Games in Excel and In Excel Training – Gamification with Spreadsheets

For all the gaming aficionados out there, this week’s topic will surely hit it out of the park. Together with Jordan Goldmeier, Rick Grantham, Oz du Soleil and our special guest Cary Walking (creator of Arena.Xlsm), we will explore quite a few interesting themes. From learning Excel through developing games to using games while delivering workshops, we are set to cover all the bases.

Let’s dive into it!

1 – Gamification of Education

This space has been repeatedly shown to have great potential. Cary himself has been involved in this area for quite some time. Recent trends include use of quests inside games to encourage students to take interest in doing homework. These can be specifically tailored to meet differing needs of individual students.

From teachers’ perspective, such a strategy yields tons of data for them to analyze: how fast the progress of students have been, what topics are particularly troubling them, or how much time each student is spending on his / her homework. For educators and researchers, this offers a way to quantify and study “learning” objectively. Gamification of education truly has massive advantages over traditional methods of assigning / checking homework in many cases.

Rick mentioned how a social media platform developed for third graders to do homework was affecting their behavior positively. The idea was based on gamification of math homework. Kids just couldn’t wait to get started with their problem sets. Such techniques are much more engaging then making students sit with only a pen and a paper.

2 – Cary’s Passion

When asked if Arena.Xlsm was his first gamification project, Cary said that he has always been into games for a significant part of his life. He had a knack for finding game mechanics in everyday things and how they can help better the ways to do them. He mentioned that it is important to look at mundane things and make them interesting through gamification to get the desired level of engagement or to get needed data. It can achieve a lot in school and at work.1

3 – Can Games Bother People?

As long as the games are about achieving a task or learning something, they tend to be good. Otherwise, as Oz mention, when they are competition-based or time-based, they are not appreciated as widely. Also, the fact that one is just sitting at home alone working through the game may not be an attraction to some people.

Since Cary is a game designer, he said that the users’ emotions are an important consideration when designing a game. Hence, such points are not only valid but necessary to think about.

4 – Gamification of Workshops

A good way to make (Excel or non-Excel, both) workshops interactive is to introduce games into the learning process. For example, using some form of a game show or MCQ-style competition amongst teams. It makes the environment positively competitive and gets people interested.

In corporate trainings, there are a lot of things to remember. So dividing the attendees into groups and playing an engaging memory game can help boost learning. Moreover, gamification can really help with mundane, monotonous jobs or trainings. One way is by putting up small rewards, for example, postcards with funny pictures or jokes, for teams or individuals to win.

5 – Development

As far as development of games is concerned, Cary uses VBA to develop using modular terms and not nested in spreadsheets. He finds it much easier to debug.

Taking Excel games to phones is also much simpler. The design is easily replicated while the mechanics of the game just need to be recoded. For example, VBA’s ability to use range lookups facilitates game development greatly and would need complete recoding in any other programming environment. This is something that Cary is doing in C# with Unity currently.

What’s next?

Share this with your colleagues! Share this with gamers! And go on to learn more about this interesting topic.

Do not forget to write to us with your experiences in the comments section below.

Jamani Arsalan


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