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Why waste hours with other students in a classroom when you could waste hours alone in your basement? Many large companies, including Canada’s federal government, are asking this question when they consider how to train their workers. People believe that gamification, a term used to describe learning through video games, could improve citizen engagement, as well as policy and program outcomes. That sounds pretty fun!

It is fun—in that Sunday-school-is-fun sort of way. Gamification companies like Waterloo Ontario’s Axonify, provide employees with three minutes of daily game time. Employees are free to choose which games to play, while employers can rest easy knowing that every game is jam-packed with educational material. Employees who play enough games earn points that they can exchange for prizes on an auction-style site. Just imagine getting paid to play three minutes of Toni Hock’s Pro Stapler, and then being able to exchange game points for a real stapler to use in your real office. Find me a worker who doesn’t orgasm just thinking about it!


Despite frequent references to popular titles, gamification promises to be nothing like the video games we know and love.

Despite frequent references to popular titles, gamification promises to be nothing like the video games we know and love.


The best part about gamification is that it is on the cutting edge of education. According to Carol Leaman, President and CEO of Axonify, gamification is useful because “it uses brain science to get [employees] to remember [the lessons embedded in the games].” Slow down Carol, we aren’t all PhDs. Are you saying that memories come from the brain? Leaman continues, “[gamification] is way better than firehosing [employees] for hours in the classroom…It’s an entire waste of time to do that.” Yes, Carol, it is a waste of time. It’s also qualifies as torture if you do it before asking the employee to answer a question.

If you still think gamification is lame, consider its previous applications. The CBC reports that gamification has been used to reinforce drug rehab programs, to help Air Canada retain customers, and to encourage children to visit the theatre. So yeah, it’s lame.

Looking to the future, it’s hard to know how video games will impact Canadian public service. How departments would implement such programs and which departments would even chose to do so remains unclear. The greatest limiting factor, however, is that the current government is planning to implement gamification programs over the next five years; since it falls outside the regular election cycle, it’s a safe bet that it will never happen. Public sector employees should remain familiar with the firehose for the foreseeable future.