Before we begin, let’s not confuse Gamification with Game Based Learning. To paraphrase Professor Kevin Werbach; Gamification in a nut shell is applying digital game design techniques to non-game related contexts, such as businesses, education and challenges that impact society like the environment. Gamification takes the mechanics and psychology behind video games and applies them to creating engaging and rewarding experiences outside of the video game context. Speaking as an avid videogame player, I can speak from personal experience that the sense of achievement, recognition and reward are big motivational factors in playing this form of digital entertainment.
Gamification is simply not a case of sticking up a few online badges for completing tasks or implementing a leader board, these are merely some of the tools that can be applied to a Gamified system. There is actually a deep psychological and motivational background that has to be understood as well, you have to understand how the learner/player will respond to your system and most importantly like all learning and games it should be fun!
In order to create a successful gamification design, good practice suggests having a framework in place to go through the design process in a linear fashion. This allows you to assess not only why you’re designing your Gamified system, but analyse the user, devices and gamification tools you will be using as well. There are a variety of suggested frameworks, however for the purposes of this discussion around gamifction I’m going to reference and paraphrase Kevin Werbach’s six-step framework taught in his Gamification Courera course.
Six Step Gamification Framework
Step One: Define your business objectives, what exactly is your goal for wanting to create a Gamifed system? Creating something people love is only part of the jigsaw, this won’t lead to more productive employees or engaged learners. So step one is to very precisely define your business objectives.
Step Two: Describe precisely your target behaviour. What defined or concrete steps do you want people to take? Ultimately the question is who or what is the group of people? Proceeding this you should set out what specific tasks would you want them to do in order to achieve the business goal you set out in step one.
Step Three: Who are your players? Describe your players, what’s important to them? They’re not just students, employees – they are people who are voluntarily playing your game, who need to experience that enjoyment and engagement and of course motivation to proceed in the game.
Step Four: How does the structure of your gamified system work? You’ll be analysing your activity and feedback loops. At the micro level, there is what referred to as an engagement cycle is. Simply put, what is the activity? How do players receive feedback so they can analyse their progress and next step.
Step Five: This may sound simple, but stop what you’re doing and analyse what has been produced so far – is it fun? This is a very important aspect of the framework, it’s easy to get caught up in the structures, mechanics and technical aspects of design. Remember what you produce has to be fun to play as well.
Step Six: At this stage you will be deploying your gamified system. This where you find the appropriate tools, whether that’s software platforms or devices. Choose the specific game mechanics and elements and then go and construct the system.
As you can see in the above framework, there is a considerably amount of planning and analysis that goes into creating a gamified system. I think gamification is another tool in the eLearning technology/pedagogy toolbox, which can offer players engaging and interactive materials. However I certainly wouldn’t say this is the “silver bullet” that solves all of engagement and interactive issues that are related to eLearning or professional development. There can be issues with awards being too predictable, for example awarding a player a badge or point every time they post an entry in a discussion board would soon get boring for the player, and thus diminishing they’re motivation to play or participate with the rest of the game or course it’s tied into. However as discussed well planned gamified systems can be a rewarding and motivating experience for players.
I’m going to leave you with an interesting short film produced about a possible future with gamification. It does have a dark twist at the end, so be warned… However I think it highlights both positive and negatives that could be associated with Gamification. Another question after watching the video, do you think all that information would be cognitive overload?
Kevin Werbach, Dan Hunter (2012) For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business. Wharton Digital Press
Coursera (2012) “Gamification” [online], Kevin Warbech, retrieved 26 March 2015: https://www.coursera.org/course/gamification