Gamification: A Holiday Wish

Tis the season . . . .what better way to accent the holiday season than to blog about games and toys? Well . . . at least gamification. Before getting into any deep, intense discussion about the subject, let’s begin with a few “stocking stuffers” to whet our collective appetite.

GAMIFICATION AND STOCKING STUFFERS

The inner child in me squeals: Yea!!!!! It’s time for the fun stuff. Various theorists and, yes, philosophers define games in different ways. They focus on concepts such as competition, entertainment, play, rewards, rules, and the like. Separately, while games are fun, they also meet other important needs, for example, education, understanding how to confront uncertainty, skill acquisition, and socialization.

Let’s touch upon some bite-sized thoughts to sample the world of gamification by looking at a holiday gift stocking. Instead of the incredibly big, overpriced-gift we all ask for (and may never receive), stocking stuffers frequently are items that can be broken down into a few different categories: fun food, toiletries, and the whimsical.

1. Fun Food

By fun food, think of candy canes, chocolate coins, and the like. They don’t sustain us, but whet our appetite and keep us interested. How does this relate to gamification?

Let’s remember the genesis of our blog on eLearning. This approach to education appreciates that learning is a human activity; the notion that students should sit in a formal classroom dutifully learning “dry” material is not only outdated but contrary research about how to better facilitate learning. The notion of “fun food” can be thought of in different ways. In the context of gamification, it can be thought of as a reward—a key element in games, which creates incentives. The point of the game is not candy, but to win, that is to learn. Gamification is a technique to keep the learner engaged and motivated. Why? Again, because we are humans who need incentives apart from the “dry” dictate to learn.

2. Toiletries

Ah, toiletries, not like fun food at all, LOL! Still we find stockings filled with floss, scented soaps, and toothpaste. Contrary to the notion of fun food, these stocking stuffers supply us with the necessities of our modern lives, things needed to take us through the New Year. Again, gamification?

Gamification seems to run contrary to the notion of necessities. We think of games, we think of rewards, but necessities are a part of many games (think game rule comprehension). Some game rules are simple while others are very complex. Understanding game rules grant a player strategic advantages while rule mastery grant her or him a sense of confidence. Gamification translates this dynamic into education. By understanding basic concepts, learners are better equipped to progress into more nuanced ideas that, obviously, build upon those concepts. Likewise, learners are affirmed in their progress with the appreciation their efforts have value.

3. The Whimsical

OK, we’re getting to the bottom of the stocking. What’s the whimsical? Think about fun, silly puzzles or the quirky item that we don’t need but we all want. This is similar to the notion of “fun food” but different . . .

Whimsy touches upon game elements relating to entertainment and play. Including whimsical elements peak our curiosity and arouse our desire to learn. This especially is valuable when dealing with subjects that otherwise might seem “boring” or “dry.” An interesting anecdote or an interesting factoid can offer the “hook” to draw one into the learning process. Gamification can accomplish this through the use of engaging narrative and animation that make one smile though not forget the purpose of the training.

Enjoy this holiday season and be safe and warm.

Craig Lee Keller, Ph.D., Learning Strategist

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