gamification from onboarding members. Can they earn loyalty points by completing a survey of the onboarding experience? More points given when they visit their account to complete a task on the website? The points can then be converted to a tangible reward or even donated to a charity of their choice.

The use of gamification should always be linked to the overall fund strategy. Which member segments would funds like to increase engagement and interaction with? Is this about increasing membership growth or a preventative strategy to stop further decline in the member segment? Design games with an audience in mind. Get to know the target member segment, what their preferences are, how they like to be communicated and leverage on technology to reach out to the segment.

The question of ‘what to gamify?’ should be answered by your members. Add gamification to what members care about and something they value. Otherwise incorporating game like mechanics that do not serve an end purpose will be a complete waste of time.

The future of gaming will invade the corporate world as technological rapid advancements such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are used in the gaming experience. We will see playing freedom across platforms allowing users to move device platforms without any gaming interruptions. Online gaming spectators will become a norm. As user experience and functionality continue to enhance, players can shape, enhance and control their game play. We will also see an integration of social media into gaming. And gaming will require physical involvement of the participants. Online gaming will be social.

HIQ Learning Services, a company of IQ Group Australia has teamed up with its sister company IQ Business South Africa to incorporate gamification elements to learning and customer engagement. Back in July 2018, in celebration of Nelson Mandela’s 100th Birthday, IQ Business South Africa in collaboration with VictoryVR, developed the virtual experience that brings users into Mandela’s shoes. The journey, created in virtual reality, enables users to stand on the hills of Mandela’s childhood to his prison cell on Robben Island.

Imagine a VR experience that can be built to teach the next generation of Australians, like a ‘choose your own adventure game’. The choices they make in different phases of their VR life can lead them into a desirable retirement or not. The time to incorporate gamification is now. Our future is game ready. For more enquiries about gamification, contact


Written By: Cynthia Cheong, Practice Leader for HIQ Learning Services, a company of IQ Group Australia

Adi Stephan, Head of Learning & Development, IQ Business South Africa