Gamification…is what? Part 1

One of the latest buzzwords (Trippenbach 2013) to circulate in the education community has been “gamification”. According to the 2013 Horizon Report ,“gamification aims to incorporate elements of games, such as levels and badges (but also via quests and other strategies) into non-game activities” and is placed on the two to three year horizon of adoption. While games themselves can have value as an engagement tool or allegory, this teaching strategy seeks to use the mechanics of game play and leverage the unique elements of games to enhance or even completely redesign a course, activity or assignment.

But why would I want to do that? There is no question that games are engaging. Players will spend hours confronting difficult tasks and plying various strategies to accomplish goals. They involve team work and critical thinking. Risk taking and learning through failure. Problem solving and asset management. All valuable tools in any learning situation. If we explore the motives and methodology of game play with curriculum design in mind, we can use those same principles found in games to make course work engaging and rewarding.

A word of caution when delving into the world of gamification. There has been a movement toward  “pointsification” (Robertson 2010) or giving people meaningless points and badges for completing tasks that they would do otherwise, or to encourage a behaviour. To truly apply game principles to learning, we should not be looking only at the reward, but rather at the process for inspiration.

Future posts aim to explore game design principles such as narrative and flow, structural comparisons such as levels and bosses, and game mechanics such as risk vs. reward, multiple lives or attempts, and how this can be adapted to a curriculum.


Tyler Heaton

Tyler Heaton, Educational Consultant – Technology