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Apr 30, 2011



Gamification is not just adding XPs. I think you have hit the nail on the head. Where is it written that students cannot form their own guilds, cannot have repeated attempts at an accomplishment, etc.?

And anyone who thinks grades are "serious" and leveling up is not needs to rethink their priorities.


I wonder if anyone in the Terra Nova community has thoughts on the teaching system and exercise software being built by Khan Academy, especially the game-like aspects.

If you're not familar with Khan Academy, a good place to start is the TED talk by Salman Khan.


With all due respect to the gamifiers, perhaps the 'failure' of gamification is not the concept but the designers. After all, there are any number of games out there, but few of them are successful by any standard of broad, cross-cultural appeal. Even amongst players of the same game, there is disagreement about the most entertaining sub-type. Chess players may prefer blitz over standard timing. Poker players may prefer 7 card stud over texas hold 'em. MMO players may prefer PVE to PVP. Farmvillagers may prefer decorating their farm to producing as much profit as possible. Some people may prefer games that includes tests of physical skill, while eschewing games of pure strategy. So the issue is not the concept; rather, it is the inability of a designer to produce a one-size-fits-all structure that appeals to all comers.

In a 'games market', players sort themselves as they see fit. A classroom offers no such opportunity, and no chance to just 'cancel the subscription' and try something else (especially after the add/drop period ends). It's not fun if you're forced to play.


I still have to read Jane McGonigal's book. But until then, I'm still a little puzzled. There are games and there are not games. The line between them is sort of hard to define clearly, at least according to Wittgenstein. But there's a line. I take it gamification is taking things that are not games and making them games. Is there a former "*ification" that has been an unqualified boon? And if you're taking X and making it Y, doesn't that make it less of X (and make Y a little bit less like Y used to be?)

I did follow Jesse Schell's talk and earlier efforts to use games for other purposes. (I used games to teach English when I was in the Peace Corps.) Is gamification something more than a standard practice, then? If so, what is it?

Again, have yet to read Reality is Broken, which may or may not be at the root of the gamification movement (is it?) What the heck is the Gamification movement anyway?


Some schools are using levels rather than grades.

"Students don’t spend a year in the third grade and then move on with whatever scores they get on their report cards. Instead, students advance within different subjects as they achieve learning targets.

Students who are struggling in one subject can’t slide by with poor grades. But where they are excelling, they leap ahead more easily."


Students who are a higher level in a subject help lower players to 'level up.' Kind of interesting. You can be level 5 math but level 7 history. I wonder if there is a mentor bonus?


Code for America is working in Boton with a hw notifying app that will integrate Khan academy to the notifications and questions.


One proposed app is the "Educational Discovery App - this one was exciting to many too because it integrated not only with schools, but also extra curricular programs, library events, and parts of the community. Everyone liked the idea of "gamifying" education and was interested in how the ONE card could fit into this."


Oh, I have so much to say on this topic I don't know where to begin. Well, except to say (1) Look for Kevin Werbach and my coming book/conference/blog/MBA class/lifeplan/motivation tapes that will Teach You Everything You Need To Know About Gamification But Didn't Have The Points To Ask(tm); and (2) "Hello again Terra Nova, it's been a while and I've missed you!"

So, some observations to start:

1. Ted, I think that the problem with gamifying classes is that the class has its own motivational structure that sits badly with the introduction to game mechanics. One of the things that interests me about gamification is the way that it can involve intrinsic motivation (i.e Deci and Ryan's SDT) rather than extrinsic motivation. Where you have extrinsic motivators in classes (most notably grades) you're going to get a profound disconnect between the intrinsic and extrinsic, unless you design the game mechanic to fit within that structure. Doing this is, um, tricky.

Hopefully Liz Lawley and her gang at RIT can talk a little about what they're doing here, because their approach is to use gamification outside the classroom, to motivate other features of the educational experience which isn't addressed by the grade mechanic. It's very nifty.

2. There is a justifiable backlash happened against "pointsification" which has a couple of interesting components. First is the point that Isaac, Alex and Greg mention: sticking points and leaderboards and badges on things doesn't make them fun. Gamification needs to be about designing games and games have to be fun. This is going to be the hardest thing in teaching MBA students about gamification: we have to teach them how to design games, and MBA students aren't generally looking to do game design. This will be, um, tricky. As someone noted elsewhere, there is a pretty good reason why designers of AAA games make six figure salaries. It's hard as hell to make things fun.

The second backlash is what I've been hearing when I talk to law profs about this stuff: they worry about coopting people's free will. "Making things fun so that people do them, even if they otherwise would be demand to be paid/wouldn't do it" is one of those headscratchers that just freaks law professors out. Luckily Kevin is going to be handling all of the hard questions on that, and he's really smart. Otherwise this would be, um, tricky.

3. Greg, with all due respect to Jane G, I'm not sure that RIB is about gamification at all. Not really.

4. So many other things to say here, but no time. More on this topic from me soon. Who knows, if I can but remember my password I might even start posting on Terra Nova again.

In the meantime, I want it on the record that the first person to notice the movement that these days would be called "gamification" was our very own Julian Dibbell.




Ah, my topic! And i've been too busy writing my thesis to notice.

I enjoy discussions about gamification mostly because I enjoy seeing two things happen. 1). Someone hates it and someone loves it 2). Neither of them can really define it.

No one seems to know what this fake enemy is. You may as well start asking "Who is John Gault?" As far as I could tell, it slowly emerged out of the zynga games and the games on facebook. It was rewards for doing certain things. "Murder your cousin who betrayed you, press button" Grats! 1000 dollars.

The fun thing about this is while academics talk about this, it's already out and invading the public sphere with enough force to cause a reaction in the next few years. Reward-based systems aren't new. Reward based systems because you helped a friend pass a test sort of is. Rewards for doing things at home. After-school programs that reward you for performance. Even teachers get to be incentivized to teach well through bonuses based on performance.

I read one anecdote somewhere from a group of teachers who couldn't get their classes attention until they started making their everyday classes into a game. Once competition was involved, passive or active, the kids all fell in line.

Julian Dibbell's work on it is neat!


In my opinion, gamification could be extended to life as a whole, rather than just the school system that is discussed here. I'll agree that people don't always like to play they are 'forced' into, but we all 'play' life dont we? Gamification can help with the most mundane things(see chorewars.com), or even with really important things, like work or even global warming (plant a tree to get +10 of nature sympathy?).

Now of course the big question here is how you can design game mechanics/reward system that works for everyone, and that rewards everyone sufficiently whilst still reinforcing excellence. After all, while in a school environment its easy for a teacher to assign the marks, if you go and help an old lady across the street in a large part no one but you will know. Or you could make up that you helped an old lady across the street for free points. I thought of employing multiple reward system, badges, points, levels, facebook and social network feedback, requirements to post videos or images of said feat that could be tailored to different feats, however theres alot of room to move.

In any case, I think gamification is a potential indrect solution to many of the worlds problem, and am looking forward to seeing it develop further.


Games invent one world scheme in terms of another. Naturally, I see gamification as an attempt of such invention.

Gamifying an aspect of social life is a rendering, it's not just life + some rules. In the case of gamification, life and game rules can't be treated like separate tracks (only for analytical purposes maybe). As soon as the rules meet the already existing type of social relations, an added value is achieved, something that can be neither found in the social relations nor in the game rules alone. In that sense, it is about creating synch-points between already existing social relations and game rules, which together collapse into a new rhytm and order that changes the meaning of our very own actions. It changes the way in which we perceive our experiences and relations, and how we represent them to ourselves. As a rendering, it influences the way we interprete events, happenings, and our own actions.

The thing here is whether gamification has been really successful in these renderings so far. I have my doubts and I am not so sure whether I can explain why. But I think a good question to start with is: Can we have game and non-game at the same time?

If we think of the "rendering into game" as an illusion, we might say there cannot be alternate readings at the same time: We either perceive the game's gestalt, or we are in real life. We cannot watch ourselves having an illusion.

What I observe is that a lot of "gamificators" fail exactly at this point. In other words, they ask us to perform alternate readings simultaneously: It's a game, but also real. It's real, but also a game. I think that is what makes gamification mostly result in failure: it asks us to watch ourselves having an illusion.

And I think that sucks :)

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