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Reflections on Gamification Europe Conference 2019

Image by Achim Scholty from Pixabay 

author: @aestranger

Reading time: 9 minutes

Reflections on Gamification Europe Conference 2019

It’s that time again. The year is nearing its end and with that, the third edition of the Gamification Europe Conference was held in Berlin, Germany.

Its format had changed once again, and I feel that they have a hit a good and comfortable mix between having single track speakers and two-track workshops. The format was interspersed well, at no point did I feel that I was being forced to make a difficult choice. There was enough variety that you could pick and choose what interested you. Naturally, that is a personal view, but a few of the other attendees I spoke to felt similarly.

As always, my praise and thanks must go to the team that organises these conferences: Pete JenkinsKira Downer and Vasilis Gkogkidis, their team:  Ireneusz ( or Ike) Głuski and Ella Anais Gilchrist. And of course, a thank you to the hosts of each day, Rob Alvarez and Ercan Altuğ Yilmaz.

And as usual, the two days were very full, there was even a gamification primer on day 0. So, unlike previous iterations of my reflections, this one will be a little shorter and only cover those speakers that fully stood out to me. This is not to say that not everyone was of a high quality, but I’d like to spend more time on those that left me thinking, filled with emotion or with energy after the experience.


Day 0

Prior to the conference, Pete Jenkins and Vasilis Gkogkidis gave attendees the option to join in a gamification primer. This was for those who wanted to get to know what gamification was a bit more before the full conference.

The attendees of the primer were of varying level’s, some were first-timers and others were specialists. It gave an interesting mix, but an enjoyable one. It was a fairly small group overall, but I find the seminar size to be a comfortable space for discussing ideas and interacting.

The content itself was educational and entertaining, and I valued that it was offered, especially for a little pre-conference networking as well. Hopefully, a similar one will be done for attendees next year as well.

Day 1

Day 1 started off with seeing and greeting quite a few familiar faces, it was lovely coming back to this conference, now in its third year. And the voice (and face) of Professor Game, Rob Alvarez, opened and welcomed every new and old to the conference.

The first speaker was Betty Adamou, she gave her keynote on her book Games and Gamification in Market Research. It started off with a good introduction to what gamification is and how it can work within market research. And it progressed into an interesting insight into the variety and flexibility with which Betty creates and uses the different types of methods of data-gathering within market research, such as the simple survey. 

I found it quite an enlightening talk on how to develop and use survey’s, within my own work. And found it so compelling that I bought her book as well, with the hope that I may learn more from the research and work that she has done.

The next speaker was Xavier Bellekens, a cyber-security expert. His talk was particularly interesting in how he uses the aspects of games and gamification to create virtual environments that essentially produce realistic simulacra to catch hackers. I feel I shouldn’t go too deep into it, firstly becomes it is somewhat outside my field of specialism, but also not to give the game away as it were. If you have an interest in cyber-security then I can recommend having a look at Xavier’s work.

One of the standouts of the day however, was Will Jackson from Playphysio. His talk on its own was already a great example of how to use narrative and engagement mechanics to keep the audience enthralled. In his talk, he discussed his journey of how he developed a gamified app that improved the physio-requirements for those with cystic fibrosis. The improvements in health and quality of life that his app gave those with the condition were awe-inspiring and I think everyone was left with a well of emotions and motivations to help improve the world. I believe Will is looking to collaborate and expand on his vision, so do have a look at his work.

After Will was Bart Hufen. A tough act to follow, but he followed in the theme of helping others. Bart gave an interesting case-study talk on the game that he and colleagues designed to help people combat ‘burning-out’ at work. The concept was a combination of Lost and Robinson Crusoe or Cast Away for the modern individual. The experience took place on a deserted island and individuals would be assessed on how they interacted with objects and areas on the island. It was an elegant gamified experience, with simple and straightforward gameplay that clearly worked very effectively.

The final session I’d like to highlight for Day 1 was the ‘workshop’ with Tania Vercoelen and her collaborative business board game Project Ninjas. And to be honest, it was a lot of fun. It was very engaging, incredibly collaborative, it certainly promoted communication and working together equally very well. I may be slightly biased, as I was on the winning team, having finished the game in 45 minutes (probably a record somewhere). But beyond that, I can certainly recommend it to any business who wishes to try out board games with a clear business/project management theme.

The evening ended with a dinner sponsored by Bart and his company Brand New Game and Gamification Academy. It was a lovely evening, catching up with some old friends, making new friends and ending it with some very enjoyable games.

Day 2

Day 2 began with the amusing introduction from our new host Ercan Altuğ Yilmaz of GamFed Turkey. After which we jumped straight into our first two tracks and a workshop.

I joined the Changification workshop led by Stanislava Potupchik, a very entertaining and enlightening experience that involved a great many physical exercises to depict and reflect upon organisational change. I won’t ruin what we did in case any wish to try out the techniques that Stanislava employs, but they were certainly eye-opening for everyone involved, and the complexities that are inherent to organisational change.

The next speaker was Adrian Hon of Zombies, Run!, who gave an insight into his gamified running app and how storytelling was a large factor in their success. The main take away from his talk I feel is summed up in the quote that he used: “Storytelling: Better than it Needs to be.” The narrative gives a purpose to those using the app, a way for them to immerse themselves and imagine that they are in the fictional world, which drives to keep running from the ‘zombies’.

The last two I wish to highlight for day 2 are Vasilis’ Lego Serious Play workshop and Kerstin Oberprieler’s talk on her PhD work involving Cultural historical activity theory or CHAT.

Vasilis Lego workshop was my first-time trying Lego Serious Play, and in full candour, I had had a little bit of scepticism towards the idea of it, but I kept an open mind. And to be honest, it was quite good. Vasilis led the experience very well, and slowly got us thinking about problems that we face, either personal or professional and allowed us to create an image or sculpture of that problem and then discuss it with our peers around the table. It was a very good session that involved feedback and reflection, and I can certainly see the power in using Lego, or an equivalent vehicle, to express ideas, problems and finding solutions for them through that medium.

One of the last speakers of Day 2 was Kerstin, who took us through her PhD research around user engagement in her various case studies, which involved a school, a restaurant and a government institution. Incredibly interesting research in which she discussed how she determined employee engagement using Self-Determination Theory, Goal Setting Theory and Cultural Historical Activity Theory. The frameworks and practices she developed using these theories to measure and, in some cases, solve or improve the engagement of individuals in three different settings were certainly very interesting. It allowed us all to see a method for dealing with complexities in workplaces, as well as a way to map and measure systemic changes when trying to gamify something and improve engagement levels.

Day 2 ended with the obligatory after-party, which was very enjoyable for all I believe and went late into the night for a few of us.

Final thoughts

As always, the conference was very educational and I am glad that I was able to attend again this year. It had improved yet again on its previous iterations and the convention space of the Mercure Hotel was certainly an improvement over the smaller spaces from previous years. The larger space allowed for more networking and conversations with other attendees which were good. The networking games included were an interesting addition, the reception was perhaps a little mixed to them.

The gamified app for the conference provided by Bernardo Letayf from BlueRabbit was a fun addition to the conference. They have had apps in previous years, and they are always enjoyable, though at some points I felt I was playing on the app more, trying to get points, and not paying enough attention to the speakers. Though I may be alone in this possibly. I do hope that the organisers continue to experiment with other gamified experiences, such as the networking games, in future conferences. After all, what’s a gamification conference without a little gamification.

In the end, I left with a renewed vigour to continue working within the gamification world, be that through playful experiences, serious play or gamified apps. I certainly hope it continues to thrive, and I actually can’t wait to see everyone in 2020 again, wherever Gamification Europe happens this time around.

I hope that this piece has given you some food for thought and helped improve your own methods or at least offered a different viewpoint to consider.

Please do check out the other posts on æ, and please do leave a comment or contact us if you have some ideas of your own that you wish to discuss or if you would like to see other topics discussed.

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7 Responses

  1. An excellent post, Albert! It was great meeting you in Berlin. My experiences resonate very much with what you described. You’ve captured the atmosphere there brilliantly. I am going to share a link to your post in my December news post in a minute. I am looking forward to meeting you again at future gamification events.

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