I’m a gamification skeptic

I am an avid gamer, and have easily accumulated more than 10,000 hours playing games so I feel that I can talk about them with some expertise.  Gamification gets mentioned in almost every elearning article, blog post, conference talk, or tweet I see. I’m enthusiastic about the use of games in learning, but I’m skeptical of gamification. It seems in the earnestness to utilize the learning benefits of games, that gamification uses just the trimmings of gameplay and as such is just a stupid fad.

Gamification fails when you slap badges and points on an already finished lesson and call it a game. A good game has to be intentionally designed, not an afterthought. As a gamer I see it as a lack of respect for the medium itself. It’s similar to someone recording audio over a PowerPoint presentation, adding some next and previous buttons, and calling it elearning. If you want to design a good learning game, you should follow these serious tips, learn how to provide an environment where it’s safe for the learner to fail, and understand that not all gamers are motivated by the same things. In fact, in the same way that there are different learning styles, there are different gamer personalities as famously described by the Bartle test.

my_gamer_psychology

The test is focused on MMORPGs (take the quiz yourself) and describes the different motivations of gamers. I’m an Explorer, I like to discover new things, gain a deep understanding of the game lore and mechanics, and then share that knowledge with others. I’m not motivated strictly by earning points or badges, so slapping those on a lesson doesn’t do much for me.

All in all, the point I’m trying to make is that a good learning game takes a lot of thought and design and can’t be created as an afterthought. I look forward to learning more about game design and helping the field grow. Extra Credits is an excellent YouTube show talking about game design and it provides a lot of good advice for aspiring designs. What do you think about #gamification? Is it a fad or elearning’s future?

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