Gamification

(What does this new-fangled, star-spangled term mean?)


Are you one of those who are looking for the answers to these questions? If you are, you’ve reached the right place, for this simple article is written to unveil the nature of these relationships.

Gamification?!

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Gamification is a term that’s probably been uttered as many times in the last three years, as the name of Donald Trump; and for almost the same reason - because both evoke conflicting emotions in us. We don’t know if by choosing either, we’d be making the right decision or the wrong – and so we linger on the fences, waiting and watching, before we place our bets.

I have a feeling that the best way to make you yawn is by giving you the severely overused definition, which says something about gamification being the use of game elements in non-game scenarios. I am not so sure about that definition, because in my opinion, a definition shouldn’t bring up words that might not be understood by those who strive to understand it.  If the audience of this definition already knew what game scenarios and game elements are, then there’s a strong chance that they had figured it all out themselves.

We speak to Instructional Designers, budding or blooming, focused on using the instructional design theories and models for making learning easy for their learners, and so we must denude the definition of these gaming terms and present its essence to them.

Gamification of Learning - Definition

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We speak to Instructional Designers, budding or blooming, focused on using the instructional design theories and models for making learning easy for their learners, and so we must denude the definition of these gaming terms and present its essence to them.

Here’s my attempt, specifically to define gamification of learning.

“Gamification of a learning experience is addressing the basic desires of your learner to trigger emotions that can enhance attention, retention, and transfer of learning.”

So through gamification we attempt to address the needs and desires of the learner (the need/desire for praise, fame, achievements, money) so that the learner experiences emotions (however mild or strong) and riding on those emotions, he or she stays interested in learning, returns to the learning experience, retains more, practices more, and in the process, becomes more comfortable in using what he or she has learned, in accomplishing the task at hand.

Gamification - a Revised Definition

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Generalizing it to other fields of application, I’d probably tweak the definition as follows:

“Gamification of an experience is addressing the basic desires of a person to trigger emotions that motivate the person to behave in an desired way.”

So,

  • An airline that wants the fliers to stay loyal, announces frequent flier programs – triggers the emotion of feeling richer;
  • A QA forum that wants its members to interact more, announces badges and titles to those who answer more than a specific number of questions – triggers the emotion of authority and hence esteem.

Essentially, this is what gamification is all about. It’s about stepping out of the comfort zone of using only cognitive triggers (quizzes, assignments) and stepping into affective ones (activities that lead to emotions such as happiness, anger, sadness, joy, fulfillment, esteem, and so on.)

Does Gamification Work?

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Trainers, teachers, elearning developers who care about their audience, have been gamifying their programs in bits and pieces. They haven’t been calling it gamification, but they’ve been crafting rewards and achievements for decades. And yet we never took it “seriously.” Now with gamification becoming a buzzword, in the decades to come, we will see academicians and organizations taking gamification forward and developing it into a fine art.

I know it works, because in the last 12 years I’ve used it extensively in my online courses and classroom trainings. Those who have taken the IDCWC or the IDCD Contact programs would remember the Ribuls and Lobahs, and those who had taken the IDSP Online would remember the CTIs or the Coffee Table Intellectuals. They triggered emotions, they connected the learners to the programs – so much sometimes, that a participant might pen a poem for it or write to us telling us how they’d would miss the course.

I’ll discuss the Ribuls and Lobahs and the Coffee Table Intellectuals later and talk about their game mechanics and their emotional triggers, but right now, I am more interested in telling you about this whole "old wine in new bottle" business, and that will be the subject of my next post in this series :-)

- Author: Shafali R. Anand



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