How to Create Branching Path Games to Train Soft Skills
Soft Skills Training
Soft Skills, highly valued in today’s workplace, help employees collaborate and function effectively. According to Indeed, soft skills include any skill that can be classified as a personality trait or habit such as problem-solving, communication, teamwork, and conflict resolution. Soft skills are hard to teach but they do need to be explored, practiced and learned through trial and error. A well-created branching path game can help train and reinforce soft skills to enhance a person’s confidence and job strengths.
Creating a Scenarios, or branching path game is an effective tool to train soft skills because it allows your learners to safely practice different approaches to an issue, problem or situation. Practicing and allowing your employees to fail safely is key for supporting soft skills training. The Scenarios game mechanic encourages your learners to explore a world through the various choices they make. This style of games enables employees to experience the world through different peoples’ views and lets them assume different personalities. It also allows them to learn the consequences of their actions in a protected place.
Best Practices when Creating a Branching Path Game
Follow these best practices when creating a Scenarios style training game.
- Your choice options should be meaningful and not about being right or wrong. The choices should present actions a learner might make in that situation. Ensure the choices offered are what people would actually do. Also, make sure there is enough distinction between the choices so that your learner can make a clear decision.
- Limit the selection of choices that are offered. Two to four choices are preferred. If the choice text is short with one-word options, having up to six is acceptable. Any more than six options can lead to choice paralysis. In turn, that can cause indecisiveness and confusion.
- Keep your text brief and your dialogue believable and identifiable. A good Scenarios or branching path game should represent real life if it’s going to be effective in training soft skills. Make sure the story and conversations are relatable.
- Let your learners fail along the branching paths. That is how they will learn. Allow your learners to go down wrong paths so they can learn from the consequences of their mistakes.
- Let the scenario naturally play out and allow what happens next to be their feedback. Wait until the end of the game to review more detailed information on what occurred. After the scenario has played out, use that time to review missteps taken, or offer suggestions to improve performance.
- Keep human representations to real video footage or photos. If using computer graphics, make the human representations stylized so that you avoid the “Uncanny Valley”. This is when computer graphics look photo-realistic but when depicting humans, they don’t quite make the cut. This leaves players with a weird feeling since there is a disconnect with interacting with something not quite human, referred to as Cognitive Dissonance. Using creepy human representations in your game can negatively affect the learners’ performance, especially when it comes to soft skills. Characters should be relatable so your employees can feel empathy or compassion during an interaction, especially in a customer service orientated scenario.
- Remember that your users are smart. There is no need to spell out how to navigate simple interactions. If there is a need to do so, it means your GUI (Graphic User Interface) system needs redesigning.
Branching Path Tips to Help Streamline the Process
Follow these steps when creating a Scenarios game to streamline the process and create effective training games.
- Identify the learning objectives and common mistakes that learners are making. Provide those mistakes as choice options so employees can learn from their mistakes.
- Map out possible outcomes first. Various tools can be used in the organizational step such as flow charts or spreadsheets.
- Avoid the “pine tree pattern” which is when a flow chart form has a strong main branch or trunk and all the choice options that are incorrect result in ending the scenario. Allow your learner to lengthen the learning experience and give them a further illustration of the consequences. This way if they make a mistake their choices don’t end abruptly.
- Reduce your content in order to find “conjunction points” which are areas that can funnel branches together. These can be parts of a process or event, that would happen regardless of choices a player makes. By funneling branches, you can reduce the number of outcomes generated.
- Testing the game is an important part of the process. Once you have the basic story outline, you can test it and see how it feels. Then make changes easily to improve the scenarios based on learning objectives, users and play.
Building a Scenarios game can be time-consuming and difficult but with The Training Arcade®, our DIY game authoring tool, we ease that burden for the trainer. We’ll guide you through the process or even customize your games and tailor them to your training needs.
Click here to watch a webinar we did on training soft skills with branching path games.