Gamification at the Innovation Hub

Video game controller, tv, and and desktop computer

Written and Illustrations by Paul Kaita, Senior Project Assistant, Master of Education, Higher Education 

Games bring people together and can change the world. Paul reflects on his classroom experience and how gamifying Innovation Hub workshops evokes positive emotions and creates memorable learning moments. 

Paul smiling against the backdrop of a lake with rocks

Fridays at the Innovation Hub are special. This is the time when our team members learn together and develop skills to be applied in our design thinking work and beyond. I love Fridays because we get to see those small moments of connection across different teams as we banter and celebrate our accomplishments at the end of the week.  Some Fridays we participate in something we call the team takeover, when our Community Animation team organizes an activity for all team members to complete together. During team takeovers, we play games with a sense of purpose and with learning as the goal. 

Games Bring Us Together 

3 people under a speech bubble with a head and a heart

Team Takeovers are intentional team-building activities where we practice interpersonal, technical, workplace, and technical competencies. The activities are usually centered around an overarching goal. We’ve participated in an iHub escape room, an Amazing Race, and the Olympics – all events that involve teams engaged in friendly competition. At first glance it may seem like we are just playing games and having fun yet in reality, we are learning through experience, practicing skills such as creative thinking, resourcefulness, resilience, patience, and more.  

Games Take Us Out of Our Comfort Zones 

I have seen through my time at the iHub how team members step outside their comfort zone during these Friday activities. For example, during an end-of-term event this summer I watched team members participate in presentation karaoke, a fun event where random PowerPoint slides show up on screen and a brave participant gives an improvised presentation. When I see my colleague or staff member volunteering to present for the first time in front of a group and build the confidence to bring their best versions of themselves to the workplace, I’m inspired. I get to see friendships forming and teams building trust, which is so important in fostering a positive team dynamic. 

Games can Change the World

globe, magnifying glass, and book

Recently, I took a course at U of T called ‘CTL5048: Games and Learning,’ at OISE. I immediately began to apply my own classroom life to my work life. In the course, we drew upon Jane McGonigal’s (2011) research and her book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the Word. The book uncovers how games present in our everyday life. By grasping hold of games, we can truly change the world. What I appreciate about games is that they have the power to connect people, they are grounded in the present, and they can be applied anywhere, whether it be at school, at work, or the dining table. For me, I am seeing our shared understanding towards a common goal to ‘win’ at the game. At the Innovation Hub, our friendly team takeover competitions provide an opportunity for our team members to win together. 

We All Are Gamers at Heart

Growing up, I have always loved playing games, whether board games or video games; I felt transformed by the experience of playing. I see that being a gamer is not just a hobby, but it allows me to tap into the side of my brain that loves to play and create, which I see in my work. What I love about the work at the Innovation Hub is that I can bring my full self to the workplace, where my whole personality, interests, and passions are brought to life. Anyone can be a gamer, and if a game was played, we are all gamers at heart. As I am looking toward the future, I am excited to discover my educational style and see how games can transform the lives of others. 

At the Innovation Hub we value creativity and play and we find ways to gamify our work experience, such as the team takeovers. Where games are emerging here, games can emerge in unexpected places. Perhaps, the next time I play a new game, it will be played at the Innovation Hub. 


McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world. Penguin  

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