Today, we’re going to interview Michiel Van Eunen, who is popularly known for being a seasoned player in the field of gamification & game-based learning. Since running his first project (The Hunt) in 2003, he has made and played over 50 different formats with thousands of people, groups, teams, and companies worldwide.
Here is a brief biography of Michiel, in his own words:
“I started out working for Libertel/Vodafone in the early days of mobile phones. Later on, I shifted to retail (BelCompany) until I was hipped away by a training & consultancy firm (Retail Result) that saw me performing for a group of sales-peers. In the next five years, I trained employees of different retailers. My training sessions became notorious for being ‘hard fun.’
Around 2005 I started my own event company (Living Story), continuing to develop and perform events & games with groups of people. Early on, we used state-of-the-art mobile technology to play location-based city games with the first smartphones. Day after day, I experienced the fun, the engagement, and the potential of playing with about any group you can think of. After a few years, I started a spin-off company (Beleef! Teamtraining) focusing on game-based learning & serious games.
I started to share my experiences and good & bad practices within the gamification community and at talks & conferences around gamification and game-based learning. In 2015 I started as a gamification designer at Performance Solutions, where I apply gamification and game-based learning for clients (for many different purposes) ranging from LEGO Serious Play to pop-up Escape Rooms.
Ever since, I love to share my experience with gamification; the good, the bad, and the ugly. I love to speak at conferences and deliver workshops, either on gamification, Escape Rooms, or how you can use these to create great engagement for your workforce or clients.”
The Escape Room | Michiel Van Eunen | Gamification Europe
Without further ado, let’s start the interview.
1- What does the term “Gamification” mean to you?
To me ‘gamification’ means ‘to make anything (more) game-like.’ This works for me. I do understand that this notion leads to a lot of misunderstandings because not many people understand what a ‘game’ is.
2- What inspired you to start working as an “Experience Designer”?
Since I was a child, I noticed that I got very happy at moments where I made something creative that others enjoyed. I was trained as a primary school teacher. It was evident that when I made my lessons a thrilling adventure, engagement in class was higher and kids got really involved. Besides that, I enjoyed working theme-based, incorporating math, science, language, social skills all within 1 project (in contrast to the regular approach where you would have a math book and a grammar book, etc.) So, that worked for me and the students.
Later on, I used the same approach in making theatre and teambuilding games.
3- What was your most challenging project among “Lost in Time,” “The Nature Game,” and “Dé Gamification Conferentie”?
‘Lost in Time’ was our most challenging project. In 2010 we started developing a game, using the newest device by apple: the iPad. We created a location-based game that immersed players in the history of heritage sites and cities. It was deep like an adventure game, and location-based like pokémon go or ingres. It was also ahead of its time (we launched in 2013) and not scalable enough. It cost us 5 years and tons of money. On the other hand, it learned us all about entrepreneurship, and the hard lessons of playtesting (for example)
4-Why did you specifically choose telecom providers for designing the “Escape Rooms”?
It was the other way around. I chose the ‘escape room’ format as a learning intervention for my client, which happened to be a telecom provider. It proved to be a success, so I used it for other clients as well. Besides that, clients sort of understood the format.
5-How would you differentiate “Living Story” from other learning platforms? What is your primary USP of the project?
Living Story is the name of my company. It’s the portfolio place of all our projects. It has no USP. What the projects have in common is that they are all designed with a high focus on immersion (supporting the learning goals).
6- What impact have you left on the listeners after discussing the “Gamification on Dinosaurs” at Gamification World Congress?
I would not know. This talk was mainly about the fact that – when talking about ‘experience’ – people are defined by their age. (because they grew up in a specific media age). And a lot of decision-makers in organizations (clients who have a say in what they spend in which way on learning or innovation for example) just don’t get what engages (young) people nowadays.
7- We would love to know about the current goals you’re working on. Would you mind giving us some insights into your latest projects?
At the moment we are working on about 7 different projects. One of them is a game in a command center of a (self-flying) spaceship; it is a real-life combination of space-team and among-us.
Besides that we are working on a project about visual accessibility, an interactive screen for a startup-hub, an interactive exhibition for kids, a learning program for Tehcnohub, the second edition of our Escape room-for-home (the Greens), we are running our training programs (we just started our Masterclass Escape Room Design), we are finishing our book (The Game-Based Learning Design Wheel), and we are looking forward to the release of Jonathan Eaton’s Houses of Treasure, a new line of jig-saw puzzle escape games, for which we did the puzzle game design.
8- What changes do you want to see in the next five years? Any predictions about the future of this industry?
I can only hope that we get more and more examples of gamification and game-based learning. Whether they’re good or bad. Game Design is a complex discipline and many things can go wrong. That doesn’t mean that gamification or game-based learning is bad. (Just like a hammer, which can be used to build a house or destroy something beautiful.
9- If you could give one piece of advice to the people starting in the gamification industry, what would it be?
10- Name a few of your mentors, influencers, or friends you think have helped you understand or increase your knowledge about gamification.
There are some names in the field that everyone should know; Jane McGonigal, Gabe Zichermann, You-kai Chou, Kevin Werbach, Andrzej Marczewski, Monica Cornetti, Marigo Raftopoulos. And many more.
11- Could you share a picture of your workspace with our readers?
This is our workplace; a 100-year-old botanical greenhouse in The Netherlands. This was taken at last Friday’s Masterclass Escape Room Design