What is Gamification?

The concept of gamification is by no means “new”. The buzzword has been recently introduced into our generation Z age group, but has been around for quiet sometime. In fact, gamification is something that we use in our everyday lives but most people are just not aware of it.

The basic notion of gamification is the use of gamefied tools / fun elements to make a non-game related, sedentary task, that would ordinarily be boring and uninteresting, into a fun and engaging interactive activity. Gamification makes use of our natural human instincts to compete and achieve.

This is achieved by taking tools used in traditional game design and facilitating them to motivate the user, such as;

  • Points
  • Leaderboards
  • Levels
  • Challenges
  • Time-based challenges/rewards
  • Badges/trophies

Some of these tools can be used in combination with each other to engage the user, but in general, points, trophies and levels are always used to make the task more fun and competitive.
However, It is not as simple as adding a rough scoring system to a boring task, gamification is more than that, the user needs a reason to want to engage with the task at hand. Adding a points system to a math quiz is not going to make the user anymore interested in mathematics unless there is a reward or element of competition to complete the task or challenge at hand.

In order to fully engage the user, there are four main points to consider;

  • The task must have clear goals and rules otherwise the user will have no motivation to gain points.
  • The tasks given must be challenging but at the same time attainable. The point of gamifcation is to make the activity fun, if the goal/task is too difficult for the user to complete then all of the fun is taken away thus making gamification defunct.
  • A story/narrative must be given for the user to follow – offering the user a reason for wishing to progress with the task at hand – a story makes the user more engaged with the media.
  • Accelerated feedback loops – usually a person receives feedback on their progress (yearly parents evenings, end of year reviews, work appraisals etc) however, with gamification, this feedback can be accessed immediately.

Gamer Types
When thinking about gamification it is important to keep in mind player types, understanding this helps with acknowledgement of what motivates a person. Once the motivation for playing is understood it can be exploited.

In typical gaming there are different player types;

  • Achievers – Need to be at the top
  • Explorers – Need to find something new
  • Socializers – Need to interact with others
  • Killers – Need to eliminate other characters

In terms of gamification only the first 3 types need to be adhered to and when thinking about implementing achievements these play types need to be kept in mind.

[Achievers] These players need to be awarded for interacting with the media consistently, collecting points etc.

[Explorers] These players’ achievements should be littered around / made to be found, these are the “Easter egg” style hidden rewards.

[Socialisers] These players should be rewarded for community building activities and co-operating with other players.

Gamification – we use it everyday!
All of this sounds quite daunting right? ‘I don’t play computer games!’- ‘I don’t have a clue how to use them to make my lessons fun and engaging.’
As stated earlier gamifcation is not a new concept, we, in fact, use it everyday. Marketers, for example, have used gamification for years in order to grab consumers.

Not convinced? Take a look in your wallet/purse now… Guaranteed, you will be a member of or have some kind of points based card or rewards card – this is an everyday example of gamification. Every time a product is bought, the purchase is exchanged for loyalty points. The more points earned, the better the rewards gained.

Here are some common examples;

Frequent Flyer Miles
The basic concept behind this is as you purchase plane tickets, the more you travel with a certain airline or book with a certain credit card you gain points that you can use later for free upgrades. Also, the more you fly, the more you achieve different status levels (e.g. bronze, silver, gold) that open up even more rewards and privileges. The objective here is to encourage the consumer to always book with a certain airline rather than a rival. The airline benefits from your custom and you are rewarded by consistently choosing them.

Points Cards – Costa Coffee, Starbucks
Similar to frequent flyer miles every time you purchase a coffee or visit a branch of Costa Coffee or Starbucks you are given the opportunity to collect points leading to money off of food/drinks. To further expand on this: these companies now allow the user to collect points via an app that gives the user far more perks and freebies. In turn, encouraging us to pick that particular coffee chain over another.

These are very simple common day examples of using the combination of two gamification techniques:

  • Levels (gold, silver, bronze)
  • Points

Implementation in the classroom 
One of the best way’s to start implementing gamification in the classroom is through fostering competitive teamwork with groups of students and a leader board.

A great example of this is featured very heavily in the Harry Potter book series. Upon enrolling at Hogwarts school each student is sorted into a house, a team, a group. The team they are sorted into is the team that they stick with throughout their entire time at school, it becomes an important part of school life where at the end of the year they compete for the House Cup, gaining and losing points based on actions such as performance in the classroom and rule violations.

In essence they;

  • Created a leader board.
  • Established a clear goal with rules on how to achieve the goal.
  • Held competitions between the teams regularly (Quidditch)
  • Gave points for positive behaviour, achievements and completion of challenges.

Now that this has been established……..

How to Get Started
There are many ways to implement gamification. Below are some of the simplest methods:

Create a class leaderboard and divide everyone into teams, just like with Harry Potter. Divide the class up into 4 teams. Let the students name their teams but the teacher should pick the teams, this way we can ensure that each team has a good mix of students.

  • Award points to students when they accomplish a specific task.
  • Use a progress bar/chart to depict course advancement.
  • Use leaderboards to display high scores, challenge the scores to be beaten with prizes.
  • Award certificates, badges and medals to students.
  • Challenge students by setting S.M.A.R.T targets. **
  • Set frequent class competitions.
  • Create scaffolding/leveling up so students can have small goals/levels goals they can climb and reach (a leveling system).
  • Have team based challenges

Technology can also be used to make lessons even more engaging.

**SMART is an acronym, for setting tasks and goals in a

  • Specific – Establish specific goal.
  • Measurable – Must be able to show measurable progression.
  • Assignable – Clear on who should do it
  • Realistic – Ensure that the goal can be realistically achieved
  • Time-related – Must have a clear deadline.

By Emma Henry.
© Hachette Antoine S.A.L.