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August 22, 2005
Are Training Games a Good Idea?

Know the types of games that might be useful. There is a broad spectrum of activities that fall into the category of "training games." Perhaps the most common are quiz show-type games, set up along the lines of Jeopardy, that are designed to test knowledge of particular topic areas. "Icebreakers" are structured exercises often used primarily for team-building that may have little or no direct relationship to the training topic. And "scenario"-type games give participants a set of circumstances or conditions and ask them to interact creatively to solve a problem or achieve a particular result.

Understand the real purpose of training games. Studies show that training games by themselves do NOT provide comprehensive training and should not be used as substitutes for more formal instruction. (That suggests that you shouldn't devote an entire session to a training game unless you're holding multiple sessions on the same topic.) But games CAN be a useful supplement to formal training by:

  • Helping trainers maintain participants' interest and involvement
  • Reinforcing key concepts
  • Supporting different learning styles
  • Providing immediate feedback to both participants and trainers
  • Making training more enjoyable and, yes, fun

Tips for using training games effectively.

Why It Matters...
  • Used appropriately, training games support your main message and help keep your audience engaged and attentive.
  • If not used appropriately, games distract from your message and can undermine efforts to take important safety topics seriously.
  • Generally, games and other devices to encourage group participation are a good way to help employees understand and retain key information.

If you're thinking of incorporating training games into your sessions, keep in mind some tips to make sure they accomplish your objectives:

  • Games should reinforce the main ideas of your training, rather than wasting time on trivial points that are not essential.
  • Games should provide opportunities for everyone in your session to participate, rather than involving only a handful of people while the rest of your trainees simply sit and watch.
  • If the games are prepackaged or accessible on-line, screen them first to make sure they are relevant to your workplace and compatible with your main message.
  • Schedule games strategically to help reenergize and reengage the group; for example, right after lunch or other long break.
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