I tried to think back to what I first thought the term ‘gamification’ or ‘gamify’ meant, I couldn’t. Once you understand the concept it’s simple, powerful and you realise how it is applied in various places throughout life. So, I asked the nearest thing to a layman I could find, my girlfriend.
“Keatan, what does the word ‘gamification’ or ‘gamify’ mean?”.
Through a slightly bewildered look, she grinned and said “hunger games?!”, although after a brief pause and a moment of consideration she settled on “to make something a competition.”. But how far off was she with her initial response? Is the hunger games a good example of gamification?
Gamification can be considered the use of game-mechanics and aesthetics to engage people with a task. That task can be learning, a physical activity or a problem solving task in non-game contexts. The Hunger Games sees a group of ‘players’ selected and pit against each other in a race to survive. It may be a little farfetched from the concept Nick Pelling coined in 2002, but with a squint – Keatan may be on to something.
The process of gamification can be split into two types: structural gamification and content gamification. Structural gamification can be understood as the application of game elements to motivate learners through desired content. These game elements can consist of leaderboards, badges and levels, applied but not changing or adapting the outcomes or content. Leaderboards provide a vital form of feedback for the users, whilst badges and levels can provide motivational mechanisms. Structural gamification can incentivise and motivate users through competitive engagement and goal driven achievements.
Content gamification can be understood as the application of game elements, mechanics and game thinking to alter the content for the learners. With the additional elements of stories, characters or mystery, users become encapsulated with the fantasy contexts surrounding their learning. Taking on a character within the world of learning and participating within the context of a story sees learners drive their own learning through exploration and fantasy.
Understanding that gamification is divided through it’s centre, we must not assume that one type is better or worse as they can be used in conjunction or independently. Despite both content and structural gamification oozing with benefits, we must also acknowledge any potential downfalls with these methods.
Structural gamification, the most widely used and scalable style of gamification sees issues the larger the user group becomes. For example a group of 1,000 students with scores displayed through a public leader board, students enrolling late to a subject or struggling with time management might feel demotivated with their efforts to achieve a competitive rank compared to the 1-2% of those at the top.
Content gamification relies upon a lot of players, users or students to being engaged with the game and must be accessible for late adopters and users who are unable to invest as much time as the hardcore groups. Also content gamification could be considered a distraction from the actual learning intended for the user. Worlds, characters and experiences must be balanced with adequate learning content and goals.
My direct experience with gamification in ALC203 has been quite fascinating so far. Earning virtual currency (Tiffits) displayed in an online leaderboard has encouraged me no end, which has certainly developed my self-directed learning and further exploration of the topic. Digital badges are great, and so are their announcements across Twitter and the unit specific hashtag, but the badges could be incorporated within the leaderboard more so than on a separate document. The opportunity to unlock extra content through earning and spending Tiffits has been encouraging, in fact I used the unlock-able content awarded recently in my assignment, I’d enjoy there being an option to spend Tiffits for further content, which may or may not be used for assessment but certainly for those with a keen interest on further study, media making and blogging (and hey, it may lead to earning some Tiffits!).
If I was to implement any change to ALC203’s gamification it would be the addition of a ‘ghost’ option on leaderboards. Much like a track record ghost on racing video games, you would be able to compare yourself not only to your peers in the current trimesters study, but previous trimesters too. I don’t think a continuous day to day comparison would be necessary (or plausible, our unit chair is no doubt a busy man) but perhaps a 4 weekly comparison tally, updated three times throughout the course of the unit. An idea to perhaps further encourage those who may be resting on their laurels. Are we being as creative as we need to be? Would I be 5th or 50th last trimester?
As far as I can understand, the world of gamification is huge, but not yet as huge as it’ll be in the near future. If you can learn languages, do housework, diet or simply buy coffee in a gamified context, are there any limitations when anything can be gamified?