Gamifying Learning


If you google “gamify“, “gamification” or “gamifying”, you will find several entries with this relatively new trend on the Web (the term is normally related to Web design and marketing).

I just wrote a short chapter on the “Learning Perspectives: 2010“, Gamifying Learning with Social Gaming Mechanics. This is a topic that intrigues me as an instructional designer.

A quick definition of gamification is to bring game mechanics to services that aren’t exactly games in order to increase user/costumer engagement, adoption and loyalty to a brand. According to Stephanie Schwab, gamification can be described as:

  • Make it fun and exciting to be part of a community
  • Reward audiences for participation
  • Encourage pass-along and recommendations
  • Build loyalty and sales through repeat visits and purchases

This new trend has been gaining momentum in the social Web, and publishers can now get access to resources and plugins that help them gamify their websites. Two examples of such services are:

  • Badgeville – This service offers widgets and APIs to integrate on a website that enable rewards, badges and reputation based on pre-determined user actions (e.g. commenting on posts on your blog, uploading user-generated content, etc.).
  • Nitro by BunchBall – This sophisticated gamification system offers an array of features, including the ability to create challenges, adopt leveling, offer badges and virtual goods, implement a leaderboard, and more. All based on user participation on your website which can be fully monitored via an administration and analytics tool offered by the company.
  • BigDoor Quick Gamification Plugin for WordPress – blog visitors can check in to your blog, post comments and perform other user actions to gain virtual rewards and points. Badgeville also offers analytics tools as well as integration with other social media services such as Facebook and Twitter.

Nigel Whiteoak has several blog posts about the topic of gamification here.

Stephanie Schwab has curated several resources about gamification here.

Here is Amy Jo Kim’s “Putting Fun in Functional – Applying Game Mechanics into Functional Software”

Beware, however, that just adding badges and points does NOT imply you are turning whatever your experience you create into a game. As clearly stated by the game design studio Hide&Seek, a game goes being rewards, it has a set of goals and makes achieving them “interestingly hard” for the player, badges and points are just a way to show them keep track of what they’ve achieved.

I also recommend Ian Bogost’s post “Gamification is Bullshit” which brings attention to the dangers in this “gamification movement” as it tends to disregard other important elements of game mechanics and tends to focus on extrinsic motivators and rewards alone.

How can we apply game mechanics to Education? Do you have examples to share?

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